The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Bomb Shelter Day


The 1950s and early 1960s. A time of anxiety, dread, fear and paranoia. Fear of a nuclear war – one that would incinerate most of the worlds population in a matter of minutes. Anxiety that it would happen at any place, and at any time. Dread that it would happen when we were away from home. Paranoia that those with fallout shelters would be overrun by panicked neighbors and relatives. So it was no small wonder that Tranquilizers became huge business. Over-the-counter sleeping aids were flying off drugstore shelves and alcohol was the go-to elixir guaranteed to make the anxiety go away.


A family fallout shelter in the 1950s.


The Facility, a 12-bedroom apocalypse-ready pied-à-terre described in a 2015 listing (asking price: $17.5 million) as “the only fully renovated hardened and privately owned underground bunker of its kind in the United States today.”


“My higher range starts at $8m and those shelters have Jacuzzi tubs, a swimming pool for exercise and are about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. Did you hear about Kim and Kanye getting one built? Yeah, that’s one of ours. I’m sure Kim’s will have a pool too. But look, my clientele goes up way higher than her.”


Bomb Shelter Food Rations


Exterior Entrance Group Shelter for Scientists at Lawrencce/Livermore Lab. This was built by a group of scientists 1961-62. Eight families share the shelter. Recently it was used by a 19-year-old college student for a Halloween party.’


page from a Fallout Shelter Coloring Book, 1962


Backyard Fallout Shelter can be beneficial inspiration for those who seek an image according specific categories.


This Is What A Billionaire’s Apocalypse Shelter Looks Like



For Sale in Fair Oaks, Calif. — $195,000


Boy Scouts fallout shelter parade float


The country’s first underground school, it is also the largest fallout shelter. It accommodates 540 children through sixth grade, can house 2,160 adults and children for two weeks as an emergency shelter. It’s built to withstand blast and fallout from a 20-megaton bomb.


Shipping containers were built to be stacked. They’re called Intermodal Freight Containers because they can be moved on trains, boats, helicopters, whatever. They are meant to be large portable closets. They were not to be buried or cut into, and certainly weren’t designed to be used as underground bunkers. Once you do that, you start changing their effectiveness. They are not built for lateral pressure and not designed for long-term wetness or acidic/caustic soil.


Sales of nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers have surged in Japan in recent weeks as North Korea has pressed ahead with missile tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions.


This extensive nuclear fallout shelter built from 42 school buses could house 500 people in its tunnels.


Mr. and Mrs. John Schreiber and daughter Susan and Sidney Blanchard stand in their new bomb shelter in 1960.


A family in their underground lead fallout shelter, equipped with a geiger counter, periscope, air filter, etc., early 1960s.


Bomb shelter baby carriage.



Hubbard said his company is now on track to move more than 1,000 units this year, with some models retailing for as high as US$1.3 million. “A tornado shelter is like a butter knife, a fallout shelter is like a steak knife, and a bomb shelter is like a machete,” Hubbard said.


A Swedish doctor has been charged with drugging, raping and kidnapping a woman he allegedly imprisoned for six days in a windowless bomb shelter, Stockholm’s chief prosecutor says.


Susanne Kaplan stands in the bomb shelter beneath her Tucson home Friday August 20, 2004.



Doris and Alan Suter step down into the bomb shelter in the garden of their home at 44 Edgeworth Road, Eltham, London, SE9, sometime between June and August 1940.


The “Genesis” series represents the strongest, safest, best designed and built Underground Shelter System in the world.


Buy A 1960s Bomb Shelter In Bellflower For $820k


The people, the place, the work, the design and the passion!


Atlas Survival Shelter CEO Ron Hubbard has every reason to smile at growing sales, citing growth of a staggering 700 percent since Trump’s election in November 2016.


This family fallout shelter looks like it couldn’t protect squat. I mean, I’ve seen Lego creations that could probably do better.


