Bunkers, missile silos, ammo storage dumps… they’re all built with the worst case scenario in mind. They’re the last place people want to turn in wartime, but they’re also the places that are better to have when things start to go sideways. There’s a huge number of these structures that ended up not being needed at all, and now, many have been abandoned to the elements.
10. Abandoned Bunker in Barnton Quarry, Edinburgh, Scotland
The abandoned bunker in Barnton Quarry, Edinburgh, sits beneath another abandoned building that’s visible at a glance. The top, above-ground level of the site is the RAF Fighter Command Sector Operations Centre from World War Two, which is something of a misnomer as the building was constructed before the conflict. It was used throughout the war by the Air Ministry as a command centre.
Underground is the abandoned bunker, which was instrumental in organizing responses to Russian intrusions into UK airspace throughout the 1950s. Radar sites throughout the country reported their data to the bunker, which would then give the next round of orders to British air defense.
The bunker went vacant in 1958, and in 1960 it was re-purposed into an emergency governmental seat, with the goal that it would allow the government to keep functioning in a place safe from nuclear attack. Barnton Quarry remained a governmental bunker until 1983, when it was abandoned. The site fell derelict, and more damage was done by a fire in the 1990s.
Today, there are attempts in progress to restore the site, but it’s definitely an uphill battle and a monumental task. Machinery has been stolen, rooms have been looted, and every floor of the complex is littered with debris. Because of the current restoration efforts, the site is video monitored and patrolled – strictly off-limits. A favorite spot for street artists and urban explorers, those undertaking the restoration are hoping to continue a relationship with their most frequentvisitors once the bunker is safe.
9. World War Two Bunker, Cape May, New Jersey
Sitting on the beach in Cape May Point State Park is a World War Two bunker that has long been left to the elements. Now, it’s almost completely surrounded by water where it was once covered with sand and hidden from the view of an enemy that lurked right off the coast of the United States.
In its heyday, the bunker was manned by a group of military men who spent their long days and nights scanning the oceans for signs that Axis forces were encroaching on the US borders. The bunker, once outfitted with fully stocked powder rooms and shell rooms, generators and 8” guns, saw the surrender of a German U-Boat one time in the war.
Today, though, ocean waves have eroded the sand that once supported the structure. It’s not only surrounded by water now, it’s also absolutely no longer safe to explore – even though there are a number of locals who remember it being quite the adventure when they were younger. Binoculars had once been mounted to the top of the bunker, and those who were brave enough to climb to the top could spend a few cents to look through and scan the horizon, much like the troops did decades before.
Local legend also states that some of the men that had once been stationed there still remain. It’s been reported that their ghostly spirits can still be seen, standing by the bunker getting some fresh air, or looking through the open gun ports, still standing guard against a war that’s been over for decades.
Most of the Titan I silos were built on the same plan, and over the years, the elements have made them something of a dangerous place to explore – and not just for legal reasons. Dark save for the occasional light let in by tunnels, the silos are a bit dodgy when it comes to what’s safe to stand on and what’s not.
(Image: US Government, public domain)
Getting into the depths of the Deer Trail missile silo opens up a whole new underground world, that today, has been obviously well traveled by explorers armed with spray paint. Much of the old signage remains, though, giving clues as to what each room had once been used for. Old, rusting machinery still lays in the depths of the abandoned silo, an ignominious end to buildings that once held off nuclear war.
7. The Other Diefenbunker, Canada
During the Cold War, Canada was also taking precautions against the potential outbreak of nuclear war. In 1958, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker commissioned the building of an underground bunker that was able to withstand a nuclear blast, shelter the upper-level members of the government, and keep the country functioning if things went sideways.
(Image: Ottawa Citizen)
The building of the bunker was called Project EASE, and the Diefenbunker was one in a series of underground shelters meant to be used in the emergency of nuclear war. Each Canadian province had shelters that were capable of supporting between 250 and 350 of their top officials.
(Image: Ottawa Citizen)
The Diefenbunker was decommissioned in 1994, and plans were in place to strip the bunker of what could be re-used, then seal the entrance and leave it. That didn’t happen, though, and the bunker was made a National Historic Site and converted into a museum to Canada’s Cold War history.
