On a cold morning in Wisconsin, a contractor was busy clearing his new client’s backyard for a landscaping project.
He’d come across some strange things before, but when his shovel hit something hard, he quickly alerted the woman he was working for. Her husband hadn’t wanted her to go out there for a long time. What was he hiding?
Karen Sellers hadn’t been thrilled when her husband Bill announced they would be upheaving their life in New Jersey to move to a new house in Wisconsin.
The news came suddenly, and the mother-of-two had little time to get the family ready for a big move to another city. But Bill had already found the new house and was over the moon when they agreed to take a lot less than the asking price.
While she would have preferred to stay in the city where they’d made friends and become part of the community, Karen understood that the job Bill had been offered in Wisconsin was important to their future.
She diligently did what she could to make their new house a home – and she couldn’t wait to get to work on taming the wild backyard. But Bill wasn’t so keen.
After Karen had finished putting the finishing touches on their beautiful new home, she was ready to tackle the overgrown yard.
But she quickly realized it was too much work for her to do alone. Karen asked her husband for help every time she saw they had a free weekend, but he would fly into a temper and tell her he had too much work. So Karen decided to take matters into her own hands.
Bill always wanted a bigger house with a large yard, so Karen couldn’t work out why he was so reluctant to start work on sprucing it up. She couldn’t stand to leave the backyard in the state it was in.
She put Bill’s mood down to work-related stress and dialled a number in the yellow pages for a contractor. But soon after, she discovered why they got the house for such a low price.
It seemed that whenever Karen mentioned their address to a contractor, they would quickly make an excuse and refuse to take the job.
Suspicious, Karen did some digging and found that a young mother had gone missing from the property more than 50 years before, leading to some unsettling urban myths.
Despite spending a lot of time alone in the yard to blow off steam, Bill would always have a new excuse as to why he wouldn’t be able to help out with the work.
It became a sticking point in their relationship. Until a neighbor recommended a contractor to Karen directly. He was new to the area and eager for work, so he was prepared to start that very afternoon. But Karen had no idea what she was about to discover.
Contractor Keith turned up right on time. Karen hadn’t even had an opportunity to discuss it with her husband, but she thought it would be a nice surprise that she’d finally found someone for the job.
Karen went back into the house and made some coffee while Keith got busy clearing the fallen branches and leaves from the yard. Then his shovel struck something hard and heavy.
Karen jumped when Keith appeared at the kitchen window, knocking on the glass for her attention.
She came outside to see what had gotten him so flustered. There under all the overgrown grass and weeds was a hatch in the ground. Karen never even knew it was there. She called her husband Bill right away, but she heard his phone buzzing somewhere in the house. “He must have forgotten it,” Karen thought.
“What do you know about the previous owners?” asked the workman. It had now been years since they bought the property, and her husband handled the entire process.
All Karen knew was that the house had been built in 1951. She vaguely remembered that it was owned by a doctor who was somewhat paranoid about selling. “Shall we open it up?” asked the workman.
Keith tugged hard on the handle of the hatch, but it had rusted shut and he wasn’t capable of lifting it alone. Karen stepped in to help, but it still wouldn’t budge.
Karen didn’t hear her husband’s car pull into the drive. Had he known the hatch was there all this time? What could possibly be inside it?
Bill stood at the back door as Karen and Keith wrestled with the stubborn hatch door. She jumped when he finally spoke.
“How have you only just noticed that thing now?” he asked, grinning. Bill explained that he had known about the hatch ever since they bought the property years ago. “Why didn’t you tell me?” asked Karen.
Bill explained that he knew how much time and money would be involved in getting the hatch open and that a whole can of worms might be opened once they got inside, so he’d hoped to put it off as long as possible.
But Karen couldn’t contain her curiosity a second longer. Despite her husband’s reluctance, Karen tasked the workman with the job of getting the hatch open. She had to know what was inside.
Bill was pretty sure they would find nothing but dust and rust once the old hatch was opened. “It’s probably just an old coal store,” he said.
But after Keith called in some help, they finally got the door open. And what was staring back at them from the deep hole left them all speechless.
Rather than seeing a passageway down into some kind of mysterious chamber, Karen and Bill peered down to see the space was completely filled with water.
The water was too dirty to see down very far, so they realized they had no choice but to suck it out. Fortunately, Keith’s cousin had a heavy-duty pump for the job and – now curious himself – quickly got on the phone to get the job moving.
It took the rest of the afternoon, but finally, the workmen had managed to empty the chamber below the hatch.
Karen and Bill peered down into the darkness. It smelled stale and the rusty water had left an orange stain on the ladder. But there was only one way to find out what was inside. Karen would go down herself to find out what was in there once and for all.
Karen slowly descended the ladder, as Bill stood at the hatch staring down at her, she expected her husband might be right. It was probably just a coal store or, at best, a storm shelter.
But when her foot touched the wet ground at the bottom of the ladder and she shone her flashlight around the room she found herself in, she realized there was far more to it.
As Karen looked around the dark room, it was clear she wasn’t looking at a storage room. She shone her flashlight along the walls and could see wiring that looked like telephone lines and electricity. And then she saw something that proved the previous owner was indeed paranoid about something.
“What is it?” Ken called down to Karen.
Karen looked up from the damp chamber at her husband. “It’s some kind of shelter,” Karen called up.
The space had bunk beds, lanterns, and a toilet. There were food supplies from the 1960s to last a family for weeks. But one discovery forced them to call the Bureau of Firearms and Explosives.
Karen found a Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting and measuring ionizing radiation, but nothing the experts considered dangerous. The owner had lived in fear of nuclear fallout and built a shelter for him and his family.
Finally, Karen knew what was in the hatch – and the neighbors could put any urban myths about previous owners to rest.