Family Entering Bomb Shelter, 1939


JFK’s secret Florida Bomb Shelter





Spare a thought for the unlucky estate agent charged with finding a buyer for this bizarre atomic bomb-proof bunker in Sweden. Built to withstand a nuclear attack, the bunker for sale in Boden, northern Sweden, was built 100 metres inside a mountain. The bunker also has some pretty unusual rooms inside: “The ground floor is today decorated as a laser game arena where guests play laser games and it is decorated with a space theme,” the listing explains. And the whole facility also has a Star Wars theme.


The lack of a corporate safe room is a potential liability. Consider that the capture or murder of a company’s executives would emotionally and financially devastate shareholders, expose insurers to potentially big payouts and leave other businesses in a state of constant worry. Simply said, safe rooms can be one component of your overall executive protection plan.


Proposed Underground Bomb Shelter, Los Angeles City Planning Commission, Rendot, 1951.


1958, Milwaukee


Buckminster Fuller 1940’s with his Bomb shelter


These concrete towers were unique AIR RAID SHELTERS of Nazi Germany, built to withstand the destructive power of WWII bombs and heavy artillery. Their cone shape caused bombs to slide down the walls and detonate only at a heavily fortified base. Cheaper to build above ground than to dig bunkers, they were quite effective, as it was possible to cram as many as 500 people inside. Plus the “footprint” of such tower was very small when observed from the air, so it was very hard for the bombers to ensure a direct hit. Hitler was quite impressed by Winkel’s concept and blueprints, and ordered full engineering and production support. They were meant to be shelters for factory workers and railroad personnel, to be placed mostly in heavily industrial areas, such as Giessen.


This is how modern bomb shelters look like. Of course, their prices are really high. This one, for example, costs $10 million.


Notice this design of shelter has an ‘L’ shaped entrance. Radiation travels in straight lines and cannot turn a corner. But like a lot of American Civil Defense planning it never seems to take into account radioactive fallout dust. I guess they assume that since this shelter is designed to be built inside a basement; the house structure above will act a suitable barrier and filter for the fallout dust.


3970 Spencer Street in Las Vegas, Nevada was last purchased in 2014 by a mysterious group called the Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species, who paid $1.15 million after the house was foreclosed on (original asking price: $8 million). It includes perhaps the world’s most stylish bomb shelter, which businessman Girard Henderson had constructed in 1978, 26 feet below the ground, with swimming pools, a sauna, a garden, fountains, waterfalls, a mini golf course, and a grill.



Companies like Rising S Co. in Texas say they have seen an increase in inquiries and sales for bomb shelters and underground bunkers like the one pictured.


Not only do mirrors make your home appear larger, they’re great for hiding bomb shelters.


“This is a great [way] to conceal your steel bomb shelter door: make it look like a concrete door,” says Neo.


In this March 23, 1951 file photo, two styles of bomb shelters are shown for sale at Bomb Shelter Mart in Los Angeles.



FDR’s Bomb Shelter


1950: Diagram of a typical subway bomb shelter proposed for New York City in a 104 Million dollar bomb shelter program outlined by the Board of Transportation.


Mary Lou Miner


Donald Trump’s secret bomb shelter: Apocalypse bunker on golf course REVEALED


Bomb shelter position was indicated by arrows painted on the walls.


Todd returns to his old home to see the bomb shelter.


During the last couple of years of WW2, our household was equipped (at government expense) with a Morrison (Air Raid) Shelter. This consisted of a 6′ 6” by 4′ steel cage about table height, made up of angle iron legs and a solid steel plate top. Inside was fitted with a bedspring on which you put a standard size mattress. Heavy steel mesh panels (removeable from the inside, covered the sides.


Ruth Colhoun and her daughters climbing down the stairs into their new underground atomic bomb shelter.


A 72 hour survival test of a typical family in a bomb shelter, circa 1955.



Bomb shelter in Tel Aviv


“The nation’s first fallout shelter to be built into a freeway” (May 15, 1962).


1962 Vertical fallout shelter


The bomb shelter looks… uh, great, boys! Can you build one in Anoka?


The fallout shelter built for the US Congress in the 1950s underneath the Greenbrier Resort.


