96
$\begingroup$

In a modern, "western" country, where can I set my secret facility so that authorities won't find me for about 30 years?

The needed amount of area is relatively large, a bit less than 200 m2. The facility in itself is not particularly needy; it requires running water/electricity but nothing else. On top of that, it does not produce noise or waste, etc., so it should be possible for it to maintain quite a low profile.

The real issue is that this HQ (with its machinery and all) is that it is hard to move. If authorities announce that they want to survey the area, I will have a hard time hiding everything, even knowing it 10 days in advance, so it would be better for this place to be outside of the authorities’ reach.

So basically I need a place where I can get electricity and running water that local authorities will likely not reach for about 30 years. Does such a place exist?

If it’s a private property, can I realistically keep all people out for such a long time? Even for things like mainteinance and upgrades of meter etc. Many modern cities have been built on top of older cities and have very complex sewer systems and catacombs; how "safe" are those spaces? What about abandoned places and buildings?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jul 19 '17 at 15:40
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Wait, is this question about world building? Or world domination? ;) $\endgroup$ – AJFaraday Jul 20 '17 at 12:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 200 m^2 is around the floor space of a single average house. This doesn't seem very big, really. $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Jul 22 '17 at 4:38
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If you have running water you are producing waste. Unless your sinks have no drains and you just let water sit until it evaporates. $\endgroup$ – I wrestled a bear once. Jul 22 '17 at 18:47

24 Answers 24

96
$\begingroup$

Private ranches. Here are the ten biggest ranches in Texas. Ranging from King Ranch (911,215 acres) to Jones Ranch (255,000 acres). There are also large ranches in Oregon, Wyoming, etc. Every once in a while, these are up for sale, like the 510,000 acre Waggoner Ranch right now recently sold.

Some of these even have their own electrical systems, solar and wind power, with backup power by gasoline generator. For water you can use wells, and most have large ponds on the acreage for watering cattle, or a stream. Most also have their own sewage / septic systems (not connected to the city). Food and groceries can be trucked in. You can always partition out a protected area within your acreage.

Most such ranches are NOT under the jurisdiction of any city or town; just the State. With enough money for full-time lawyers, private property cannot be searched without a warrant, and a warrant is extremely difficult to get.

There is also the problem of an abuse of "exigent circumstances" which lets police search without a warrant. (Here is a paper on legal searches without a warrant, in the USA.)

You can partially circumvent that by legally separating the land into an outer shell and inner sanctum. Imagine a grid, 11 miles by 11 miles (121 square miles). There are 640 acres per square mile, so this is only 77,440 acres; nowhere near implausible given the sizes of the top 10 ranches above.

Now take the center square mile, which is at least 5 miles from any edge, and legally make that a different property; even if the same person owns it. So it is the inner sanctum and the rest of the property forms a shell around it.

To my knowledge you are not required to provide any means of public access to that inner property. Because it is a legally distinct piece of property, it requires a separate warrant to search it. You personally can access it via private road passing through the shell, but that does not have to be accessible to police or anybody else without a warrant. Your inner sanctum can be surrounded by tall stone barricades and heavy steel doors; so they can't see anything going on in there.

From five miles away, it would be difficult for police to claim exigent circumstances exist requiring them to search that inner sanctum.

Simply being suspicious of what might be going on there is not a legal reason to search private property. For the span of 50 years or so, this should easily protect you from interference, if you are not using or transporting any illicit substances, and you are not creating a workplace, manufactory, or child care environment subject to government regulation. (If any of that is true, then the government has an excuse to search your premises; but try to put such places in the 'shell' area.)

addressing commentary:

You do want to fence the entire property with an opaque fencing system; and probably in a few concentric rings to prevent observation from the ground using telescopes. So in the outermost layer, just a tall brick wall. Then perhaps tall trees for a quarter mile, then a black steel wall.

Yes, cops can still fly over or helicopter in. But they would need a reason to do that, some evidence of criminality; and they would be met by very expensive lawyers in very expensive suits demanding their warrants. These would likely be connected to the most prestigious law firms in the State and in the USA, people that have the private cell phone numbers of the Governor and Senators on speed dial.

