Bruce Beach spent half a century building a world beneath the ground. The local government spent $250,000 trying to stop him, but he persisted. This was no mere hoarder. So, what were Bruce's motives? And what was he hiding from?
An Unusual Collection
Bruce Beach fled across the United States border into Canada and collected something rather unorthodox for an 86-year-old: School buses. Energized by fear, impulse, and a young spirit, Beach felt he needed the bus collection because of their reinforced steel roofs.
Once his fleet of buses began to grow, Beach began to dig. He believed that burying the buses in a massive pit could securely store everything he needed out of sight from anyone who might try to steal them or anything of the sort. The idea of being out of sight from the world was something Bruce wanted, but why?
Throughout years of dedication, Bruce built a mysterious maze of buses that few have ever seen. Beneath the snows of rural Canada, he created one of North America's most bizarre underground structures. With each new addition, Beach acted with a sense of purpose based on a vision in his mind, and fear in his heart.
Canadian authorities had tried to stop him many times, but as his construction remained underground, they had more trouble than anticipated when they tried to find Bruce and his fleet. The 86-year-old had been working tirelessly to create something truly miraculous, but what was he really up to?
The Mission Began
Bruce is originally from Winfield, Kansas, where he spent his adolescent years throughout one of American history's tensest eras. He experienced life behind the scenes of the Vietnam War and vividly learned what the Cold War entailed in all of its menacing glory. This soon grew to be too much for young Beach to handle.
Desperate times called for desperate measures when Bruce decided to pack up his belongings and took his wife and family across the border into Canada. There, he began a mission no one could have anticipated, not even his wife. Many still struggle to understand his motives to this day.
Searching For Safety
It wasn't by chance that Bruce and his family ended up where they did in 1970. They relocated to his wife's hometown of Horning's Mills, a small village in rural Ontario, about 2 hours outside of Toronto. Bruce was confident that this was just the right place to start digging.
Certain that this was the safest place in the world, Bruce decided to build a life for his family there. He couldn't help but feel somewhat vulnerable and he wanted to prepare for any tough situation that life could throw his way. So, he took every precaution he could think of.
Must Find Metal
Starting in 1980, for 5 years, Bruce began and grew his collection of something quite unique: Old and retired school buses. He purchased each one for roughly $300 each and ordered them to be delivered to his front door, although it looked as if they were delivered to an open field.
In total, Bruce managed to collect 42 school buses. He spent about $12,000 in total, entirely convinced that this move was essential for the safety of his family and himself. After he organized his fleet, plans were drafted for each bus. He dismantled them, connected each one to the other, and created a massive metal box.
Digging For Safety
The determined man wanted all of the buses for a specific reason: They were made from reinforced steel. In his mind, this meant the buses were blast-proof. On a large plot of land that spanned over 12.5 acres near his property, Bruce created a massive pit in the ground around his bus collection. With help, he began to dig.
He dug until the huge hole measured 14 feet underground, then completely covered the buses with dirt, packing them tightly into the Earth's surface. Why did Bruce feel the dire need to do all of this just to be safe? The explanation was bone-chilling and will leave many feeling confused.
Safe Or Trapped?
Now that his 42 school buses had been hidden 14 feet under the Earth, Bruce finalized his plan. He sealed the pit with 2 feet of solid concrete, never to be seen by the light of day again. It's unclear if his family felt as safe as he did underground, but if one thing's for sure, he was determined to bring his vision to life.
The bus collection was not for showing off. Although it could have made an interesting museum, Bruce had other ideas. He utilized each bus's structure to create a massive maze. Together, they all formed an underground shelter that's size was astonishing. But, why did he build it?
When he finally completed his project, Bruce Beach had built one of the largest underground structures in North America. It spanned a staggering 10,000 square feet. He named his project "Ark Two." From the name, it was clear that Bruce felt the structure could withstand the tales of time, maybe even a second flood.
Inside the protected walls, Bruce estimated that he could fit about 500 people, if you were lucky enough to be let in, that is. He designed Ark Two with full belief that many people would need to use it in the future. The biggest mystery, however, was the purpose behind the maze-like structure being created underground.