Bomb shelter for children in Sderot, Israel



Vivos shelters are deep underground, fully self-contained complexes with more amenities that some hotels. We’re not just talking about customised living quarters and flat screen TVs – these are built with swimming pools, wine cellars, pet kennels, hydroponic gardens, gyms and medical facilities.




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Very interesting thoughts on Mishima, et. al., thank you. I’ll jump on your piece about Avedon/Nichols as soon as I get out of here. Great! Everyone, Mr. David Ehrenstein has just published a piece on, in his words, ‘Richard Avedon and Mike Nichols, their love affair and bisexuality in general’. Sounds mightily intriguing, no? Join me in devouring it here. ** Steve Erickson, Ah, I see. Lucky you. Re: the Martels. How’s the Nick Cave doc? Of course I”m excited to read your thoughts on ‘Zama’, which I still haven’t seen. Everyone, Mr. Erickson has reviewed the great Lucretia Martel’s undoubtedly fantastic new film ‘Zama’, and between the wowness of a new Martel film and Steve’s always crucial thoughts/take, you are urged to click here and indulge yourself. ** Sypha, Yeah, it was cool. I bumped into Bret at a shopping center in LA since I saw him at ‘The Sluts’ event, but that was just a mutual hi situation. He is big on ‘The Sluts’, yeah. I’m curious if he’ll go back to novel writing. Based on our conversation, it certainly didn’t seem out of the question. Yes, I saw the email with your post, thank you a lot! I’ll set it up in the next days and get back to you. It looks amazing! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Yes, I did manage to circumvent jet lag enough to work on the film script a bit, and more today with a clearer head. Interesting, a foreign language bookstore. Does it stock books from various foreign countries/languages? I’m glad it seems so promising. Awesome! My day was some script work and otherwise just some arranging of stuff, like timing a photo shoot for Interview Magazine around their upcoming piece about PGL, trying to figure out if Zac and I can accept a very interesting offer to do a curious club/art event in Paris re: our films, and catching up on emailing, blah blah. What happened to you today? Did you work? What’s your work schedule? ** JM, Hey. Yeah, gotcha. I’m interested in artists’ self-hated works too. Like Bertolucci’s film ‘Luna’, which he has all but disowned, but which is a favorite film of mine. Yes, a couple of people have told me great things about the new Schrader in just the last few days, so it is high on my list. There’s something about ‘Ready Player One’, probably the very things you discuss about it, that lures me towards it despite being mostly disinterested in Spielberg. I think it’s in theaters here right now, so … Hm.  If you see this, again, mega-hopes for a great, great experience with the theater intensive! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Well, really, the foreword you guys are doing sounds like the best and ultimate option. Of course, for sure, and please about a ‘welcome to the world’ post for the book! I’d be very very proud and happy to host that. ** Misanthrope, Thanks, G., and the same to you. My back is better, imperfect, but ideally seeking perfection of a sort at its slightly too leisurely pace. Hope you had nothing but beneficial REMs. ** Nik, Hi, Nik. You’re a puppet guy? Cool. Yeah, Gisele, my ongoing partner in theatrical and now TV crime, is obsessed with puppets, and it’s the rare work of ours that doesn’t have either puppets or animatronic mannequins or dolls or dummies in it. So, yes, I’m very accustomed to working with puppets at this point. The scriptwriting on the TV show is briefly on hold until we get feedback from our producer tomorrow morning, whereupon working on it will likely eat me alive again. Well, the reason I keep asking my friend about Blanchot is because she’s very stingy with details, which is, of course, par for the course re: him. At this point, I mostly am told how strange he was, which is not exactly a revelation. ** Keasyon, Yeah, there’s the weight thing too. Another bonus. For now, patience is required re: PGL as it is way too slowly rolled out through film festivals all over the place and distribution is still being sought. Drives me crazy: how molasses-like film births are. That’s the only thing I don’t like about making films. Wow, that’s so civilised to do Halloween now. I’m so envious I could spit or something. What’s your costume(s)? ** Bill, Hi, Bill! Great to see you! Backs suck. Well, mine does. Most don’t. Yeah, I’m getting this strong sense that ‘A Quiet Place’ is the latest of the seemingly endlessly overrated films of late. ‘Three Billboards’, ‘Lady Bird’, ‘The Florida Project’, ‘Get Out’, and on and on. People’s standards are so fucking low these days that slightly better than mediocre is considered great. It’s sick. Have a good one! ** Okay. Something made me want to make a post about bomb shelters. Maybe even for the obvious reason. I don’t know. See if you’re into it. See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    April 13, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    You want Bomb Shelters? Here’s Steely Dan !