Getting a ranch outside the jurisdiction of any city or town gets rid of interference by local cops or law enforcement, so you only need to worry about State and National level law enforcement. Steering clear of the tiniest hint of dealing in drugs, humans, prostitution, porn, weapons or money laundering denies law enforcement any good excuses to search your premises. Make up a benign cover: Lair guy obviously has money, so he is an eccentric billionaire, a brilliant financial wizard that is using his money to protect himself from well-funded corporate spies, assassins and nut jobs, and working on robotic and engineering inventions. It would not be hard to fake thousands of Internet death threats.

And NO, he is not going to show you what he is doing or how he is doing it, those are trade secrets he is entitled to KEEP secret and in the USA we are not required to just trust law enforcement to keep our secrets. He can claim that just the sight of his robots or engineering efforts could cost him many millions of dollars, a single cell phone picture could be used by his competitors.

To get a search warrant law enforcement must show plausible reason for a judge to believe a crime is being committed on the property and that a search will produce evidence of it. Just "he won't tell us what he is doing there" is not enough; at least not enough for somebody with the most prestigious law firms on their side; and those law firms tend to have instant access and influence with the top of the political and law enforcement arenas.

On top of that, the innermost compound can be nigh on impenetrable: If law enforcement does fly in, or drive in, they better bring a lot of dynamite and bulldozers to get through foot-thick steel doors and ten feet of steel and concrete walls. Which gives the white-shoe lawyers plenty of time to quash any trumped up search warrant.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jul 19 '17 at 15:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The open fields exception leads to a lot of risk here. "An individual cannot demand privacy for activities conducted within outbuildings and visible by trespassers peering into the buildings from just outside. United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987) (space immediately outside a barn, accessible only after crossing a series of ''ranch-style'' fences and situated one-half mile from the public road, constitutes unprotected ''open field'')." This stresses you call for "tall stone barricades and heavy steel doors. $\endgroup$ – kaine Jul 19 '17 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @kaine I presume if somebody can afford to spend a few hundred million buying property, they can afford to fence it. To avoid suspicion; I'd put up a simple 12 foot steel fence; see through but liberally posted with No Trespassing signs every eight feet. Then about 1/4 mile of closely planted tall trees; enough to hide the inner fence: High tech solid black steel, about 30 feet high with cameras, infrared sensors, speakers, etc. Anybody that gets past that won't likely get to the third fence before meeting some new friends: military style armed guards that take them into custody for trespass. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Jul 19 '17 at 22:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus armed guards and fences introduce by themselves another risk; why would someone spend so much money -yes what you describe is very expensive- unless they were hiding something? They are likely to attract attention. Also, in case you are suspect, aerial surveilance (helicopter, drone, even satellites if you go by car) can detect if you spend too much time in a seemingly empty area (if you are not careful they could get that info even without surveilance, by checking your Google Maps story). $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Jul 21 '17 at 9:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you really want to go down that route it has to be Australia. This was up for sale a couple of years ago 27,000,000 acres all in, it includes Anna Creak Station described as "bigger than Ireland" at around 6,000,000 acres. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 26 '17 at 13:29
113
$\begingroup$

Port Talbot Steelworks

If you take the place over and keep the steelworks running the government will practically pay you to have your HQ there. Nobody will notice any heavy industrial equipment coming and going, nor any weird noises you might make. Your power supply is unlimited, I doubt you'd cause a spike in standard consumption no matter what you do. The facility will also have a selection of no-go areas, mostly because they're somewhere above the melting point of iron, but your 200sqm requirement would probably go completely unnoticed.

Historical note:

At the time of writing this answer the Port Talbot Steelworks was under threat of closure. The government was involved in negotiations for a sale of the plant to allow it to be kept open. This deal is currently on hold as a result of Brexit and as of late 2018 is still pending completion. If you want a steel plant, it's still up for grabs.

