As children we dream of uncovering a buried treasure. Whether playing in the sand at the beach or digging tunnels in the backyard dirt, hours and hours can be spent at the task without ever realizing the time. One child, a British girl named Kate Harding did just that. She dug up a buried treasure in her own backyard. She was 9 years old at the time. Sadly, instead of a windfall, it brought her a trove of misfortune.
What would you do if you found a precious bit of treasure in your backyard? Would you hide it away and keep it for yourself? Or would you turn it in to the authorities? Before you answer, you should hear this girl’s story.
Gardening with Mom
This unlikely tale of one girl’s misfortune all started in an equally unlikely place, the backyard of her childhood home. It was a happy day. Spending time in the garden with mum was one of Kate’s fondest memories as a child.
One early spring day, Kate and mum were in the garden. This time of year, the two of them were often found there, turning the beds to make way for pretty spring blooms. But this day was like no other. Kate found something in the dirt.
A Secret Treasure
Ms. Harding did not know at the age of nine if the shiny coin-like medallion she found was worth anything, but it looked curious, like it might be valuable, so she kept it. To ensure no one would seize her treasure, she quietly stowed it away to her room to examine it. Before she stashed it, she cleaned it off. It shined bright!
The coin was obviously very old, and both sides were pressed with an insignia. The little girl tucked it inside her drawer of special things, and there it would lay. One day it would be determined a valuable artifact, but what should’ve been great fortune plagued her with troubles for years.
Stumbling Across a Childhood Find
The coin lay in the drawer for almost a decade before Ms. Harding stumbled across it again. She was now 18 years old. Soon she would be off to the university.
When she was going through all her belongings in her bedroom, she rediscovered the coin. It was like finding a buried treasure all over again.
A Terrible Misfortune
Tragedy struck. Ms. Harding suddenly lost her mum to a horrible death the following year.
It was then that the coin became a special memento of her time with mum.
Happy Memories Preserved in a Coin
Losing her mum turned Ms. Harding’s life upside-down. A loving mother was gone, and only memories were left. Time in the garden, playing in the dirt side by side with her mother, was one of her best memories. Why didn’t she show it to her mother?
Kate regretted not sharing that memory. So she held onto the memories she had, and she held onto that medallion. It was not until years later that she would give the relic her full attention.
Digging up the Origin of the Coin
As an adult, Ms. Harding found her interest in the shiny medallion reignited. She had been curious as a child observing its ancient-looking designs, and now that she was older, she realized it was more than a childhood fancy that wondered the value of the coin.
Suddenly, she felt just as curious now as she was then and determined to research out her little childhood treasure. Ms. Harding set off to find the origin.
A Quest for Answers
Ms. Harding was now 23 years old. It was time to get some answers about the coin. After showing it to several friends, she was determined.
Everyone agreed the medallion looked extremely valuable. She asked around to find out where she could take it. Her curiosity was piqued.
Ms. Harding researched historians who specialize in coins. Since she had discovered it in the Shropshire region, she consulted experts from that area.
She was advised to visit the local museum in Ludlow.
Ms. Harding Heads to the Museum
At the museum, she found experts on the very type of treasure she found.
She was hopeful and excited to learn about the piece, and she told them the whole story about how she found it as a girl and how she had held onto it all these years.
The day of Reckoning
Upon entering the museum, Ms. Harding was directed to the lab, where knowledgeable coin experts have the proper tools to analyze artifacts.
She carefully pulled it from her bag and handed it to the museum staff. It only took a few minutes of close examination. The news she received was surprising.
The relic was rare. The expert began explaining to her what she found. The medallion was not a coin, he said. This news was confusing.
She believed it was an old coin ever since she was a child. And, if it is valuable, but it is not a coin, what is it?
Kate Was Certain It Was a Coin
It was after receiving the news from the museum that her find was definitely not a coin that she began to make sense of what it was exactly.
She was learning that the coin had not been used as currency in the past, but the value it held was even more precious than ancient money.
An Extremely Rare Item
Kate’s makes four. Just four of these medallions are known to exist. Only three others, besides Ms. Harding’s, have ever been found in the UK.