    Re your list of overrated films: I quite like “Ladybird” — the others are negligible.

    Odd about Bertolucci disliking “La Luna.” It’s a deeply strange film and probably didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped. But it’s still quite wonderful.

  2. Chris Cochrane

    April 13, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    oh, the band is called Church of Betty, new agey kind of Beatles thing, they’ve been around for 30 years, where I play rhythm guitar, fun, very low stress. They are doing a 30th anniversary show next week. Ish and I are talking to someone at PS about THEM, several different ideas. We will let you know when we know some of the ideas going forward. Going to hear the great flamingo singer Diego el Cigala tomorrow with the “ex”. I’m insane. Have a great weekend.

  3. Why do you think THE FLORIDA PROJECT is overrated? I think it does a great job of creating a surface of pop pleasure with a sense of despair underneath. I loved TANGERINE and liked STARLET a lot – I think Sean Baker has developed into one of America’s most interesting directors.

    The Nick Cave concert film is 135 minutes long and shows an entire concert in Copenhagen. At this point, his style is rather “dad rock”, at least until a. 20-minute cover of “Stagger Lee,” done as the second encore, where he invited about 75 crowd members to join him onstage. However, while most artists’ music gets more uptempo live, Cave’s songs sound even bleaker and more dirgelike, even if only a few of them turn into loud crescendoes. (It’s funny that he periodically heads to the piano but never plays for more than 30 seconds at a time.) I wish Jonathan Demme had lived to direct this; it’s impressive as a document of music, not filmmaking.

  4. Dennis, well, I certainly hope that Bret writes another novel one day. IMPERIAL BEDROOMS certainly wasn’t a bad book, but I really hate to think of it as his last one. One thing I find interesting about his work is that his narrators almost always tend to match his age at the time of the book’s writing, so with LESS THAN ZERO everyone’s 18-19 but by IMPERIAL BEDROOMS everyone’s in their mid-40’s.

    Glad to hear you got the Day okay! Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. The anthology has a lot of really great writers in it that might not be familiar to some of this blog’s readers, so I’m hoping it will give them some wider recognition. Also, when the Day appears we’ll be providing links to it at places like the Ligotti forums, which will hopefully get the blog a wider audience as well for a day or two… a win-win situation, ha ha. But I do really think that Snuggly is one of the more interesting publishers in operation right now, focusing both on modern-day writers and also publishing translations of obscure foreign authors from the past and what have you. I think they’ll be publishing Jean Lorrian’s final novel at some point this year, which, to my knowledge, has never been out in English.

    It looks like Isle of Dogs has finally gotten a wider release in my area. I hope to catch it the last week of April (when I’m on vacation).

  5. Hi!

    Wow. This post was full of interesting and bewildering little details but… if I imagine 500 people crammed into a bigger shelter like some of these… I feel like I’m suffocating.

    Good, very good that you could work on the film script!
    The bookstore mostly sells English language books but there are also German, French, Spanish, Russian and Latin ones. Language books and novels, mostly. My schedule goes like this: Monday through Thursday 9.30-18.00 and Friday 9.30-16.00. Weekends are free. So it’s a lot better than my gallery schedule! (Of course, I started at an unlucky time because next weekend there’ll be this big book festival and I’ll have to be there on Friday from 10 a.m. to 19 p.m. and possibly on Sunday too.) I learned today that I can buy books there with a 30% discount so… I think I’m lost, haha.
    Can you share anything more about the club/art event you mentioned? Did you decide if you can accept it? This sounds very interesting!