$\endgroup$
  • 23
    $\begingroup$ Yep. Hiding in plain sight is the best way. $\endgroup$ – Stig Hemmer Jul 17 '17 at 10:46
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ it also gets you a private beach and good rail links $\endgroup$ – jk. Jul 17 '17 at 12:47
  • 41
    $\begingroup$ "somewhere above the melting point of iron" < some good facilities to *ahem* dispose of any evidence too... $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Jul 17 '17 at 15:24
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ @StephenLujan In that case, it's important to make sure that entire thing is fully adhering to regulations. Because both complaints and accidents will summon nosy inspectors. Basically asker needs to be a villain with good publicity. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jul 17 '17 at 15:46
  • 58
    $\begingroup$ I could see a story about a villain who wants to set this up, then gets so absorbed in running everything perfectly that he forgets to implement his villainous plan. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 17 '17 at 20:27
39
$\begingroup$

Hiding in plain sight

Others have mentioned hiding in plain sight by placing your HQ below a legit factory or office building. This is a good idea, in that no one will notice your power and water consumption. But there are problems with these "plain sight" locations.

For example, most cities require permits to alter the floor plans of the building. These permits, and all of the architectural drawings related to alterations, are kept on file as public records. In Los Angeles, California and other cities, you can search by address and pull up scans of these drawings. Sure, you can hire shady crews to hide floors or dig new sub-basements that aren't permitted/documented. But this is a risk.

If, for example, a new sewer line or a new subway line project begins, they may hit your undocumented sub-basement level. Or someone doing a raid on the building for other reasons might pull up all the documents, discover there are 2+ basements on record, and demand to see those levels. "But there's only the one basement level?" And suddenly you're discovered.

Underground

So instead, buy an abandoned missile silo. These are hardened, protected structures. There are several on the market in the USA. At least a few have been converted to private residences. List yours as a private dwelling on any deeds / permits. And then you're safe and secure.

Sure, you'll need to invest in security measures. But the structure is unlikely to be penetrated by any non-military forces.

At Sea

Or buy a container ship. Build your industrial machinery in modular format as cargo pods. Now your HQ is mobile, can hide in international waters, can travel wherever your evil plots require, and is hidden from satellite surveillance as well as pesky legal jurisdiction. Using solar panels and salt water filtration systems, you can have nearly unlimited water and power. Your biggest issue will be diesel for the ship engines.

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I like the ship idea, but proper cover requires it stay functional as cargo freighter. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jul 17 '17 at 15:53
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Aparently largest dry cargo freighters measure 360m in length and 65m in width, so unless evil equipment is particularly heavy, hiding 200m^2 lab/hq won't be a problem. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jul 17 '17 at 16:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And how hard would it be to secretly retrofit your ship to be nuclear powered? $\endgroup$ – Peregrine Rook Jul 18 '17 at 1:07
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Civilians don't generally have access to portable nuclear power plants. I suppose if you have enough cash, you could find one, somewhere. China or Russia perhaps? $\endgroup$ – CaM Jul 18 '17 at 13:25
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As a note, if you buy the missile silo, not only do you now have space to launch actual missiles, you also have the military surveillance (although outdated) already installed (according to the ad). $\endgroup$ – Anoplexian Jul 19 '17 at 15:22
28
$\begingroup$

Just buy an office building right in the center of a large city. Put your secret stuff in the basement while you put a legitimate business on top. As long as your front business stays clear of any suspicious activity, you will never have any thorough inspections by law enforcement. Even workplace safety inspections will focus on the rooms where the official employees are working and won't even look at the basement.

If you want to be even more safe, get a building with two basement levels. Put your secret stuff in the second basement and conceal the entrance. Make sure anything one would expect to find in an office building can be found in the first basement level. Anyone who will come to inspect something won't have the plans of the building. They will just come to the front desk and ask: "Please show us where you have your [electricity meter | water meter | sprinkler system]". If you want to be sure that even the original building plans won't incriminate you, give a bribe to whoever has these plans so they "lose" them or replace them with an "updated" version.