In 2007, one of these rare finds was purchased by the British Museum for £1,800. Its value was not to bring Ms. Harding such fortune. Instead, this was just the beginning of her troubles.
It's a Piedfort!
Piedforts are rare to find. Unlike coins, only one piedfort of each type is made at a time. They look like coins, and they may have been used as a model for a batch of coins to be minted.
All that is known is that they are approximately twice as heavy as a coin, and the thickness is about double a coin’s thickness. Piedforts may also have been used as gifts for dignitaries or kings.
A Common Misconception
Piedforts are commonly mistaken for coins. A numismatic can detect the difference at once, but if you’re not trained in the study of ancient coinage, it’s basically a coin. Just like a precious stone is a precious stone, no matter how you cut it, however, the cut can add value only a trained eye detects.
After discovering the nature of the treasure, Ms. Harding became more and more curious about the existence of piedforts. She began wondering how and why one ended up in her backyard. She was curious.
It Could Be Worth Over a Thousand Pounds
Coming across something that could be worth several thousands of dollars as a college student is a wonderful windfall.
Perhaps it could get her into a flat, or maybe go towards a car. It’s a big deal.
With the details surrounding the possible sum circling through her mind, she became excited. It was thrilling to think she had dug up her very own treasure.
It had been hers all these years, and so she couldn’t help thinking about the payout.
The History of the Piedfort
The value of her find is great, even if historians are not quite certain of the piedfort’s purpose. While the medallion of precious metal may have been used for minting purposes as a pattern, they also may have been used as markers in specialized counting machines similar to the abacus. Numismatics know that piedforts were first determined to exist in France and Great Britain during the Middle Ages.
The very first piedforts are dated back to the 12th century. It makes sense that coin collecting is called “the hobby of kings” because rare piedforts in a kingdom’s coinage were sometimes used as gifts of diplomacy to visiting kings or other nobility. The gift signaled political overtures that became so significant a formal code was adopted in 1355 France that defined those who were entitled to the gift of the piedfort. It came into the language as two words, “pied fort.” It’s loosely translated to “heavily weighted.”
A Very Old Artifact
The museum staff informed Ms. Harding that her piedfort was 700 years old. The precious metal piece had been around since the early 1300s.
It was very valuable to the museum. They informed her about the significance such a find is to the Ludlow museum.
Piedforts Are a Rare Find
Piedforts have a unique value. As they were politically significant in the monarchies of France and England, these little bits of treasure mean a lot to state museums of history. The museum staff discovered that the piedfort Ms. Harding found consisted of silver and weighed 1.4 grams.
Its inscription, however, is what makes it especially important. The imprint she had stared at so many times as a child marks Charles IV’s ascension to the French throne in 1322.
The Piedfort's Monetary Value
Finally, she learned how much it was worth. The precious object that held so much value to her in her heart now had a price tag.
The staff informed her it was worth £2,000. It was a lot of money!
Should She Sell It or Keep It?
Knowing how much she could get for it, brought her to the point where she would have to make a decision. It was worth a lot of money, but sentimentally it was worth even more to her.
“It’s something I remember playing with alongside my mum and it just reminds me of her,” she couldn’t help thinking.
Did She Have a Choice?
The museum staff tried to inform her that her find is so historically valuable that she does not have a right to it. Any personal sentiment she held was not relevant to those in the official position of preserving history.
The authorities were on their side.
While Ms. Harding thought she needed to make a decision about selling or keeping the relic, the folks at the Ludlow museum were not offering any options. The staff was ready to pay her for the piedfort so that it could be a part of the museum’s holdings.
She explained that it meant a lot to her, how she found it alongside her mum, but it wasn’t altering the staff’s claim that the authorities have the right to remove it from her possession.
The Museum Advised Ms. Harding on What To Do
The Ludlow museum wanted the piedfort, and they had a right to it. They explained to Ms. Harding that she must go to the South Shropshire coroner and relinquish the piedfort.
This was the law according to the Treasure Act. Any applicable object more than 300 years old is considered treasure, and thereby owned by the state.
Ms. Harding walked out of the museum with her piedfort in hand and did not look back.