But, this is an article about abandoned places, right?
(Image: Ottawa Citizen)
The site of the underground museum isn’t the original Diefenbunker. Not much is actually even known about the first attempt to build the shelter, and it was only recently that the original site was found. Standing even farther outside Ottawa is the flooded, abandoned, original Diefenbunker. An overgrown road leads to the site, which is little more than a water-filled hole, 160 feet by 160 feet in the rocky Canadian woods. Once the second site was built, the fate of the first was forgotten. Construction problems flooded the site with water and it was abandoned in favor of the second one; it was only with some creative searching with vague coordinates and satellite images that the remains of the first bunker were finally found.
6. The Nazi Train Station Bunker, Paris, France
The Gare de l’Est is one of Paris’s many train stations. It originally opened in 1849, and in 2007 it underwent a complete renovation. Trains coming in and out of the station are going to and from the east of France and other parts of Europe in that direction; it’s busy, it’s modern, and beneath it sits an abandoned Nazi bunker.
To be exact, the room sits beneath platforms 2 and 3.
The bunker was originally built by the French as an air raid shelter. It wasn’t completed before the Nazis swept through the area, when it was commandeered by the German occupants and finished. Today, it’s owned by the rail company and off-limits to pretty much everyone, but that’s also preserved the integrity of the place. There’s no debris, garbage or graffiti, and it’s largely untouched, looking just as it did when German soldiers put the finishing touches on the signage in the underground bunker.
There’s enough room for about 70 people, and it was completely outfitted with radio and telephone equipment and other emergency equipment. A time capsule, it even contains all the old furniture left behind by the Nazi occupiers. There’s even a pedal-run generator that could be used to supply the bunker with electricity, and it still works. There’s a control station with old train maps still on the wall, a machinery room, and signs part in French, partially in German.
Not only is it abandoned, but its entrance is a closely guarded secret.
5. The Munitions Bunkers of Alvira, Pennsylvania
Sitting far out on what is now state land in Pennsylvania, there are the abandoned remains of 149 World War Two-era bunkers. The bunkers were once built to house munitions, now empty and unneeded. The story that led to them being there is a pretty tragic one.
During World War Two, it was all hands on deck for all the countries involved. The United States decided that they needed to increase munitions output, and that meant building more factories. The government seized 8,000 acres that made up the farmland of the town of Alvira, buying out all the residents within a week of the plan being put forward in 1942. By the time the plant was built, 177 homes were destroyed to make room.
Also built were sewage and water treatment plants, paved roads, and a transportation system was put in place to bus workers from nearby towns. There were the munitions bunkers, too, built with the idea that they were going to safely contain all the explosives that the factory made.
About $15 million later, the factory was up and running…. and not producing what the government had expected. The entire plan was scrapped only 3 years after all the townspeople had been bought out and evacuated. Many had already moved to other parts of the country, and what was left of the factory became a ghost town.
4. The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, North Dakota
(Image: Library of Congress, public domain)
Something of an outlier in this article, this flat-topped pyramid stands quite literally out in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota. There’s only a few roads leading to it, and to build it, it cost about $500 million.
Built in the 1970s, the compound was part of an anti-missile defense system called Safeguard. The “eyes” that are on the sides of the pyramid were access points that allowed the structure to scan the horizon for incoming missiles; when intruders were detected, one of the hundred-odd missiles housed at the complex would be deployed to intercept.
(Image: Craftsman2001, public domain)
It sounds like a great idea, but there was a problem. The whole thing got caught up in a cluster of political debates about whether or not it was useful to keep active, if it was just prolonging the whole threat of nuclear war…. etc., etc.
(Image: Library of Congress, public domain)
Accounts vary on how long it was actually kept functional. Some say that it was active for a few months, others say that it was deactivated after less than 24 hours. What’s known for sure is that the massively expensive project had an incredibly short lifespan.
(Image: Library of Congress, public domain)
The building and the property have been sold several times, and are now in private hands. In 2012, the building – including the underground community center, chapel and gymnasium – were bought by a religious group the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony. The $530,000 investment seems like an odd one for a group with a strong anti-war sentiment, but so far, it’s still abandoned.
