In case of potential apocalypse, some of our neighbours across the pond have already started planning their refuge. But, we’re not talking dull and dreary war-like shelters – these bunkers are for chic, yet fearful fashionistas.
What would you do if you knew the world was going to end? Say your goodbyes and marvel at blue skies and blades of grass? Or, would you fight it? There is a growing amount of ‘preppers’ in society today who won’t answer to any doomsday doubts – they have a plan. And they have fat wallets. From abandoned underground missile silos to tailor made bunkers under gardens, there are business developers and constructors in the US creating modern day Noah’s Arcs and cashing in on the fear instilled in the more paranoid members of society. These fears range from pandemics to solar flares and even the 2012 Mayan prophesy which has been plugged into people’s minds due to movies such as Prometheus, and 2012. But these developers know that buyers don’t want war-like tin huts, they want luxury.
Luxury and safety combined is definitely what Larry Hall is providing. He has converted an abandoned Kansas missile silo into a state of the art survival complex for up to 70 people. And these condos aren’t just to ride out an epidemic that lasts a few days. Hall has thought of everything, including a 5 years supply of long-life foods and an indoor farm which will provide fish and vegetables for 70 people for as long as they live.
Entertainment wise, Larry has installed an indoor beach-like pool, a library, a movie theatre, a spa, an arcade, and a gym. Plasma screen walls will show various views such as the Paris skyline or a beach in the Maldives. The condos are fitted with numerous televisions and Hall has installed a system which stores thousands of movies. There will also be a school to educate children and a hospital. The vast and deep unit will be donned with top-end appliances, walk-in closets, a kitchen and dining room and two living rooms to avoid arguments about what to watch on television. If you’re a smoker, forget it. Hall states he cannot make the condos a smoking environment (the tobacco factories will all be down anyways).
State of the art life support systems will provide Hall’s condos with energy from sources of conventional power, as well as windmill power and generators. As well as this, giant underground water tanks will hold water pre-filtered through sand and carbon. What about waste you ask? According to Hall, “Human waste goes through a state-of-the-art environmentally aerobic filtration system”. Not sure what that means, but it sounds trustworthy enough.
Hall, 55, claims the Kansas silo can withstand an atomic blast due to walls that are nine feet thick and stretch 53 metres underground. Hall’s main fears are solar flares and global warming, but he also states “The current worldwide economic situation is cause for concern”. Hall holds 2 masters degrees, in business administration and in computer software engineering. He has experience in building houses, working on complex government contracts such as NASA, and he has built an internet service provider from the ground up. Too good to be true? Well, you can trust Hall’s judgement and quality, as he’s bought one of the condos for himself and his family.
Interested? You can purchase some of Larry’s condo space for $2million a floor, or $1million for a half floor. But hurry, because they’re selling fast. Not got the funds? Don’t expect to get to sleep on your mates couch if they’re wealthy enough. Elevators are complete with fingerprint recognition and trespassers will be got rid of. “If they try to climb the fence we can stun them, if they want to break into the system, we can put an end to that”, says Hall. Seems like it really will be every man for himself.
But is this taking things a bit too far? Are these ‘preppers’ too full of fear, and have more money than sense? According to John Hoopes, a professor in the anthropology department at the University of Kansas, “Fear sells even better than sex”. And recent disasters such as the Japan tsunami and the Mexican earthquake have roused suspicions that Mother Nature isn’t exactly our best friend.
Brian Camden, 57, started Hardened Structures around 20 years ago, a Virginia Beach company that has constructed and sold over 1,000 shelters for homes, institutions and the military. Camden states about 30% of his clients are scared of “2012 stuff, I’d say at least half, if not 55%, is all geared for economic collapse.”
Interestingly, Camden’s business has grown by 40% since 2005, and Larry Hall’s missile silo is expected to be filled well before December, could this be the growing fear of the Mayan prophesy? Maybe not, Hall states “I believe that is an “attention getter” but not a sole reason. Many of the concerns people have will exist long past 2012”. Camden says he does not discuss whether these hypothetical nightmares are likely to develop. “We don’t subscribe to any world-ending scenario…The client’s priorities are our priorities. It’s that simple: You try to give them peace of mind and you design a facility that mitigates specific threats.”
In previous years, Camden’s firm has worked on properties ranging from a $14,000 storm shelter to a $60 million survival community in West America’s mountains. However, he states he has subcontractors who can build any form of shelter the well heeled client asks for, even an arc similar to that from the movie 2012. Although, he denies building such a structure.
So who actually is investing in these properties? According to Camden “Our typical client is a wealthy white republican, usually with a minimum of a master’s degree” These clients, he says, fear that economic collapse is near. But he’s not saying any more. “One of the first things you learn in this industry is never to reveal the location of a client’s shelter.” Owners don’t want neighbours or strangers pounding on the entry hatch in the event of an emergency, he explains. Although the shelter business is very secretive, Camden does offer media the chance to tour one of his projects in North Carolina. However, they are driven there blindfolded and any tracking devices are forbidden.
Hall’s mouth is zipped just as much as Camden’s. Interested buyers have included an NFL player, a racing car driver, and famous politicians, but he’s not giving any names. “I am under Non-Disclosure Agreements and cannot respond to who the buyers are… The only thing I can say is we have a doctor, an engineer, a teacher, a mechanic, a professional chef, and a few with military experience.”
Hall’s buyers seem to have skills to assist the continuation of the human race. Is it this, along with money that secures you a shelter from the apocalypse? When asked if you need to have money to survive the apocalypse Hall stated “People should decide their protection level within their means”. Great, so if you have no money, your protection level is basically zero. Perhaps they can let you in if you encompass an invincible life saving skill?
Interestingly, American firm Vivos is building 20 underground “assurance of life” homes across the USA, able of sustaining 4,000 people for a year. The cost? A little over £32,000 a head, plus a demeaning screening test that assesses whether you are able to offer meaningful contribution to the continuation of the human race. It has already received over 1,000 applicants.
It is unknown whether this level of protective real estate is emerging in the UK. However, underground homes for aesthetic reasons are growing in popularity. Subterranean mansions seem to be on the shopping list for numerous footballers such as Gary Neville, who made plans to build an underground eco-friendly pad last year. However, protection is wanted from paparazzi, not the end-of-the-world.
But are these shelters really necessary? According to Steve Davis, president of All Hands Global Emergency Management Consulting, “We support reasonable preparedness. We don’t think it’s necessary to burrow into the desert.” Camden states he doesn’t want to be known as a fear monger, “I’m a family man…I sincerely hope nothing ever happens.” However, if it does, Camden is ready. Somewhere out in Western Tidewater, America is his own safe area – a bunker which he calls “the farm”. Unsurprisingly, he’s not saying where.
It may be time to start preparing, as according to a Vivos spokesperson “Doomsday may be closer than many would otherwise like to believe” But nevertheless, even if you believe our Earth is safe, it may be nice to splurge out on one of Larry’s underground condos across the pond. A spa and an indoor beach? Who knows, it may be nice to escape from the world for a few days…