If she could not hand over an important childhood memory for £2,000, she was not going to hand it over for nothing. She decided to keep it.
Hassled by Museum Correspondence
Having left the museum and leaving behind her innocent attempt to find out what her coin was, she thought that was the end of it. She was sorely wrong.
Letters arrived. Phone calls came in. All in request of her piedfort. And they kept coming. She ignored the calls and letters.
The Authorities Get Involved
The museum officials were not going to be ignored. In the case of the 1322 French piedfort, the staff took it to the next level. Ms. Harding would soon figure this out.
To that end, the South Shropshire coroner, Anthony Sibcy, was informed of her refusal to hand it over.
The Day She Found Out
Ms. Harding was especially surprised one day when the authorities showed up at her doorstep. A summons was issued, and it required her to appear at court.
She was shocked, surprised, and scared. How could she have done anything wrong? All she did was dig up a plaything as a child, and now the police were at her door.
Refusing to Surrender the Coin Brought Fateful Consequences
She was in deep trouble now. There was a law about discovering treasure that she had never heard of. If she had reported the find to the authorities, she would have been compensated for fair market value of the artifact. But the law says a person must report the artifact.
That said, only a numismatic would know the cryptic details of the 1996 law. She was no coin expert, British treasure trove laws were completely foreign to her, as any layperson. She was just a child who had found a shiny object in her backyard.
The Treasure Act of 1996
Soon she learned that she had been the first person ever prosecuted under the Treasure Act of 1996. The code of practice requires people turn in any treasure found within 14 days to the local coroner from where the artifact was found.
Failing to do so results in an offense against the person who found the treasure.
Passing the Treasure Act
In 1996, the Parliament of the United Kingdom ruled that a finder of treasure, defined specifically, must report the discovery.
The legally binding law affected no one until it affected Ms. Harding. She was the first British citizen to be arrested for the offense.
The Fine Print of the Treasure Act
The Treasure Act is very specific. It says that any object that is not a coin but made of at least 10% precious metals and is 300 years old or older must be reported to the coroner of the area in which it was found.
The finder has a 14-day window to report the treasure to the authorities.
She Was Treated Like a Common Criminal
Poor Ms. Harding. She had no idea about the Treasure Act of 1996, and she had no idea her find had any value for all those years.
All of a sudden, she’s in deep trouble. How could she have known it would come to this?
Did She Really Do Something Wrong?
Saving the piedfort as a memento of her mum did not seem like a crime. The law that says she must report her finding did not even exist when she found it! Even if it did, how could she report it as a child?
On the other hand, she was advised to report the treasure, and kept it anyway. But was she really in the wrong?
A Jail Sentence?
Now that Ms. Harding had been arrested, she could be prosecuted, found guilty, and face up to three months in prison. She could also be faced with a fine, or both.
She felt helpless and afraid. What advice would her mum have given?
Get an Attorney
Perhaps her mum would have said she should get some legal defense straight away. Ms. Harding hired an attorney out of Shrewsbury. She found a lawyer named Brendan Reedy who had experience representing clients at the Court of Appeal, the Crown Court, at magistrates courts and from the police station, and he had a history of winning.
He assured her nothing was going to happen to her.
An Attorney at Law on Her Side
Ms. Harding was relieved to find some representation. Now the only question that remained was will they win the case? Or would she be forced to relinquish the piedfort?
She was thankful to have some assistance, but anxious about the outcome.
There Was No Precedent for This Type of Case
Reedy, attorney for the case, argued that Ms. Harding did not report the finding because of its sentimental value, but also because she was disorganized.
He also argued the point that since she was a minor when she found it, and there was no law in effect, it was impossible for her to follow a law. How could she follow a law that did not exist?
Would Her Defense Do Well in Court?
Only time would tell. Ms. Harding and her lawyer hoped the case could be resolved.
They hoped the whole mess would just go away after the courts heard her story. But going up against the courts was no easy task.
When she had her day in court, Ms. Harding admitted that she failed to report the piedfort to the authorities. She failed to relinquish it to the coroner, even after she knew she was required to do so.
But all she could think of was how precious the childhood trinket had been to her and how much it had become a memento of gardening with her late mum.