    My day was just work. I’m learning my tasks slowly but surely. I’ll only start dealing with customers next week so for now, I only put books on display, etc. – I think I’d be pretty happy just doing that in the long run, too, hah.
    How was your day? What happened? I hope your back is perfectly well by now or at the very least, it’s getting there rapidly!

  6. FML! hehe, ill wait, but i know its gonna be good. i dont know if i would accuse Florida of civilized, maybe in a washed up/passe way. for some reason i cant wait for hurricane season. i actually found a real costume shop. my hand hurt really bad near this hidden hand mold kit. i bought a fox mask cos it reminds me of pete or whatever his name was and i bought a spirit gum zombie get up, its the party theme (and stinkies to put in peoples cigarettes) 🙂 haha, i remember i felt totally weird when my boy squeeze at the time had very similiar dreams of his own little shelter. all those poor army boys eating MREs. heres to germwarfare. tons of love xoxo

  7. Haha yeah this would make a suitable companion post to my recent Threads Day. I was also thinking about doing a British Public Information Films Day because those early 80s short films are the real deal, truly hardcore apocalyptic. How to cope in a nuclear holocaust, or sometimes just children getting electrocuted by flying their kites into pylons, every kind of horror was there.

    I made this poster for the forthcoming Interregnum show that Yuck ‘n Yum is putting on in Seattle. Plus the Compendium foreword is being worked on so I’m feeling positive about the way these things are going.

  8. Last year, you introduced me to rapper Ka5sh on one of your Gig Days. (I swear I do actually listen to other music genres.) He released his 2nd EP today. I am not really sure where he’s going. There are songs which evoke Kid Cudi, others that sound like Travis Scott (but all with less slick production) and attempts at mixing punk and hip-hop, which come off less successfully than the similar songs on his first EP. (However, he does introduce electric guitar into the mix for the first time instead of relying on distorted synthesizers.) He drenches his vocals in Autotune, which does not make him any sound more expressive, and the change of styles here, although it was present on his first EP, sounds like he’s hopping trends in search of something that will click with kids on SoundCloud.

    But at least Ghost released a new single and video today, with a whole new persona for their singer! I want to review their new album, which comes out June 1st, for the Nation so badly, and on Monday I will write a pitch arguing for their political significance.

  9. A lovely post, Dennis. Wish the shelter would be big enough to have my favorite persons live in & continue their favorite things…

    Sounds like you had some kind of ailments lately after the trip. I hope you feel a lot better by now. Sorry to hear it.

    Reading the PS, I realize how little I watch commerical feature films. I watch quasi narrative films a lot more than before, but still I can’t engage myself with films that most of people seem to enjoy immensely.

  10. Hey man!

    Great post, I’ve always found the idea of luxury bomb shelters really funny for some reason. Reminds me of the underground homes post or something similar to that you did a few months back. That’s always interested me, now that I think about it. Maybe growing up in a basement bedroom? I imagine theres something about it that you’re into also.
    Of course, I remember now reading Jerk and also seeing somewhere that you guys adapted it into a stage show. I absolutely love the short story version, so that’s so cool that you’ve been exploring that more through theater. What sort of stuff do you explore with puppets? For me, the intrigue has always had something to do with the fantasy v. reality thing, the way puppets have like a really powerful relationship with the one using it and watching, as a sort of third party almost. I’m not sure if that makes sense, I’m just curious. Have you gotten feedback from the producer yet?

  11. bomb shelter day brought back memories…i grew up on military bases, and my father’s 1960-1963 posting was to a canadian radar station in northern quebec, on the pinetree line (as opposed to the better-known DEW [distant early warning] line); sirens sounded occasionally, especially during the cuban missile crisis, though no icbms ever flashed overhead. but because a radar station was presumed to be a potential target, there were two shelters on this isolated base…nearest town, chibougamou, was about 50 miles away. “nonessential personnel” (wives, children, the school’s four teachers, etc) were meant to take to the shelters in case of an attack. never happened, but in addition to the standard (and in hindsight so very silly) under-the-desk drills, a couple of times a year the 30 or so schoolchildren on the base took shelter underground, exciting times for a 12/13-year old boy. the shelters were spartan but comfortable, fading memories tell me.

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