Home Sweet Missile Silo

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On the pastoral, peaceful plains of Kansas, dotted with windmills, barns and silos, a new kind of silo began cropping up during the Cold War -- silos filled not with grains to nourish people, but with weapons of mass destruction. CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Bill Geist reports.

The Cold War is over now. All the nuclear missiles are gone from Kansas. The indestructible silos, however, remain. Ed Peden lives in one.

Inside a concrete underground bunker, Peden fashioned a conventional four-bedroom, split-level home. Think of it as a gargantuan finished basement.

At first, it looks surprisingly homey inside the silo, until you come to the former launch control room that still contains the old control panel.

On the other hand, the living room looks positively normal. It wasn't always so normal. "There were men who sat in this room around the clock for four years, prepared to launch those missiles and destroy a Soviet city."

To give the home the illusion of windows, Peden has put up curtains on the walls. Look through one set of curtains, and you'll see the inside of a closet. Not the Kansas plains, but garments.

In Peden's home, there's ample room for any growing nuclear family: 18,000 square feet.

"They are the castles of the 20th century, built by the king for defense of the realm at great expense to the treasury," he rhapsodizes. "And now it seems, though, the king has sold it to a peasant, and I don't think they've even realized their folly yet."

Peden bought his $25-million bargain basement for $40,000.

But sometimes his wife, Dianna and his two daughters aren't sure whose folly this really is. Says Peden: "When their moods are maybe not so buoyant, they say, 'Dad, why do we live in a hole?'"

They can always crawl out.

"We have an escape hatch over in (the) corner that allows us to go out and up the escape hatch, and it'll put us up in the north tower," he points out.

Peden built two castle towers from whence he can survey his realm. Like a lot of men, he is particularly enthused about the garage.

"The Atlas missile lay right in here where we're now standing," he says with pride. "This entire ceiling is a door that rolled back to the west."

It weighs 400 tons. And it did roll back during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

The Pedens barbecue on top of the missile bay door. "We like to do that," Ed Peden says.

During the Cold War, students were learning and practicing nuclear attack precautions. Today, in Holton, Kansas, students are going to school in a decommissioned missile base.

In West Texas, Mark Hannifin is proving that missile silos are not just for home and school anymore. They're leisure-time destinations. He uses his silo for scuba and snorkel adventures.

Hannifin found his missile silo in an ad in the local shopper. "The neighbors like to call us the mole people because we did live down hre for a little bit," Hannifin says.

"For a long time, we were real quiet about it," he explains, "because you tell somebody that, and they figure you got two holes: one in your head, and one in the ground."

The Caribbean, it is not.

"Clear water is hard to find in west Texas. So when you can find it, you want to go to it," says Hannifin.

Says one of his customers, "It's something you can tell your people about - you know, that we dove in a missile silo. And they say, 'Say what?'"

In Maple Hill, Kansas, Ed Peden's silo home is also his workplace, where he manufactures ultra-light aircraft. The missile base even came with its own airstrip.

So now, instead of ICBMs with four-megaton warheads lifting off over the plains of Kansas, it's just Ed Peden.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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