A Priceless Token
Despite all that had happened, or maybe because of it, Kate was more determined than ever to hold onto that special relic. It dated back to 14th century France, but she did not care at this point.
The coin was invaluable to her! It was a priceless memento and she was not going to relinquish it.
It Was All She Had Left of Her Mom
She was set on keeping it, but she feared the Crown would continue its quest to obtain it. She was briefed by her lawyer that the state had a right to go after it even if she was cleared of charges.
She did not know what she was going to do.
Ms. Harding's Trial Started at the Coroner's Office
After Ludlow Museum staff informed Anthony Sibcy, the coroner for South Shropshire, of Ms. Harding’s find, the case against her was put into motion. The coroner reported her refusal to hand over the piedfort to the police. When she got to court, she faced a fine, three months in jail, or both.
At long last, on February of 2010, Ms. Harding walked free. The court discharged her case with the condition of paying £25 of the total £300 cost of her trial. In the end, however, the court decided she did not have the legal right to the piedfort.
Tying up Loose Ends
Ms. Harding did what she was supposed to do in the first place. She went to the South Shropshire coroner’s office and paid him a visit. But it was not the type of visit he was expecting.
There was a little surprise up her sleeve.
“I lost it”
When she got to the coroner’s office, she told him she had misplaced it. It was lost. The Ludlow Museum was willing to pay her £3,000 for letting go of the treasure, but there was no treasure to barter.
The little piece of European history did not fall into the hands of Ludlow Museum. It was officially missing.
Ms. Harding Received a Swell of Support from the British Public
Many people were outraged at authorities for handing this poor girls’ case so abruptly. It was a delicate situation and it was handled by earth movers. “Since when did museums become law enforcers?” some people complained.
“I too would ignore threatening letters from a bunch of ‘collectors,’” others declared. Ms. Harding appreciated the support.
Some People Were Outraged
Other British subjects were offended such a lawsuit went forward in the first place.
“They took this woman to court over a coin! This is ridiculous! I’m all for preserving English heritage, but quite rightly this is her property. . .”
Questioning the Law
“What happened to possession is nine-tenths of the law?” pointed out one commenter.
Someone else added, “That is crazy! She found it fair and square, why does she have to give it up?”
A Man Comes to Her Defense
One person named Alan from Coventry bravely offered a defense for Ms. Harding. He said, “I can’t understand how she could be found guilty.
If the find was in 1996, did it occur before or after the Treasure Act came into force?” We all know her find predated the law by many years.
“Can the prosecution prove the date of the find?”
These were good questions. But the museum would stop at nothing. From their view, historical relics belonged to the state and they belonged to the public. The museum makes such relics available to all.
Furthermore, the museum does not believe any individual has a right to a public good like a remnant of history.
Her Defendant Continued to Make a Case
Alan from Coventry said, “Secondly, if it took place 14 years ago, she was only 9 years old.” Continuing he said, “What was the age of criminal responsibility at the time?” He knew.
“For juveniles under the age of 15, the prosecution would still have to prove that she knew that the act was seriously wrong.”
A Bold Assessment
His final opinion found, “As the magistrates’ appalling ignorance of the law has given her a criminal record, I think she should appeal before a real judge.”
The man shared some valid points.
Where Is the Piedfort?
According to Ms. Harding, the piedfort had been misplaced. She held onto it for 14 years, but something happened to it sometime during the unfortunate turn of luck after taking it to the museum for an appraisal.
As far as anyone knew, it was, in fact, lost.
How Determined Was She to Keep It?
Throughout the trials and tribulation, the magistrate brought Ms. Harding, she believed she was in the right to keep her precious memento. She found it legally.
Treasure laws didn’t exist when she was nine and did not apply to a minor. And, for a person grieving such a horrendous loss, it is understandable that she would take a vigilante approach to maintaining what she felt was rightfully hers.
What Would You Have Done?
Many people would have taken the £3,000 payment for the piedfort and avoided any legal hassles. But what if something was more valuable to you than a sum of $10,000?
It’s hard to say what we would do in that situation. But it seems a bit harsh that a museum could harass someone’s life like that.
The Good News
The authorities finally stopped pestering the young woman about the tiny artifact.