But no matter how well you hide your base: Remember that your largest risk will always be a human leak. Make sure that any minions who work on your secret project are too loyal or too afraid to blabber... or just lock them up permanently inside your base.

$\endgroup$
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Beware; finding "the floor that does not exist" is a popular plot point in stories. Explicitly hiding it is practically a guarantee that an intrepid do-gooder/mole will stumble on your concealed floor, simply because it's there. Less meta, you may get into trouble with construction/maintenance work that isn't expecting the level to be there (not particularly unlikely in a large city). You may need to maintain people who know about it and can issue bribes whenever it's necessary, not just on initial construction. $\endgroup$ – Jeroen Mostert Jul 17 '17 at 11:45
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps an old brewery. A local place started renovating an old brewery and found layer after layer of basements. They think it might have started as a sink hold or a quarry for clay. The original builder just built basements until they researched street level. Some of the levels were used as lagering cellars. The pumps would cover many mechanical sounds. You'd probably have to bring machinery in piecemeal. stlmag.com/arts/history/… $\endgroup$ – Mazel Jul 17 '17 at 20:20
23
$\begingroup$

A lot of people have suggested hiding in plain sight, something that is a good idea but I think we should go a little further.

Shoving it in the public's face

Create a large warehouse / open building. Place all necessary machinery inside.

Make tons of independent films, using students, of said equipment. Promote the hell out of the films. Those sinister machines? Totally props. Open haunted houses during Halloween, and youth and addict outreach programs. Finally, place a bunch of homeless people outside the building.

No-one will ever care about you, and will likely even forget you exist.

As a bonus, all those students, addicts, and youths make for free labour. If you are feeling particularly evil, register yourself as a church to reap the tax benefits. After all, you are already active in the community anyways and the government is going to ignore you.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This is great. Make your advertising especially obnoxious too, so people really hate going near you. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 16:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MadPhysicist reminds me of this comic: freefall.purrsia.com/ff100/fv00014.htm $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jul 19 '17 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ Reminds me of Heinlein's Sixth Column, especially the church part. $\endgroup$ – Mr Lister Jul 20 '17 at 17:52
21
$\begingroup$

There is a hotel in Virginia (or West Virginia) that housed a secret bunker for years that was designed to function as a Continuity of Government (CoG) shelter for Congress. Until it was declassified and made public, the hotel was a fully functioning civillian hotel whose residents were none the wiser that the bunker existed. Maintence was achieved by claiming it was the TV repairman and then walking him discretely into the hidden portion. They used construction of an existing extension to hid the facility construction.

There are numerous people who made residents in abandoned Nuclear Missile Silos in the United States. These facilites would easily fit your needs as they were built in part to be hidden to prevent detection and loss in nuclear war. They are pricy and the government would be aware of the sale.

Walt Disney World has an entire underground city beneath its Magic Kingdom theme park. Due to the low water table of Florida, this facility was built as a level one, not a basement, and then landscaping made the access to the second story guest areas vitually unnoticable. Disney does offer tours, but restricts tour group access to areas that might be important.

Old mines, especially if warning signs are properly displayed, could be re-enforced and secured. There are also companies that specialize in making secret doors that look like book shelves or what have you and even have a special lever to open the door. One such company even explained they're not all in the buisness of hiding secret rooms... one company ordered one to hide an unsightly janitor's closet in their lobby from public view.

