Secret compounds and bunkers

by Brian Clarey

Osama bin Laden’s secret mansion

It’s hard to believe that the man who orchestrated the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, eluded capture for nearly 10 years, especially when it turns out he had been hiding in the biggest private compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a short distance from the nation’s capital. But it turns out there are “secret” compounds and hideouts all over the world, and there have been for centuries.


I’m going to Godwin myself right off the bat and bring up the F’hrerbunker, the underground warren where Adolph Hitler went when the bad rain began to fall and eventually pulled his own plug. The former bomb shelter was destroyed in the ensuing years, and now there are apartment buildings on the site.

Saddam Hussein’s spider hole

The former Iraqi president’s hideout did not have the panache of bin Laden’s — ironic because it was the actions of the latter that caused the war against the former. Hussein made his last stand from an 8-foot hole in the ground with some guns and cash.

The Congressional bunker

Back around 1960, our elected officials realized the possibility of a nuclear attack against the US, and that in the event of such a thing, they’d prefer to ride it out in style. And so a massive bunker was built in the mountains of West Virginia, underneath the Greenbrier Hotel, big enough for both houses of Congress and a few hundred other VIPS. It remained secret until 1992, when Washington Post reporter Ted Gup broke the story and the place was immediately decommissioned. These days you can take a tour of it for $30.

Guardian Underground

The Brits got a jump on us in 1954, when the Guardian Underground was completed. The extensive network of tunnels and cells underneath Manchester, England was designed to withstand a Hiroshima-level nuclear attack. It is not open to the public, and may still be in working order today.

The Branch Davidian compound

Sure, David Koresh was a complete lunatic, but you have to admit he was a tough little guy. His 1993 last stand at his Waco, Texas compound lasted 51 days, while he spouted biblical imagery to FBI agents over the phone. In the end he went down in a fiery blaze that consumed his arsenal of weapons and 75 other members of his church.

The Corleone Family compound

Not technically a real compound, according to the Godfather internet wiki the gated cul-de-sac in Long Beach, NY consisted of eight houses occupied by children of Don Corleone, his consigliere Genco Abbandando and a few renters instructed to leave the premises on demand, no questions asked. It was heavily guarded, especially when the family went to war with the Tattaglias and that rat Sollozzo.

Mount Weather, Va.

Some time in the 1950s the US government built the Mount Weather Special Facility, a 434acre bunker in a hollowed-out mountain within driving distance of our nation’s capital. Inside they constructed a hospital, crematorium, cafeterias, a power plant, a radio and TV station and a gym. It was last used during 9-11 — as far as we know….

Dover Castle

The largest castle in England was built in the 12 th century and has defended the Crown, with varying degrees of success, against everyone from the Romans to Napoleon. The tunnels below were re-commissioned as an air-raid shelter during World War II, after lying dormant for 100 years. Now it’s a historic site with costumed tour guides and battle re-enactors prowling the grounds.

Fort Knox

The US Bullion Depository outside Louisville, Ky., sometimes referred to as Fort Knox, holds the US gold reserve supply — about 2.5 percent of all the gold ever mined on Earth. It also has held at various times the original US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Hungarian crown jewels and an emergency supply of opium.