This mean that they would not be able to examine the coin to discover its origin. It would continue to be a mystery.
If Ms. Harding does have secret possession of the coin, what will she do with it? She knows the value if she decides to cash it in, but maybe she will keep it forever.
Perhaps she will pass it along to her children as a family heirloom. A permanent reminder of the dear matriarch they lost. But don’t tell anyone!
A Token of Misfortune
It seemed like the coin brought her nothing but misfortune. She went through a lot of trouble to keep it, and so we can only assume she still has it.
Hopefully, she’s stored it somewhere safe and it will no longer cause her any more trouble.
And now, another intriguing story about a backyard discovery...
This story is about a Tucson, Arizona man, who bought a house that held a mystery buried in the backyard. At first, he did not know about the secret past of this particular property. But luckily, since he purchased the home from a friend, he soon learned of the intriguing background information.
As the sale went through, his friend informed him about the exciting possibility of something very interesting hidden in the yard.
With Ownership, He Became Privy to the Secret
John Sims received the morsel of information after signing the final paperwork for the house in 2015. His backyard quite possibly contained a historical relic.
With the news, Mr. Sims became very excited about the possibility and began looking into it immediately.
“I got very interested...”
Joking with his friend that the two of them should grab a shovel right then and there and dig it up, he was more than partly serious.
Mr. Sims recalls, “I got very interested and maybe about six to eight months after I moved in, I started doing some test digs to see if I could find something.”
Mr. Sims Found Himself a New Project
Fallout shelters are a unique relic of American history. The construction of personal bunkers built at private expense really happened during the fifties and early sixties. Historians say that far from these individuals being considered kooks, they were viewed as responsible and reasonable citizens protecting the family.
When Mr. Sims friend informed him that the property possibly harbored one of these vestiges of the nation’s Cold War past, Mr. Sims was ecstatic. It was like a boyhood dream come true. A vintage bomb shelter in his own backyard!
The Search Begins
The previous owner was not certain the shelter existed because it was not visible. Mr. Sims set to the task of researching right away.
With a little work, he discovered the fallout shelter did, indeed, exist and that it had been installed in 1961. He was ready to start digging!
Preparing the Shovels
He could not wait for the digging to begin, but he took every precaution so as to minimize the damage to his backyard. Even so, he went out there with his shovel and made several test digs. It was over 100 degrees, but he set to the task anyway. His efforts were in vain, he did not find anything. But he did not give up hope.
As he prepared, he said, “I was really hoping it was going to be a little microcosm . . . a time capsule full of civil-defense boxes, radiation detectors and cots and stuff like that.” With such a find, he might be able to charge admission for curious museum buffs!
The Blueprints Provided a Lot of Helpful Information
After tracking down the blueprints of the property, he knew approximately where to dig, and he knew that a fallout shelter was definitely buried in his yard. City records confirmed that a “blast shelter” had been constructed by a pool company called Whitaker Pools.
Records showed that the shelter measures 12 feet in diameter and that it was circular. Things were getting very exciting. He learned that Whitaker Pools built quite a few bomb shelters in the Tucson area in the 1960s. “The Cuban Missile Crisis was a big push for them in that era,” Mr. Sims opined.
Searching for the Spot to Break Ground
Mr. Sims hired consultants to help him locate the exact point of entry to the mysterious shelter. The crew brought metal detectors and scoured the backyard for any signs of buried objects. When increasingly repetitive beeps detected something below the grass, Mr. Sims could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
He knew the history of Cold War-era Tucson. This city was one of America’s nuclear missile launch sites. Only 17 other locations housed nuclear war heads, and all of them were aimed at the Soviet Union. This particular nuclear war head, called Titan Two, could decimate a 900-square-mile area 25 minutes after launch. Tucson readied a total of 18 of these 100-feet-tall missiles. This is one reason that Tucson was considered a target in the 1960s. The fallout shelter was constructed out of real fears that an entire era of people lived with.
An X Marks the Spot
At each place the metal detector was triggered, the crew spray painted a white X. The only thing left to do was start digging.