Bruce took the people he would potentially allow into his sacred underground world into consideration during the creation process. He feared sick people getting into his safe space greatly, especially anyone who might carry an infectious disease. With safety always at the front of his mind, it was no wonder he was so concerned.
Even if people appeared to be healthy to the eye, Bruce planned for a screening process and strict standards. Visitors could bring in contaminants from above ground, and that was something he couldn't bear to risk. As he saw it, Ark Two had to remain absolutely sterile. He had to find a solution.
Guests Had to Shower Upon Entry
Bruce constructed Ark Two with 7 separate entrances. This later proved to help him in several ways, but before anyone was allowed inside, they had to be checked to determine if they posed any risk to others. This meant Beach instilled a strict screening process that included an immediate shower upon entry.
Visitors were only permitted to enter the ark after they passed through a decontamination chamber that Bruce designed. He had to remain certain that no new arrivals would endanger the survival of others. With Beach running the show, no disease would enter Ark Two, at least not on his watch! The strict rules came with reason...
Bruce thankfully enlisted some professional help to ensure that Ark Two was structurally sound. According to him, it fulfilled every expectation for safety that he had. Phew! The buses were constructed under the supervision of a structural engineer with all of the necessary licensing required.
But, what convinced the engineer that this seemingly bizarre project was worth taking part in? Was it Bruce or his vision, or both? The bunker was captivating, and the motives behind it were even more so to the engineer. He decided that he had to stick around to see the project come to life in all of its glory.
Bruce said that the person who helped supervise the construction of Ark Two was none other than the same person who built the subway system in Toronto. And, if it's good enough for Canada's biggest city, then it certainly was good enough for what Bruce needed.
The bunker was stocked with diesel generators that could last up to 3 months. Bruce was confident that he was fully equipped with the functional plumbing system that residents of Ark Two would need. But, what about all of the facilities for human being's most basic needs?
What about the basic necessity of fresh water to drink? Not to worry, Beach thought ahead for everything! He engineered his very own well for drinking water. He planned for the need to remain inside the barrack, and made sure Ark Two could run self-sufficiently.
As Bruce saw it, he couldn't rely on outside water. He was not willing to risk contamination from anything outside of his creation. Beach, however, had even more intricate plans up his sleeve. He tried to think of every possible amenity that he or anyone else would need.
If you were considering a staycation at Bruce's, we hope you like soup! The bunker was built equipped with a massive soup tureen and a working oven. He slated a cook friend to the guestlist for Ark Two for when the time came. The way he saw it, there would be a constant supply of freshly-baked biscuits for everyone.
Throughout the years, Bruce ensured that Ark Two grew to be stocked up with enough food to feed an entire population. His intention was for the creation to hold a large number of people, but he grew frustrated with having to throw away food. So, he planned ahead, as running low on food was one of his greatest fears.
Separated For Safety
There were many strict rules in Ark Two. Bruce devised a stern plan and policy of having men and women sleep separately, even couples. This rule was created for a specific reason, but not the one you might think. According to Beach, having families stay together in sleeping chambers wouldn’t allow others enough space.
Bruce intended to maximize the number of people that could fit in the bunks. If his future guests didn't want to follow the gender segregation rules, they wouldn't be allowed in! Why, though, were all of these rules set in place? What was Bruce preparing so meticulously for?
An Area for Children
Over the past 40 years, Bruce spent a considerable amount of time methodically planning out every inch of the Ark. This included how to keep the younger generation happy while staying as safe as possible underground. He didn't want any children to grow up without the essentials, so, Beach came up with an education system.
Beach equipped Ark Two with toys, chess sets, play areas, tricycles, and games. He created a nursery and classroom, as well as children's bunks for nap time. And if you thought that was all, think again. This man really planned for everything under the sun, well, under the ground.
Aside from the essentials, the living area comes with some extra bonuses. Bruce had many years to think of different objects and accessories that the people under his care (and steel roofs) might need. He even sourced a dentist's chair, created a mortuary, and sectioned off an area for a small jail if anyone disobeyed the rules.
If there was one thing that Bruce believed, it was that discipline was key. To maintain order, he made and installed security monitors. Thinking creatively, Beach even converted a rusty old exercise bike into his own wheat-grinding mill, powered by pedaling. But, a person couldn't stay down there forever...