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This would be the Greenbrier Resort, near White Sulphur Springs, in WV. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Greenbrier Many YouTube videos are available showing the history, construction, and logistics of such a secret lair. $\endgroup$ – Milwrdfan Jul 17 '17 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ I like the "old mine" angle - they're usually in locations isolated from civilization, making visits by meddling kids unlikely, but close enough to utilities that you can tap in and "borrow" water and power. $\endgroup$ – Sebastian Lenartowicz Jul 18 '17 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Milwrdfan: Thanks... I had the devils own looking it up yesterday... also other distractions. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 18 '17 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @SebastianLenartowicz: You might not even need to "Borrow" water... being low points of elevation, many old mines are flooded at the lowest levels... It might not be wise to drink it without purification equipment, but it can serve other purposes such as power generation or what have you. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 18 '17 at 13:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Or they were told by their cousin's best friend's Uncle who I swear is real. Alternatively, depending on how much humor you want to go in with this, do a classic Area 51 double negative cover story: Area 51 spreads rumors that the government studies Aliens at Area 51 as a cover story for what really goes on there: The government is secretly studying aliens at Area 51. That way, anyone who doesn't believe the internet rumors will actively push fake ideas like spy planes and what have you, cause clearly that's more plausible. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 20 '17 at 18:37
18
$\begingroup$

You could try the Hudson Valley in New York state. They have lots of very large mansions near a natural water supply (Hudson River), that could be used not only for a water source, but electricity generation as well.

And I know what you're going to say, "But how do I run hydroelectric generators without someone noticing them?" The answer to that is simple: Underground caves! The geology of the area lends itself well to natural cave formation, so you could probably find a mansion sitting right on top of one.

The cave formation offers many natural advantages:

  1. Preformed space for your secret lair.
  2. Natural defenses such as rock to prevent accidental discovery.
  3. Being underground provides a natural source of cooling and sound insulation for all of your computer gear and nefarious machinery.

Unfortunately, there's some disadvantages:

  1. Bats like underground caves.

Everyone knows that bats harbor tons of diseases. But, if you play your cards right, you can spin the whole bat thing to your advantage! Think of it, lots of people have an unreasonable fear of the animals. Perhaps you could adopt the bat as your evil symbol, injecting fear directly into the brain stems of your enemies! You could call yourself, Dr. Bat, or Batdude, or something like that. Your lair could be referred to ominously as the Man Cave, or Bat Hideout, or something along those lines.

Furthermore, living in an isolated mansion, deep in the Hudson Valley, people aren't likely to come around asking for candy at Halloween, selling vacuums, etc. And if there's lights on late at night, or weird noises, well, eccentric billionaires just do things a little differently. People will naturally ignore odd goings ons. Strange deliveries of heavy equipment? Probably just some new business venture, no biggie.

I don't know why, but I just think this model of secret lair just has something going for it.

$\endgroup$
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ For some reason, I keep thinking of penguins. What do penguins have to do with bats? $\endgroup$ – user2259716 Jul 17 '17 at 16:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @user2259716, if you squint, a smallish penguin kind of looks like a bat, just less nimble. I bet the superiority complex harbored by most bats would prevent them from not judging penguins for their ungainly lack of dexterity, making them natural enemies. It's a shame really. $\endgroup$ – CDahn Jul 17 '17 at 18:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Definitely underground caves; those aboveground caves are too conspicuous!   :-)   ⁠ $\endgroup$ – Peregrine Rook Jul 18 '17 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ Start rumors that your mansion used to be Wayne Manor and that Batman has been seen here and there. Then get the people you want to hide from to dismiss them as nutcase conspiracy theories. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 19 '17 at 0:42
13
$\begingroup$

Outside the reach of any government

Try Sealand

At ~3800m^2 you have plenty of room to expand on your nefarious plans. Its got power (its currently a data center, I believe) and the miles of ocean keep nosy ramblers away.

The best part is: because of a inanely boring territorial waters dispute involving betrayal, courts, coastguards, jetskis, mercenaries, helicopters, hostages and rebel factions (How is this not a movie already?) it is a structure in British territorial waters, over which Britain has no legal jurisdiction. Anyone comes poking around, just tell them to get lost.

Buy it in a private sale (its been up for sale several times now) and set up your nefarious evil lair in comfort, close enough to moon the people of felixstowe.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ While Sealand says it is independent, it is an artificial structure [now] in British waters and as such is recognised by UK as part of it. I am sure if British police get and info about a crime there, there won't be any qualms about raiding it. $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Jul 26 '17 at 15:15
8
$\begingroup$

In an Old Public Institutional Campus

I am primarily thinking a university, but a large hospital complex, or a sprawl of governmental bureaucratic back-office would work similarly.

