When John Sims purchased his new home in suburban Tucson, Arizona to lead a quiet life, he never expected it to become one of the most epic moments of his life. It all started with a tantalizing rumor about something mysterious buried underground, divulged to him by the former owner of his new home.
As the rumor held, John’s backyard held a creepy secret that heralded back to frightening memories. So without any direction whatsoever, he began to dig feverishly, tearing up his backyard. What he was about to discover was far more than John Sims had ever bargained for. Read here to find out what this incredible backyard discovery turned out to be.
John Sims bought a new home for himself in midtown Tucson, Arizona. The previous owner was a friend of his, so he knew he was in good hands. But as his friend handed over the property, he had a strange message to pass on about the house.
There was a mystery surrounding the property, something huge yet to be unearthed. Little did John realize that his friend’s cryptic message would turn out to be the beginning of a chain of events that would soon have the whole state talking.
John’s friend gave him a tantalizing hint about the backyard. He said that the house John had acquired had more to it than meets the eye. Rumor had it there was something buried there, deep beneath the ground, but he’d never fully investigated it himself.
Now that the property was John’s, he could do as he pleased. But even as he set about moving his belongings into the home and arranging it to his liking, the gears in his mind started moving. The desire to know more was consuming him.
As anyone who had a secret lurking beneath their fingertips would likely feel, John was going wild with curiosity. The second his friend had passed this information to him, even if it was possibly just a fool’s hope, he was intrigued.
Only half jokingly, John had asked him immediately for a shovel. And while they’d laughed it off, John knew he had to pull out the proper equipment he would need to put the rumor to rest. He had an idea.
It took him a bit more time to get things underway, but John was determined to discover what secrets his backyard held, if any. He wondered what he would find, if anything, and how intact it could be. The possibilities were limitless.
Even though it would mean messing up the clean, orderly appearance of his backyard, it was only a minor setback. In order to settle the score once and for all, there was only one way to find out. He started to dig.
As John set to work on exploring his backyard, the elements were working against him. The notorious Arizona heat was absolutely boiling, climbing into the three digits Fahrenheit. John kept on pushing forward, armed with his shovel, hoping he’d find something.
Unfortunately, despite all his intensive labor, his search kept coming up dry. There was nothing to show for his efforts. Was it possible that his friend just been leading him on all along? He could have given up. But things were only getting started.
Though he dug four different holes and tore up his backyard, John Sims found nothing. If there really was something under the grass, there was a distinct possibility that by now it was totally destroyed, collapsed, or enclosed by bricks.
The initial disappointment could have put him off continuing his search, but there was no way he was about to let this slip through his fingers. Whatever it was, he would have to think outside the box. John suddenly had an idea how to better locate it.
John had found what could be a key resource: municipal records for his part of Tucson. He scoured old documents until he hit the jackpot. In addition to the record of his house itself being built, there was something else.
Now he knew how to hone in on his quest. According to the documentation, it would appear that the company Whitaker Pools had built something there in 1961. But even if it appeared in the records, it was still bizarre. Why would a swimming pool be underground? What he was about to discover would prove truly unbelievable.
John decided that he had to go about his backyard expedition less haphazardly. After all, while he had initially been working on a hunch, now he had documentation. He wanted to do things in a smart way, so he hired consultants to come over with metal detectors.
Now he was getting serious. The team arrived with the proper gear, and they combed the backyard together. At first, there were no results, and with each quiet moment he waited, tense, to see if anything might trip them. Then, suddenly, the detectors went off.
To John’s absolute delight, the metal detectors that the experts had brought went off not once, but twice. John took chalk and marked an X in the grass of his backyard over the two sites which had triggered them. Now, his search would no longer be blind.
The professionals had helped him focus his search, and what’s more, now he knew that he wasn’t going after something that couldn’t be found. Filled with expectation, he started to dig. It didn’t take long before his shovel struck something. What had he stumbled across?
Whatever John’s shovel had clanged against was clearly metal. Even though the discovery was thrilling, he paused. He thought at first that it could be a septic tank, and wondered if it was a bad idea to keep digging around it.
Now that he had finally uncovered something, he had to work extra carefully, with great precision, so that he wouldn’t accidentally damage it or break a pipe. But he was grateful to discover it wasn’t what he thought it was. It was something else.
From the look of things, John had discovered an entrance of some sort in his backyard, shaped like a hatch. He bent down to clear away the dirt surrounding it, excavated even more to isolate it, and pried the lid open.
He was careful not to inhale too much. Who knew where it led? There was a high possibility of mold spores wafting out of the dark unknown, or even worse, there could be toxic gas fumes. John carefully peered in — and was amazed at the sight that greeted him.