Despite the triple-digit heat typical of summers in Tucson, Mr. Sims was ready to dig. With the crew helping him, they hit something solid about three feet down. It was X number two that hit the jackpot.
What Is It?
The moment of truth was upon him. Would this be the fallout shelter he hoped it would be? His shovel hit a dense metal object. It could be anything.
At this point, Mr. Sims said he recalled thinking, “I was hoping it wasn’t a septic tank.” Wouldn’t that be a disappointment? And a disgusting one at that!
Unearthing the Metal Object
The crew removed all the dirt from the metal object. It was becoming clear that the object was some kind of lid. It was like a hatch or a metal cap. The workers pried it out of the ground. Once the lid was off, Mr. Sims was advised not to go into the space below.
The air needed to be tested for mold. As a captain with Rural/Metro Fire Department, Mr. Sims was already trained to know that he should not jump into a confined space without taking cautions.
Discovering a Spiral Staircase
Even more exciting than unearthing the hatch was what was revealed below. The round opening led down into a spiral staircase that led directly into the heart of the fallout shelter.
Mr. Sims was tempted to hop right in there, but his caution took priority.
Taking All Precautions
Safety first. Mr. Sims had a plan, but he would need some extra help. Of all the rescue calls he and his unit at Rural/Metro answered, quite a few involved underground entrapments.
There were way too many ways climbing into a deep crevice under the ground could go sideways, from his experience.
Calling for Backup
A number of things could go wrong if he climbed down that spiral staircase alone. If the hatch lid was somehow replaced, no one would know he was in there. A massive collapse is another hazard he imagined. His entry might cause a crumbling of the old structure and he would get buried beneath.
However, with a lot of manpower right outside of the bomb shelter, help would be readily available. So, he called some friends who were willing to stand guard while he implemented the plan.
His friends were glad to help. They were also hopeful to get a peek at a real Cold War-era fallout shelter. When they arrived, everyone learned about the plans. It was exciting.
They were also very curious about his plan. He told them that he intends to refurbish the bomb shelter and restore it to its 1961 glory. To this end, he said, he set up a GoFundMe page for the project.
Drawing up the Project Blueprints
Now that he decided to restore the historical relic on his property, he needed to create the blueprints for the project. He had to figure out the best way to go about recreating the fallout shelter. He had to think like a construction crew and like a museum curator.
One idea he had was to include Cold War-era artifacts inside the shelter like Geiger counters, water supply barrels sanitation kits, and vintage HAM radios.
The First Step
First step he took was consulting with engineers and contractors about the restoration project. They advised him to rebuild the upper entrance and the spiral staircase in order to secure the entry space. Once the entry and stairway were solid, he could think about working inside of the actual shelter. To start, the upper entrance would need a concrete pour. This alone could cost up to $2,000. Before appealing to GoFundMe, Mr. Sims posted images and a request to Reddit. His research discovered that there may be 15 to 20 bomb shelters in the Tucson area.
He announced that he would be restoring his. For help, he asked, “Does anyone know of others that are still in decent shape?” Hundreds of responses came in. His Tucson Reddit page attracted so much attention the story spread to local newspapers. And now, here he was, stabilizing the entry with rebar and concrete and anticipating the day he could finally climb down the stairs and see his very own bomb shelter.
Working Through a Brutal Summer
The project continued through the peak of Tucson heat. Oppressive triple-digit temps plagued the workers day in and day out. They set up a tarp to protect themselves from the harsh rays.
Another safety measure included installing a cardboard Sonotube. This secured the area they were working on to prevent collapse or damage to the surrounding area.
The Final Touches
Upon consulting with an engineer and some contractors, Mr. Sims decided to widen the entry space since it was going to be completely rebuilt and reinforced anyway. Things were really coming together. The hatch looked brand new. But before descending, he took a couple more precautions.
First, he had the crew install an electrical wire to power a light bulb inside the shelter. He also had them install a black pipe that would serve as an air tube.
All Systems Go!
Finally! The day he had been waiting for. With the hatch secured, reinforced and rebuilt, entering the underground vault was now safer than a Fantasyland ride at Disney. There was nothing preventing him from climbing on in. He felt like a little boy again, playing in the backyard. He jumped on in. But, honestly, he held some doubts and fears of a big letdown.