What you get from these old, large, institutions:

No-one knows what buildings/rooms they have. They are older than computerized record keeping. Many many records are already lost, or incorrect. Plenty of walls and doors not shown on any maps, whole buildings that were never properly authorized. Sealed WW2 bunkers.

They have their own large facilities and planning departments -- any construction works will be going through them, even if it is externally mandated. So if you plant someone on the inside there you get all the heads up of major works you need, and can likely fillerbuster them for months or years by having your infiltrator pull up roadblocks and internal bureaucracy/politics.

They have:

  • huge daily movement of people -- to hide your comings and goings in the crowd
  • vast use of water and power -- so your own will vanish in the noise
  • lots of materials coming in and out every day, including "wacky science stuff" -- so your own imports will go unnoticed, not to mention the opportunities to "redirect" some of there resources.
  • very unusual electromagnetic radiation signatures -- again concealing your own machinery

Further to this, they often have special interactions with the law, such as being directly referred to in acts of parliament dating from their creation. This leaves them immune to many modern laws that should cover them, but fail to do so, because they are not technically the kind of organization one would expect (E.g. they may be a not-for-profit organization, but not bound by the Incorporations Act). And they may have specific and unusual laws giving them unexpected powers many other locations do not enjoy. Such as the Greek "University Asylum Law" which (formerly) forbid police, fire-brigade or army from entering university grounds, without express permission.

Finally: you can social engineer you way into them. Because they are so large, and have so many things going on, no-one truely knows what is meant to be happening -- the left-hand does not know what the right is doing. As an undergrad, I would on occasion when finding nowhere quiet to study, walk up to a department office, sigh and say "Someone has locked tutorial room 2.21b again. Can I have the key? thanks." Invariably it would be handed over without question as to what right I had to be there. Doing this on a grand scale involves identifying an unused (or underused) building, turning up with a bunch of folk in safety vests, and carrying clip-boards, and moving in your stuff while changing the locks. If any one questions you, you just say

"Of-course, how have you not heard? This is now the new National Center of Excellence in High-energy Mutagenic Agriculture. You need to contact ..." (flicks through clipboard) "... the senior deputy vice-rector for national collaborations. Here is her number." (reads out a number that goes to one of your people who is ready to shut-down inquiries.)

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about educational facilities, but there are so many industrial, semi-military, and military complexes out there with poorly documented and unmaintained facilities right beside operational ones that most people wouldn't believe. Most of it due to carelessness, pure and simple. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Jul 24 '17 at 7:01
7
$\begingroup$

The biggest question is "How often do you need to go in an out?"

If we look into the numerous fictional and real life secret facilities, there are few basic options:

  1. The middle of nowhere;
  2. Hidden in a developed area;
  3. Hidden within a legitimate facility.

"The middle of nowhere" has some advantages, but then you would need to provide electricity, and this would be difficult to hide. You hope would be that nobody is coming looking in that area. And the most difficult part would be traveling to and from this facility. Unless you are a Superman, this trip should take days, and other people might spot you.

"Hidden in a developed area" is better in many aspects (providing that your secret room is hidden well). You basically find a place that nobody is thinking of owning, like abandoned subway tunnel or basement nobody knows exists, secretly hook up to the utilities and make this place as comfortable as you need. The most obvious advantages are that you would have electricity and water, and maybe even cable TV. Also your trips in and out would be short, and you can move your stuff out on a short notice. Drawbacks, however, are also significant. The city, or utilities company, or owners of nearby places may suddenly discover that your lair. People might see you coming up and down a manhole, or disappearing behind a secret door.