Inside the hatch he’d just uncovered three feet beneath the grass of his backyard, John Sims found what looked like a series of sharp blades. Upon further inspection, however, he realized it was in fact a spiral staircase, heading downward.
Most people’s first instincts would be to rush into the shaft to see where it leads. Yet despite his incredible excitement at finally making this huge discovery on his own property, John hesitated — and he had a good reason to do so.
John knew it would be foolish to proceed any further, even if he did it with the utmost care. In his background, John is a fire department captain, with plenty of special training to rescue people trapped in tight spaces. He could already predict the risks.
Literally, nothing was stable about the structure he had uncovered. Because he could imagine several potentially dangerous scenarios happening if he were to enter this shaft blindly, he held back. He had a better plan in mind. But he couldn’t do it alone.
John called a bunch of his friends over to help. He wanted to make sure that he not only had backup to proceed with the excavations, but that his friends act as a sort of spotter in case something bad were to happen.
Because John had rescued people before, he knew that if that heavy old lid were to collapse and fall down on him, he’d be a goner. Before they could figure out what the hole contained, they had a task to complete.
John was super excited to explore the underground find in his yard, but he wanted to be able to use the space and navigate it safely. There were far too many things yet unknown about the passageway lying beneath the surface.
So he sat down to plan with his friends. Together, they devised a blueprint, and with it, a method as to how to proceed. They had no idea just what the scale of this discovery would be — but they were about to find out.
The first thing that had to be done was to reinforce and repair the entire concrete structure that surrounded the stairs leading down into the cavern. The stairs were very dangerous, because they were rusted through and could possibly give way.
All this was preventing John Sims from discovering what lay ahead inside. But despite the temptation to rush ahead and climb in to find out, he knew he needed to do it the smart way. He just had to know what was down there.
John and his friends worked diligently to set down several fresh layers of concrete. They wanted to secure the rebar inside the hatch. If someone was going in there, they had to be absolutely certain that the structure wouldn’t just crumble around them.
The work team had to keep constantly pouring new batches of concrete to stabilize everything. All the while, imaginations ran wild with wondering what was waiting for them inside the hatch, and where it would lead. But something was working against them.
The intense, blistering Arizona heat was a huge, unavoidable problem, hindering their progress. Worse, nobody could know if that intense, direct heat could impact anything that was inside the hole. The team put up a tent over the backyard in order to protect it, and themselves.
They set up a Sonotube cardboard structure around the entrance, so they wouldn’t damage anything as they worked their way down. After all that work with cement, it looked like it was finally time to go inside. But they’d need one more thing.
As part of their plan to best spruce up the mysterious structure under John Sims’s backyard, he and his friends had to install an electrical line. Whatever they would discover inside, the team wanted to be able to illuminate it properly, and to use power tools for further excavation.
They also put in a black pipe to funnel in fresh air. At long last, their work was coming to a finish. After more than fifty years, the underground cavern long covered by the hatch and three feet of earth would reveal its secrets.
After their work of widening the entrance, the tunnel was looking in way better shape than when it had first been discovered. They had labored intensively all through the oppressive Arizona heat, and yet almost none of the work had been actual excavation.
John finally felt confident that he could safely climb into this incredible backyard discovery. It was the moment everyone had been waiting for, most of all John himself. It was time to go inside. And he had a hunch as to what he might find.
Even though they had reinforced the outside of the structure, the stairs were still not to be trusted. Covered in rust, even if the structure around them had been secured, there was no way of knowing what weight they could sustain.
Unlike the area surrounding the hatch, there would be no way to repair the stairs from up above. Any alterations would have to be made from inside the mysterious hole. John had to find another way in. There was no stopping him now.
John had to get inside the backyard cavern but without using the stairs. It was too narrow and too deep to jump, and he could get badly cut up by the rusty blades of the stairs. Instead, he carefully inserted a ladder.
Ever since he’d heard the crazy rumor from his friend, he’d dreamed of completing this moment, of solving the mystery and climbing into his backyard discovery. Filled with the wildest excitement, he descended the ladder. What he was about to see through the gloom was beyond his wildest imagination!
As he reached the bottom rungs of the ladder, John knew well he was the first person to behold this sight in more than half a century. He went down into the shaft, and was excited to discover that there was an entire complex beneath the ground.
It had not been filled in with earth and would require no further excavations. In fact, the room was in relatively good condition. John walked across the floor of the structure, and through a dome-shaped door. What he would see would leave him aghast.
