Prepper Time Capsule: Wisconsin Family Finds Fallout Shelter Hidden In Their Backyard
For more than a decade after they moved into their house in Neenah, Wisconsin, the Zwick family knew they had a Cold War bunker in their backyard.
It was not until 2010 that anyone thought to open the heavy steel hatch, climb down the ladder and explore the 8-foot-by-10-foot chamber that the home’s previous owner had built to protect his family from a nuclear attack.
Floating in five feet of water that had seeped into the bunker were sealed U.S. Army boxes, packed with all of the supplies a family would need to survive two weeks underground.
Preserved: The previous owner of the shelter packed away candies, raisins, Hershey’s syrup and other sweets – likely as treats to get through the long weeks underground
Stretched for time? Watch the video below:
Locked up: The family clear away the bushes the had grown over the cover of the shelter and unlocked the chain that secured the doors closed
‘We assumed it was just this empty space,’ homeowner Carol Hollar-Zwick told the Appleton Post-Crescent.
The boxes, old military ammunition crates, contained markings that suggested there might be explosives inside, so the family called the local branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Agents opened the crates to find… Hawaiian Punch.
‘It was all of what you would expect to find in a 1960s fallout shelter. It was food, clothing, medical supplies, tools, flashlights, batteries – items that you would want to have in a shelter if you planned to live there for two weeks.’
Everything remained remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the airtight containers the supplies were kept in.
The family donated all of the items to the Neenah Historical Society, which has curated an exhibit about the Cold War and the fear of the Soviets using ‘the bomb.’
Down, down, town: The muddy ladder leading to the bunker reveals that the underground shelter has endured years of flooding
The rusted military supply boxes preserved the contents remarkably well
Even these paper towels were freshly sealed after 50 years
‘It’s interesting that you can open up something and find 1960 inside of it,’ Mrs Hollar-Zwick told the Post-Crescent.
The home’s previous owner was Frank Pansch, a local surgeon, built the shelter in 1960 – two years before the Cuban Missile Crisis had Americans across the country digging their own ‘fallout shelters’ in their backyards.
The idea of a fallout shelter was not to protect from a nuclear blast, but rather from the radiation that would likely contaminate the surrounding area.
It’s unknown what fallout the late Dr Pansch was expecting in Neenah. The small Wisconsin city is 100 miles from Milwaukee and nearly 200 from Chicago – the population centers that might have been targeted by the Soviets.
Supplies: Candles, a garden hose and a funnel were dozens of items that were stashed in the bunker
It’s unknown why the past owner decided he needed to store a phone directory in his fallout shelter
Note from the editor: Considering the fact that the Phone book is packed in with more toilet paper, I don’t think they were planning on using it to call anybody….
What do you think?
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May 7, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Man, I wish I found an awesome fall-out shelter in my back yard! Our property has been in the family since the late 1800’s so we find some cool buried stuff occasionally but nothing like that!
Guess I’ll just have to build my own 🙂
May 7, 2013 at 3:23 PM
The phone directory was for a historical record of the people in that area. My grandpa had one in his kit for that reason. It would be a record of the people in that area.
May 7, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Uhhhhh…if I wanted toilet paper I would pack toilet paper, not a phone directory. I’m with DubyaB on this one.
May 8, 2013 at 12:38 PM
I’m old enough to have used many outhouses in my youth. Several with nary a roll of “T.P.” in sight! There was usually a catalog of some type, (I remember Sears and Roebuck for sure) where you would rip out a page and crumple it ’till it was “SOFT.” I think the paper in these then was about the same as in a telephone directory.
In fact, while I have a supply of TP built up, I same phone directories for this use should there be an extended SHTF scenario. Toilet paper is bulky and takes up a LOT of room, directories, much less.
I noticed that the phone book was stored in the same container as the TP as well, but then perhaps it was just stored with other paper products for protection in the metal container.
May 19, 2013 at 8:11 PM
Why,…did it take them 10 years to get around to opening this little time capsule?
September 23, 2013 at 2:23 PM
I live in Neenah. The fear wasn’t fallout from a bombing in Milwaukee or Chicago. The fear was of an attack on Oshkosh or the outskirts of Neenah. Oshkosh was (and many say still is) the home of the largest manufacturer of military vehicles in the country. And between Neenah and Appleton we have Pierce Manufacturing which was (and may still be) the home of one of the largest manufacturers of emergency vehicles in the country. It can be converted to military vehicle production in a matter of days.
Growing up, we were always told that these two companies put us in the top 20 list of potential Cold War strikes if Russia had ever attacked.
October 29, 2013 at 4:11 AM
dakota fire for small fire and fast heat.dig2holes aprox 1ft.eachconnect the holesfillup the down wind hole whithsmall sticks ,light the fire andput you pan on heat anything needed fast .,fill holes after done and put top grass on the top and away you go.good for the invironment.
January 10, 2014 at 5:23 PM
Really amazing to me is how well preserved everything is in the military boxes. I may need to buy some of those boxes for storage of things that need to stay dry.
June 2, 2017 at 9:22 AM
New innovations over 50 yrs. shows that survival is very possible along with a survival garden and a weapon. Things keep improving,
June 3, 2017 at 12:32 PM
Renovate it and use it!
June 5, 2017 at 6:43 AM
The question is; Did the current family have that aha moment when they realized that they should be fixing and restocking the shelter?