"Hidden in a legitimate facility" is by far the most realistic way to achieve what you want. You obtain the rights to a land/building and hide your facility inside of it, or underneath it. You will have all the utilities without suspicion (but you have to pay for it). If your bunker is hidden well, any "regular" searches of your front facility would come up with nothing. Depending on scale of your operations, you may choose either "dormant", or "active" front. A dormant front would be a house/business that stays empty/closed/shuttered most of the time. You can come in an out without raising any suspicion, but empty places may attract attention of petty criminals. For an active front, you will have your associates occupy the "front" and maintain an illusion of some ordinary business. This way you can conduct any kind of operations inside your secret facility, and move in an out any equipment, or people.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

Buy a section of an old atom bomb testing facility with only safe amounts of radioactivity left. Make sure it has several ghost towns, maybe even an old military base. You could even get the government to sponsor you to clean it up.

Put up plenty of Danger signs. If anyone wants to come in, give them a radioactivity sensor and scare them to death. Drive in and out wearing ABC suits and helmets.

Build your stuff underneath and inside the ghost towns.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You can even do real cleanup: pile up the radioactive junk in one spot to mask your actual nuclear equipment buried underground. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 17:54
6
$\begingroup$

Do what the government did, buy a hotel, the more remote or resort like the better, build an addition on the hotel, maybe a new wing or kennel, at the same time (at night) build a secret bunker underneath it.

All the moving and excavation just gets lost in the normal legitimate construction, they had to dig to build a stable foundation anyway. This is actually a pretty common way to build bunkers. Once it is completed it is easy to hide people coming and going among the normal guests, deliveries, staff, ect.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

The simplest way:

  • middle of nowhere

  • believable cover

  • underground complex, where you can squeeze those "200m"

So for example a holiday dacha (second home) with nice but fully taken care of garden. And it has an underground garage with a trap door...

If you are not lone hero/antihero, but a member of a secret organization, then a house owned by some old couple, who sometimes rent rooms, looks even more innocent.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Note on renting: good cover for having strangers over, but real tourists could accidentally discover something they shouldn't have. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Jul 17 '17 at 11:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. Seems that bigger things could be covered for a while from tourists: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Greenbrier . But just in case - if anything is planned, then sorry - everything is booked. If tourist become nousance - problem of them could be solved by giving this accomodation poor grades online. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Jul 17 '17 at 14:47
5
$\begingroup$

Can you move your equipment by boat without being obvious? I spent about a week in a building in the Amazon jungle. We had a flush toilet. With seven people cooking,bathing, flushing toilets, and getting enough to drink, we did not run out of filtered rainwater. If we had run dry, we could have filtered water from the river. Four solar panels on the roof kept a battery bank charged, and the big food freezer and all the lights and electronics did not drain them overnight. Took hours to get there from the nearest village and we saw only two or three houses on the way.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You were almost certainly instantly detectable from any government satellite with the right equipment. However, if the facility is deep enough underground, it will likely not be visible after the construction phase. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 17:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not "instantly." Of course, the building is obvious in a satellite image—if you know where to look and if you even know you have something to look for. tinyurl.com/ProjectAmazonas It took me several minutes to find it even though I had gone there and back twice by boat. And the image doesn't tell anything about the purpose of the building. Moreover, there are several other buildings you can't see under the trees. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 18:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that this is a high-flying visible-channel-only image that you are analyzing by eye. I am guessing that the government has many satellites with the right equipment to see through the trees, which are constantly being analyzed by software that can easily detect new sources of radiation. I a bit of experience with weather satellites, and I don't think it's any kind of stretch. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 18:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Automated searching for radiation sources is indeed something quite likely. But no doubt there are ways to mask that if it exists. I do know that visuals are compared with older ones and there are humans who study changes for intelligence purposes. But one could fudge reality a little and still have a "believable place for your secret lair." $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 20:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are two types of masking: blocking and obfuscating. The first basically means putting things deep underground, where all the relevant frequencies will be attenuated. The second would involve putting it in a populated area, where it wouldn't stand out from the background. So if you want to be in the jungle, you have to dig deep and quickly. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 20:07
5
$\begingroup$

In the mountains

You can dig a secret cave in the mountains an place a "decoy" chalet not far from the actual lair. You can justify the power and water need with the chalet and you can post some undercover guards/soldiers (make them look like mere tourists) to spot incoming potential threats in the said chalet. Make sure that the entrance to the lair is a secret entrance though.