Inside the tunnels of the underground chamber, the ceiling was covered in old fiberglass, which was coming apart. Instantly, John knew that despite all the work they had done from above, the structure still wasn’t safely secured, and would require more work.
If the fiberglass came off, it could be harmful to bare skin, and it could impact breathing. But now that he had seen what treasures lay beneath his backyard, there was no way he would give up now. He finally understood what his friend had meant. But there was even more to uncover.
Long buried underneath the earth of John Sims’ backyard, this treasure had likely never been used by the house’s former inhabitant. Despite the wear and tear to be expected after half a century of neglect, the structure was in incredible condition.
And though the structure was practically bare, with no furniture, John Sims and his colleagues understood what it had been. According to the building blueprints, Whitaker Pools had built it. But this wasn’t a swimming pool. The company had another purpose.
What John Sims had in his backyard was a nuclear fallout shelter! It had been built at the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the mass paranoia that had come as a result.
Whitaker Pools, behind the scenes, had expanded its business model to build something else that people in the Cold War era wanted in their backyard other than swimming pools: bomb shelters. As John learned more about the new treasure on his property, he learned that he was not alone.
The Tucson area was apparently filled with these kinds of bomb shelters and nuclear fallout shelters. From a cultural perspective, back when they were built, if a man decided to have these installed in his backyard, he wasn’t seen as overreacting out of hysterics.
Rather, a man who commissioned building a bomb shelter was regarded as a responsible family man looking out for his loved ones. The threat of all-out nuclear war between the superpowers was very real. And the Tucson area had one more unbelievable secret.
Tucson, Arizona had once held 18 different ballistic missiles, capable of traveling across continents. Each rocket was 110 feet in length and 10 feet across. They could destroy an area of 900 square miles, and they could be scrambled to launch in just 58 seconds.
On the tip of each, a 9-megaton nuclear warhead had been fastened. It wasn’t just a town of shelters — it was a weapons silo. Obviously, the mission had been kept top secret, but now that the Cold War was old news, the question arose: were there any of these missiles still around?
Fortunately, since the threat of war had gone away, almost all of the rockets had been disabled. Just about all of the nuclear shelters in the Tucson area were destroyed or sealed in the early 1980s, a time when relations between the USA and USSR were cooling down.
Built in 1961, John’s nuclear fallout shelter was constructed precisely on the heels of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the United States ever came to nuclear war. John had a historical relic in his hands. And he had no idea how big the news of it would become.
After posting on a Reddit page about his finding, John’s backyard discovery went viral. And as proud as he was of his new attraction, he knew there were others like him. He has connected with other people in the Tucson area who also have fallout shelters on their properties.
John’s friends have suggested that he should turn the backyard nuclear fallout shelter into a wine cellar or a cigar bar, but John has a bigger goal. He’s devoting himself to collecting Cold War memorabilia and furniture, and bringing this relic back to life! But just how did he plan on doing that?
In order to fulfill his dream of bringing his backyard bomb shelter back to life, John Sims set up a GoFundMe page pitching his story. “Hi, Im John and I need some help restoring a vintage Fallout Shelter that I have uncovered in my back yard,” writes Sims.
While the interior is in pretty good shape, his plans were to rebuild the upper entryway with a large concrete pour in order to secure it before working inside. He also wished to replace the metal staircase. The results of his renovation are nothing short of amazing.
John Sims wasn’t about to make such an incredible discovery and not do anything about it. As soon as he lay his eyes on his very own bomb shelter, John immediately decided to turn it into an awesome man cave, HAM shack, and Civil Defense Museum.
The minute he uncovered what lay beneath, John started vigorously researching the Cold War period and what prompted the Tucson civilians to build these shelters. He believed restoring the shelter would serve as a great memorial of a significant time in history. This is why he started to source Cold War memorabilia to put on display such as vintage HAM radios, Geiger counters, sanitation kits, as well as water supply barrels.
The story received 430 shares that led to helping John Sims raise enough money to start with the renovations. He set a goal of $2,000, of which he has already made $350, proving that many people believe in his important initiative.
With the funds he initially collected, John Sims managed to complete the staircase with safer reinforcements and materials. Now it’s easy for him to climb in and out without worrying about the structure collapsing on him inside. He even shared his step-by-step progress with his donors.
John Sims took a lot of time off to fix his steps into his very own bomb shelter. He made the top step two to two-and-a-half times wider than the others and secured it to the concrete wall, which helped solidify the entire staircase.
This process has made it much easier for John to refurbish the inside and convert it into a habitable place and ultimately a man cave. People were really impressed with the progress he made and decided to donate to his cause.