Meet the couple who have converted a nuclear missile site into a family home. The Freaky gets an exclusive tour.
The Midwest of the United States is infamous for its tornados and thunderstorms.
So people’s homes here have to be built tough to ensure a good night’s sleep but Ed and Diana Peden are a couple who’ve taken that to the extreme, with a home 20 foot under ground.
Diane: “It’s safe down here. In Kansas we have a lot of tornado activity, we don’t have that threat here at all.”
Ed and Diana were also worried about much darker forces than tornadoes.
I first came across this property in 1982. President Reagan was at the helm and he was talking about the evil empire and there was a threat of nuclear war and I had young daughters and I was worried so I came upon this place and it was flooded and in ruin and yet I just couldn’t forget about it.
Ed: “This is a nuclear hardened structure built by the government to resist a nearby nuclear blast. For example this is a piece of steel re-bar and of course this would be 20 feet long or so and it’s very heavy and very strong and these walls are full of this kind of steel and the thing was meant to resist a nearby nuclear blast because these were targeted.”
For $40,000 Ed bought 33 acres of land, plus 15,000 square feet of underground property.
Sounds like a bargain? Ed thought so, but it turned out to be an epic renovation project.
Ed: “It had been flooded for probably 12 years or so and it was a mess and most of the sheet rock was sludge on the floor, black smelly stuff. It all had to be disassembled and carried out”.
Although built to withstand a nuclear attack, this is not a nuclear shelter – it’s a nuclear missile launch site – Atlas E Missile Base Number 6.
In the mid-1950s, the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the US, intensified – with the US secretary of state announcing a policy of ‘massive retaliation’.
Both superpowers battled to build ever-more devastating weapons.
The US focused on powerful nuclear missiles, with incredibly accurate guidance systems.
By the early 1960s, Kansas had become the location for many of America’s missile bases, with over 20 installed across the state – Ed and Diana’s home is one of them.
Their two storey living area with 15 foot ceilings is connected to a launch control bunker, all reinforced with super-strength 18 inch thick walls.
The missile itself was removed long ago by the Government, but the house still retains many original features.
Ed: “This is a launch control panel from an Atlas E Missile site and there’s buttons that can push where the roof opens, where the missile is erected, where the flame deflector door is open and they can select different targets; Moscow or St Petersburg.”
There’s also a 120 foot tunnel, which takes you to the launch control area.
Ed: “This was called the launch service room and in the missile days, and no-one could launch this missile, you couldn’t fuel it without certain codes that were changed daily that came in from Washington DC being placed into this system”.
“There were always three men in this room and they could press certain buttons on the launch control panel and send this missile off and kill 50 million people halfway across the planet”.
The room where Ed now stores his junk, once contained a 4 megaton thermonuclear warhead, capable of destroying a city the size of London, in a flash.
Ed: “Imagine there’s a 75 foot long Atlas rocket lying in here with a range of 6000 miles across the planet and this door is gonna go to the west, and then the missile is slowly erected up by this yellow mechanism, you see the heavy chains, this is massive stuff. You pull this thing upward and it comes to rest over this area.”
Incredibly, despite millions of dollars and hours spent on its construction, the Atlas missile turned out to be a white elephant.
Designed to launch in less than half an hour, it actually took so long to get upright and ready for action, that enemy missiles would have struck long before it even left the ground.
Ed: “The crews complained that the equipment didn’t work ……and it just wasn’t happening very well.”
It seems hard to believe, but no matter what they tried, the crews couldn’t prep the missile any quicker.
So in 1965, only four years after construction, the site was actually decommissioned – without a missile ever being launched.
Ed: “I absolutely would not want to live anywhere else and we could swap, we could sell very nicely and live most anywhere we wanted, we like it here. This is home and we’ve put so much of ourselves here, it would be giving up a part of ourselves. This has been a life-defining project. I can’t imagine living anywhere else”.