Is There Anybody Out There?
Even if one was to enter Ark Two voluntarily, Bruce knew that it would still be important to understand what's happening above them. Despite preparing to hold up to 500 people beneath the Earth, he still needed to be in touch with the outside world. Don't worry; Bruce had a plan for that too.
To achieve this goal, Bruce rigged an entire radio communications system. It was said to be capable of broadcasting both AM and FM frequencies and had a wide enough range to reach all of Canada and the United States. Why would Bruce need to reach that many people? What was he up to?
Prepping For An Apocalypse
If you're wondering what these kinds of obsessive-preparing personalities are called, Bruce Beach gave some insight. Bruce belonged to a category of people who called themselves "preppers." These are people who are convinced that the apocalypse is coming, making this the time to get prepared.
There's a variety of reasons why preppers felt this way. Some believe the end was near based on religious reasoning, while others point to the Ancient Mayan calendar's predictions in 2012 (since passed of course). Bruce left the United States nearly half a century ago to build his creation, but his fear remained strong.
Strength In Numbers
Although most of the population did not share the same beliefs as the preppers, many of them banded together. Annual Prepper Meetings were held, but not for emotional support. Preppers met to learn from each other how to best prepare for the worst.
Prepper meetings have been said to run like workshops, teaching participants how to best deal with living through an apocalypse. They teach each other classes such as "Zombie Survival Camp" and "Surviving in the Wilderness." So, what did Bruce's fellow survivalists think about Ark Two?
Off Limits...For Now
Being allowed inside Ark Two was thought to be a rare gift among preppers. Bruce was very protective of his masterpiece, which was understandable with how much thought, time, and work went into building it. Tours of the facility did not come often, even members of the press have had to be deemed worthy to enter.
Some journalists have been said not to have been allowed inside before they performed an act that benefitted Bruce or his future ark inhabitants. So, what was the action that got some journalists in Bruce's good graces? Chopping firewood. Once inside, they saw that the underground amenities were not so glamorous.
The Lengthy Reciept
Being the owner and protector of Ark Two came at a steep price for Bruce and his family, and not just financially either. He maintained the massive structure for such a long time and did it more or less by himself. Beach soon learned that he had embarked on a never-ending challenge.
He had to overcome the loss of grain supply when he found rats in the ark. After thinking he got all of them out, Bruce found them in his home section too. He also had to deal with floods, fires, and theft. If that wasn't enough for the prepper, there was trouble outside as well.
Possible Danger Hazard
Ontario's local government was not happy about this structure. In their eyes, it was one huge, dangerous hazard. Never mind what Bruce viewed as his service to the greater public; the government did not like it. As far as they were concerned, they wanted Ark Two destroyed.
Every part of the 42-bus structure was built without permits, though not for Bruce's lack of trying to get them. He had been taken to court 30 times throughout the years, and the local government had spent over $250,000 trying to shut him down. But, in the name of his vision, Bruce stayed driven by one thing...
Ark Two: Closed
The local fire department in Ontario had been more direct than the government. Rather than entering into legal battles, they took action. Fire brigades came to physically seal off the structure, twice! This left Bruce with the job of figuring out how to reopen it, twice.
At a gathering on Bruce's property in 2015, the fire department threatened to shut down Ark Two for the third time. These interventions were seen by Bruce as the department merely preventing him from doing his job, saving people from destruction. So, what did his family think of all of this?
Help From Home
It would seem that his family would take a bit of strain from Bruce's 40-year project. Luckily for him, his doting wife, Jean, had been his partner through it all. The 93-year-old hard of hearing woman still helped him however she could. Her role? Taking care of inventory and planning.
Fortunately for him, Jean supported Bruce entirely. As affected as they were by the Cold War, they made it through as a team, which was exactly what they were planning to do when the right time came. But what about their children? What did they think of Ark Two?
His Children Disapproved
Bruce and Jean's children grew to become adults with kids of their own. They were not shy about expressing feelings that they have had enough of their father's apocalypse plans. According to the family, they have stated publicly, and to their parents several times, that they're done participating in the whole ordeal.
We could only imagine the kind of upbringing they had with the daunting fear of the end of the world being spoken about constantly by their parents. His children grew tired of having their lives dominated by this from such an early age. But how did his their opinions affect Bruce?