3. Vogelsang Missile Base, Germany
(Image: via YouTube)
It’s sites like this one that really, really bring home how terrifyingly close the world has been to complete nuclear destruction.
Sitting abandoned in the East German woods is a small, unassuming, concrete pad whose blank face is broken by a metal grate. During the Cuban missile crisis, this had been the home and launch site of countless Russian missiles, constantly aimed at London and eastern England. The missiles would have been capable of hitting targets up to 1,200 km away – not close enough to be able to target the United States, but London was well within range.
(Image: Sam Ledger via YouTube)
Built in the 1950s, there’s also an abandoned town that once stood as a home to the 15,000-odd people that once worked there. Deserted in 1994, the buildings have been left to be reclaimed by nature. Many of the structures still stand, and those who look closely will see the painted and sculpted portraits of Lenin on statues and on the walls in what was once a school. And not far from the school are the old ammunition depots the missile launch pad, and the storage bunkers for the nuclear warheads.
(Image: via YouTube)
The entire site is an eerie mix of the domestic – with its theaters, stores, schools, offices and gymnasiums – and the military. Even when the base was operational, its remote, woodland location was a benefit – it provided cover for the military operations that were going on there. The cover was so good, in fact, that it was only in 2001 that more information was released about suspicions that there were not only of these hidden missile bunkers in the East Germany forests, but two – another in Fuerstenburg.
Roads are gone, but there are still paths that lead to the abandoned village, still nestled in the forests that were so important in keeping it from being seen by spy planes.
2. Hitler’s Hollywood Bunker, California
It’s one of those stories that really, truly sounds like something out of a far-fetched alternative history novel. In the 1930s, a mysterious man by the name of Herr Schmidt had recruited the help of Los Angeles locals Winona and Norman Stephens…. and their followers. The Stephens were a part of a pro-Nazi group called the Silver Shirts, and although the details of the story are vague and many have been lost, the story’s still downright weird – and supposedly, it all started with a psychic vision that an American bunker was going to be Hitler’s next headquarters.
The Stephens began to finance a project dubbed the Murphy Ranch, named after the supposed property owner who has never been identified outside of owning the patch of land. The so-called ranch was, according to Herr Schmidt, going to be Hitler’s headquarters, where he would move after the war and reign from. Plans included everything that was needed to make the compound self-sufficient, from generators and water treatment facilities to machine shops and terraced gardens for fruit trees. The compound was never completed, and included plans for a massive mansion, but it was home to a group of Nazi supporters who ran drills in preparation for the time when Hitler would come to take up residence in his specially-built bunker
The whole thing came to a screeching halt, though; on the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the entire group was arrested.
The compound briefly became an artists’ community, but now, what remains of it lays in ruins. While some of it’s been destroyed in the many fires that ravage the California wilderness, it still sits on public land and is accessible to hikers.
1. Albania’s Cold War Bunkers
There’s so many abandoned bunkers dotting the landscape of Albania that it’s not even known how many there are – estimates put the total at between 700,000 and 750,000. There’s one bunker for every 4 people that live in the country, and there’s an average of 24 in every square kilometer.
The mind-numbing amount of Cold War-era bunkers were the legacy of Albanian ruler Enver Hoxha. Between 1950 and 1985, Hoxha had these bunkers built for the defense of the country. Now, they’re not so much protecting the country as they are weighing it down.
(Image: Rainchill, public domain)
Each one of the bunkers costs about 800 Euro to destroy; needless to say, most haven’t been destroyed. It’s a staggering amount of money to spend to get rid of the bunkers that dot the landscape, so not surprisingly, many have become something less military and more a canvas for graffiti artists, and homes for those that have been displaced for one reason or another. The bunkers were engineered to be able to take direct damage from a tank – which was proven by the engineer, when he was forced to stand inside his creation while it was shelled.
Albania has something of an interesting relationship with these hundreds of thousands of reminders of the Cold War era paranoia that gripped the country. Some places have painted their bunkers in order to help come to terms with the dark reminders that cover their land – the culture minister even invited civilians to paint the bunkers laying in a strip of land near their major airport, turning them into a field of mushrooms.