When a friend of mine told me that Lima, Ohio, was the last place on earth she wanted to be, I had to inform her that, actually, we did not make that list.
There are plenty of lists out there ranking places on various levels of liveability and Lima has been on its share of them, though admittedly, not always as near the top as we would like. But the latest list, compiled by the folks who bring us the unnervingly watchable television show “Doomsday Preppers,” is one we might be happy to be left off.
The people at the National Geographic Channel have compiled their list of the “Top Places to Survive the End of the World.” You can think of it as the alternative to those lists of places you should see before you die. This is a list of the spots best suited to help you prolong the inevitable and, in some cases, do it in true style.
Topping the list is the Greenbrier Bunker in West Virginia. The bunker was carved out of the mountainside in the 1950s and once served as a top-secret relocation facility for Congress. It was never used, but remained stocked with a 30-year supply of food. Today, it is a Forbes-rated four star hotel. One can only hope the food has improved.
Most of the bunkers on the list are current or former property of the U.S. government. While that should mean they are the property of us taxpayers, something tells me you wouldn’t be all that welcome there should you see the four guys on horses riding in.
The list includes the Adirondack Missile Silo in upstate New York. From the outside, it looks like a modest ranch home, but the inside allegedly houses multiple floors of bomb-proof housing deep in the earth. Likewise, the Atlas E Missile Bay in Kansas looks a little like the entry to Wapakoneta’s Neil Armstrong Museum, but offers luxury nuke-proof housing for anyone worried that Kansas tops the strike target of whatever bomb-wielding superpower we fear this week.
The most disturbing entries on the list are either in private hands or the property of other countries. They include the Wikileaks Lair, a granite cave that once served as a bunker for Swedish officials. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange now uses the bunker to store his more than 250,000 top secret cables. The interior was remodeled a few years ago as an apparent homage to James Bond villains. Equally Bond-esque is the Charlie Hull Shelter in Montana. The high-tech fortress once functioned as a co-op for families belonging to the Elizabeth Clare Prophet Church, who all believed the Earth was set to self-destruct in 1990. Sadly, to them anyway, the prophesy did not come true. Apparently, a few followers remain there, just in case.
Perhaps the most troubling entry of all is the Dixia Cheng, an entire underground city located beneath Beijing. The space was once key to China’s national defense strategy, but began to crumble from disuse. In recent years, the facility has been closed for renovations, meaning the Chinese government is making plans in case the bombs start sailing.
Which brings us back to those lists. When I was a kid, there was a rumor that Lima was No. 6 on the Soviet Union’s list of nuclear strike targets. The story was that between the refineries, tank manufacturing and railroads, crippling Lima would cripple the country. I can recall taking a perverse pleasure in that fact, as though being a target of the Red Menace lent the town a bit of cosmopolitan legitimacy.
I now assume the Soviet strike list — or at least Lima’s ranking on it — is an urban legend. Knowing the Chinese are spiffing up their bunker city, I sure hope it is. Because while Lima may be the last place on earth some people hope to visit, it’s not really built to be the last place on earth.