Bruce Didn't Care What They Thought
Countless years have passed with the threat of a nuclear uprising. Bruce took it all of it to heart, and set out to do what he knew best: Prepare to survive. Even if his children didn't understand his motives. All along, he believed that he was doing the right thing by planning for the future of society. But, it went beyond that.
Believe it or not, even Bruce thought that a lot of preppers were selfish in their motives. He said that "Some of them are far too focused on their own survival, and not thinking about helping their fellow man." But wasn't his goal. From his perspective, Ark Two was capable of everything members of society needed.
Ark Two became known as S.A.F.E, "Safe America For Everyone." To Beach, Ark Two was meant to be a true haven to shelter those in need when the time comes. It was intended to be open to all types of people regardless of any of the differences that oftentimes separate society.
He was the protector of the largest nuclear shelter in North America. This meant that in the event of an actual catastrophic attack, Bruce would be personally responsible for managing an entire society of people. He wanted it to remain clear that "All are welcome," as long as you followed the rules.
According to Bruce's calculations, Ark Two would be equipped to hold people for up to 3 weeks, strictly under the worst-case scenario. He shared that ideally, he hoped people would "Be able to refuel, rest, and continue on to the next safe place." In Bruce's mind, nuclear war was a "when" not an "if..."
Although Bruce Beach did his best to help others, his vision didn’t exactly take into account the real-life effects of a nuclear winter. According to him, when the nuclear apocalypse comes, a chain of events will be set off. He did, however, have one positive message through the chaos.
A New Hope
Bruce described terrifying visions of a nuclear winter. In his mind, it would not be the end, but rather the beginning. Beach once described the entire process of the rehabilitation that he wanted to take part in as, "Giving birth to a new type of humanity."
Throughout the years, Beach had his fair share of supporters as well as those who were completely baffled by his ideas. He didn't care what people thought of his grand plan. But, if one thing was for sure, the amount of labor and painstaking care that Bruce almost singlehandedly dedicated to the creation of Ark Two, was nothing short of determination.
What The Ark Looks Like in 2021
One might classify Bruce Beach as a visionary, considering he had the idea to construct an underground shelter almost 50 years ago. Considering the state of the world at present with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ark Two is more relevant to Bruce now than ever.
“We started it back in 1970-something,” Bruce told Comedy.com in an exclusive interview about the Ark Two. “We put the first buses in 1980 and the last buses in 1985.” Although no vehicles have been added in the 36 years since, Bruce has continued to improve his creation.
"The Ark is an Ongoing Process"
Being 14-feet underground for more than three decades is likely to have some physiological effect on such a structure. “The major concern is mould, and the floor requires continuous maintenance,” explained the 86-year-old. “The Ark is an ongoing process in that way.”
The world was a far different place when Bruce initially placed his 42 buses below the surface, and the vast improvements in technology meant that he had to keep up with the times, despite a lack of funds. “The shelter continues to be improved upon and becomes stronger and more usable with the addition of new technology.”
Preparing for an Apocalypse vs. Social Distancing
Once a hub of excitement where passionate, hardworking people congregated to help, COVID-19 has meant that many have stayed away from the Ark as health always takes priority. “Many of them won't be coming until COVID ends,” Bruce said of the more than 300 people who have been a part of the Ark’s construction since its inception.
Yet, despite the global call for social distancing, it does not mean that the Canadian is on his own in his attempt to keep the Ark thriving. “We have about half a dozen residents,” explained Bruce about his passion project.
Under Constant Threat of Shutdown
There would always be some naysayers with an ambitious project of this kind, and in Bruce’s case, it is often the government. “The Ark at one time or other had been sealed by the government, and we've been told that we cannot occupy it,” he lamented.
Raids on the shelter have not been uncommon, but despite the Canadian government’s current disinterest (so it seems), the threat that the Ark will be on their radar again is always possible. “They have all these rules and regulations in their books, so to speak, and so, there's always the threat that they can send upon us at any time,” said Bruce.
You Can’t Please ‘Em All
Bruce’s vision for the 10,000 square-foot bunker has resulted in him being labelled a genius by some and a madman by others. “I get both extremes,” he shared, acknowledging the nature of the game. Bruce could never have imagined the attention his project would gather.