“I kind of thought it might have been a real cheap job like a storm drain just thrown in to the yard with the little bit of the steps of something,” he admitted, “but it turned out to be a lot cooler than that.”
The Tip of the Iceberg
This project was going to require a lot more work. The spiral staircase was totally rusted out and unusable. Fifty years of neglect had taken its toll.
The stairway would have to be completely redone. That’s okay. Mr. Sims loved his new project and looked forward to restoring it to museum-grade authenticity.
A Way in
The entrance to the bomb shelter was so dilapidated alternative measures became necessary. To get down into the space below, there was no other alternative.
Mr. Sims inserted a ladder down into the deep entrance. The workers were going to need a way in anyway to do the necessary repairs inside the shelter and to rebuild the stairway.
The Long-awaited Descent
As Mr. Sims descended the ladder, the excitement he contained was palpable. Learning of the possibility of this historical relic existing on his property was the reason he bought it, it was the final selling point. And now he was ready to see what sort of value it held. Step by step, he entered, thinking about the significance of this bit of history buried away for over a half century.
His foot stepped off the last rung and he was in! Immediately, he thought it looked beautiful. It was completely empty. There was an arched entrance to the circular shelter area. It could have been much worse. Though he was really hoping it was going to be a functioning fallout shelter stocked with water cans, radiation detectors, supply boxes and other vintage bomb shelter items, it was in great shape. This piece of history was definitely a fallout shelter, and it was definitely his.
Repairing the Damage
Even though it was in great condition, structurally, the underground structure needed some TLC. The dome area of the chamber was not in good shape.
Shards of fiberglass hung from the ceiling threatening to fall. Safety hazards existed. The entire dome would have to be redone.
Breathing the Air of the Cold War Conflict
Looking around his backyard basement, his imagination was flooded with Cold War history. He was thinking about people of that era, the fears they held. He wondered who had actually been in this old cavern. He wondered if such a bomb shelter would even protect people.
Yvonne Morris at the Titan Missile Museum was a US Air Force Officer and part of the crew responsible for launching the nuclear warheads in Tucson. “We existed to prevent WWIII from ever happening,” she told KGUN9 news. When asked if she thought bomb shelters were nuke-proof, she pointed out that a fallout shelter would not survive a direct hit, and there would have to be sufficient food, water and fresh air.
Exploring the Cavern
It was a lot of awesome to take in. Surveying this clandestine area of his property had him thinking beyond its historical value, and into his own. “A lot of people said I should turn it into a wine cellar or a cigar bar,” Mr. Sims informed KGUN9.
“I thought it would be cool to host some poker games down here. I think it would be a unique buy-in.” The possibilities seemed endless. He just stood there contemplating.
How Many of These Cold War Relics Actually Exist?
Mr. Sims was not the only homeowner in Tucson with a bomb shelter in his backyard. After reaching out on Reddit, he found others in the area have them in various conditions.
It’s believed that 3% of American families built underground nuclear fallout shelters. However, due to Tucson’s military history and its 18 Titan Twos, Tucson fallout shelters built for personal use are more prevalent. Morris told KGUN9 that fears were high in the city. Not only was Tucson a nuclear launch site, but also it was “already a target because of the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.” Because of these reasons, she said, people feared Tucson was high on the Soviet Union’s target list.
The Final Touches on Mr. Sims' Man Cave Museum
When he began researching his project, reaching out to Go Fund Me, he said, “My plans are to clean up the interior, repaint it and turn it into a really cool man cave, HAM shack and Civil Defense Museum.” Upon completion, on Reddit, he shared some final touches. He said the images he posted show “a few artifacts that I have acquired to outfit the shelter.” He displayed pictures of cans of water and radiation detection equipment.
Another benefit to his man cave museum is that it is a cool place to chill during the summers. Underground temperatures in the area hover around 72 degrees, offering a great respite to the outdoor heat. Now that the Cold War is behind us, relics like fallout shelters create nostalgia and go down into the halls of history. The Titan Two missile sites in Tucson are no longer hidden in a secret location. In fact, you can tour the missile site, as it is now a National Historical Landmark.