I recently had the opportunity to tour, and speak with the owner of, the famed Las Vegas underground home. This is Part One of the tour. Part Two is where I interview the owner about prepping and whether this place would realistically work as a fallout shelter.
You can see my video tour and photos (by Jeremiah Fishell) below.
Built in the 1970s as a high-end home and fallout shelter, it looks like any regular, private two-story house in the suburbs of Las Vegas, just three miles from the strip.
What lies beneath it, however, is nothing short of a fascinating structure. Where it is a private residence, and not open to the public, the owner was gracious enough to spend time with me.
At the time of this writing, the house is on the market for $18 million dollars.
Historic, eccentric, bizarre – there are many ways to describe this place, but it is an underground house (more like a house within a house), that is over 15,000 square feet in size. This is the most famous “basement” in all of Las Vegas! Originally designed not just as a unique residence, but as a fallout shelter, it was equipped to support a family for up to a year below the surface.
My Video Tour of the Las Vegas Underground Home
The Home’s Features
The home is not just an underground home; it’s a virtual underground mansion built in 1978 by Girard Brown Henderson, a wealthy entrepreneur who sat on the board of Avon. Here are just a few of the many features:
- five bedrooms and six bathrooms (counting the above-ground home)
- 800-square-foot underground guest house
- 6′ deep pool
- hot tub
- six-hole putting green
- wet bar
- water fountain
- billiard room
The house is cooled with nine air conditioners. It has heating units and two ventilation systems. The home also has a diesel generator for backup power. It sits 26′ below the surface (measured from the floor of the house), and it’s built out of concrete and steal.
There is no natural light, but different times of day can be simulated with the flick of a switch. The green carpeting looks a lot like grass, and the plastic trees and plants look equally real. The mind plays tricks on you while you’re down there. You know you’re underground, but it doesn’t quite feel like it. It feels almost like an alien environment.
The existing owners are just as interesting as the house itself. Bought in 2014 for $1.15 million, the new owner is technically the Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species, a group of individuals whose goal is to promote human life extension through cryogenics. Fitting, really, that a group wanting to extend life buys a fallout shelter.
Mark Voelker Interview
The video in this post can be seen as Part 2 of the underground home tour. This is where I sit down with the owner, Mark Voelker, in the living room of this subterranean mansion, and we talk about prepping. We discuss not only prepping in general, but also how this underground house would function in a post-collapse situation. How long could someone realistically stay down there? What issues would they face? Is it defensible?
Since their acquisition, they’ve put money into improvements, including repairing the sewage system, wiring, and outfitting with 1970s-era furniture to fit the time of the home. More improvements are still underway. (Watch my interview of the owner).
A Prepper’s Perspective
From my view, and probably the view of most any prepper, the home is best suited as an eccentric Las Vegas party house, and less as a fallout shelter. The drawbacks to using it as a bunker are fairly obvious:
- The media coverage of this place (see below) means it will never be a hidden location. Even my cab driver knew about the place and where it was!
- It’s dependent on the power grid. Yes, it has a backup generator, but what if that fails? The air exchange is not passive. It needs power to run, and the size of the place means it would demand a fair amount of power.
- It’s Las Vegas! A fallout shelter in the middle of a city doesn’t exactly scream long-term safety. What’s more, the ongoing water challenges that face Las Vegas are apt to get worse.
- It’s not a bomb shelter. If that’s what Mr. Henderson intended it to be, he should have gone deeper. If you’re in Las Vegas hoping to escape the fallout coming from a nuclear blast in Los Angeles – sure, but a nuclear blast hitting Las Vegas would do this place in.
All of that said, if you ARE a prepper, you have a ton of money, and you love Las Vegas, I’m not sure you could find a more interesting property!
The home has been covered by various media outlets: Forbes, Messy Nessy Chic, Money, ABC News, Review Journal, and the Las Vegas Sun (just to name a few). For my tour and interview of the owner, I tried to focus a bit more on the prepper side of things – the home not as an eccentric structure, but as a fallout shelter, as it was originally intended.
If you want to see the owners’ website for the house, go to UndergroundHouse.Vegas. A photographer’s creative use of the space can be seen here: Juno Calypso. If you want to see an artistic, albeit a bit strange, short film made in the space, go to Womens Tales 14.