The bus habitat may be situated in the mostly rural Canadian village of Horning’s Mills, north of Toronto, but the story of the Ark has spread to every corner of the globe. “The Ark actually has gotten a lot of publicity. There are literally millions of people in the world that have seen and heard about it,” the proud creator explained.
Not All Publicity is Good Publicity
Natural curiosity about the shelter has resulted in famous names wanting to explore it for themselves. Including renowned illusionists, Penn & Teller, who took it upon themselves to visit Bruce as part of one of their shows — alas, it did not result in an entirely warm reception as it became clear that they were there to poke fun.
“A lot of people saw it, and it was very ridiculing...” began Bruce about Penn & Teller’s episode. Yet, the octogenarian didn’t mind in the slightest. “I’ve been very grateful for it,” Bruce stated, as this was the first time his name and Mother Theresa's were used in the same sentence. "They did a similar ridiculing thing to her," he added.
A bunker that can withstand a nuclear doomsday (or, at present, protect citizens from a viral plague) obviously has a lot of planning that goes into its construction and Bruce turned to his military experience for inspiration. Plans for the scientific research base in Greenland, Camp Century, assisted in the making of the blueprint for the Ark.
“If you look at the layout of that base and then look at the layout of Ark Two, you'll see a striking similarity,” Bruce said. Highlighting the covert nature, he added, “The country in which we had this base didn't even know what we had put in.”
"There Are Things I Would've Done Differently"
If given the opportunity to do it all over again, Bruce concedes that there are a few changes he would have made. “There were things I would've done differently about the drainage,” he admitted. “In engineering, you always see in retrospect.”
Nevertheless, Bruce is satisfied that his forward-thinking vision is formidable enough to withstand all the elements. Despite the alterations he would have undertaken, his attitude is one of gratitude. “You live with what you got,” he declared.
You Want It, He’s Got It
No expense was spared when it came to stocking the Ark for possible world destruction. The bunker is filled with sleeping quarters, hygiene facilities, a children’s play area — complete with activities — and, of course, food. “It's far beyond anything anybody else has," said Bruce.
Putting his detractors to the back of his mind, Bruce has prioritised his focus on others like himself who do not want to be unprepared should something devastating occur. “My concern is for the people who take these views about these things,” he confirmed.
Leaving No Stone Unturned
Beach has worked hard to equip the bunker in, "ways that are completely beyond the comprehension of most people. " If there's one thing COVID-19 has demonstrated, its that the world can be turned on its head when something of such magnitude strikes, and people often scramble to get supplies. But Bruce knows better.
He continued, "We have the last printed copy of where every production plant in the United States is, so that afterward, if we need to know how to make something or where the equipment is to do it, or where the experts are, we know where to go."
Going Back to Basics
Should the Earth become a nuclear wasteland post-apocalypse, everyday processes will need to be done differently. “We have manuals on how to do things in old ways, the way they did them before, [in case] we have to reconstruct some of those processes and the processes of doing so,” Bruce told Comedy.com.
Bruce’s dedication to perfecting the Ark and making it inhabitable for the worst-case scenario has not been taken lightly by himself or his team. “I'm not saying we've done things that other people couldn't have done,” he stated. “I'm saying we've done things that other people haven't done.”
Only Half the Battle
While many believe Bruce's concerns revolve around an apocalypse, his main goal is on a much greater scale. "The future needs to be restored," says Bruce. Should the worst occur, man kind would have been given an opportunity like no other.
Bruce understands that he has taken on a rather long and difficult path. As he put it, "there's always more to do than one can do." Whether or not he believes his creation is close to finished or not, there's one thing we know for sure: Bruce Beach is a prepper with a passion.
More Than an Ark
To this day, Mr. Beach is still working on the Ark Two. He is fully aware of the ways his story is often told, but caring about whether people choose to believe him or not, is not on his incredibly long list of things to do. You see, after an exclusive interview with Comedy.com, one thing became very clear.
Regardless of what people think about the ark two, Bruce's message is certainly relevant to each and every person. "We're all one people," said Bruce. "And we've got to work together." Even if the end of the world never comes.