You can use snow to make water if you want and a generator or solar panels for electricity, all being justified by the chalet.

Plus, anybody too curious about your lair can be disposed of easily in the middle of the mountains.

You can also hide some defence systems (like turrets, CCTVs or move sensors) under fake rocks if you're really worried about a potential attack.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ All the plain sight answers are annoying. You want nobody to ever think to look at you. If they do, they should see something innocuous. I like this answer best. $\endgroup$ – jorfus Jul 21 '17 at 16:42
4
$\begingroup$

All the in plain site answers have the same problem--once they spot YOU, you are done for--they will follow you via satellite, video & aircraft and if they want you bad enough, your lair will be found. I'd say the ONLY safe place might be underwater--if you could make it to the sea I don't think it would be as easy to follow you.

Anti-sonar tech might make you amazingly hard to find if you are deep enough, the ocean is too big to scour every inch.

The only other place I could see is if you had enough money and had a legitimate front you might be able to buy a section of land from one of the many governments around the world. I'm a little surprised nobody has done that yet--just buy a small city-state. You could contract with that government for military defense as well which might be enough deterrent to keep other governments from wiping you out.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The same issue exists for the the in-plain-sight solutions as your proposed solution. Once the authorities have spotted the secret lair, it's over, regardless of where the lair is. That's why it is a secret lair. The only exception would be political protection. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Neely Jul 17 '17 at 18:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My point was that all they have to do is spot YOU--from that point on you give away everything until you get to your lair. Actually this is also true of all the not-in-plain sites too. I always wondered why nobody followed batman to his cave--being immobile it was amazingly vulnerable even at that time. All you had to do was follow batman a little way then set up an observation point at the next crossroads and wait for him to leave/return again, repeat. The only fix I can imagine is that a small, amazingly fast underwater vehicle MIGHT evade all surveillance. $\endgroup$ – Bill K Jul 17 '17 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @BillK Pretty sure Batman either has the technology to evade surveillance, or knows who to bribe to make sure nobody's looking at him when he's out and about. $\endgroup$ – Perkins Jul 18 '17 at 3:51
3
$\begingroup$

Inside a Dam

You build it inside the dam during construction. Earthen dams are the best, since your hollowing is displacing less strength, and it's easier to make up that strength with steel or concrete. It helps if one of your companies gets the contract to operate the dam.

Pro tip though: Make sure you maintain the dam tip-top. If you get into a situation where the dam is having serious trouble... and that gets a lot of government attention... it makes concealment a lot harder. You know, like the main spillway getting undercut by your expansion work, and having to use the emergency spillway and evacuate Oroville. By the way, you're gonna wanna win the repair contract. Don't try to make a couple bucks highballing the deal and have Kiewit undercut you by a measly $1.4 million, and then have to spend most of your fortune to buy Kiewit. Ugh.

Water is not a problem obviously. Electricity isn't either obviously, you can tap the main turbines. Or have a small backup turbine, they might notice your turbine output in the diversion tunnel, so just leak it into the subsurface of the dam. There'll be a green spot there, nobody will care.

Also you have air access via floatplanes, make them submersible so you can use a submarine base concealed by the powerplant intake structure. Works great.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Where to hide 200 m² of a low noise, low dirt, low profile operation for 30 years? Let's go through some possibilities.

In plain sight

200 square meters seems like a lot, but it is pretty much a rectangle of 20 x 10 m. Or in other words: a typical large home with a small garden. So, as it is not generating any extraordinary products, the first solution is easy: Hide it in plain sight. Some of the options you should consider, as long as the operation itself can run a very low profile and the paper trail between HQ and operations is nonexistant. Because there are laws that prevent random searches of private property without a warrent, these work. Water and power even come with them!

Office Tower

Renting office space for long term or even buying it might not be cheap, but place a name like "X&Y Consultants" on the door, hire a receptionist and have them take calls, telling the people "Sorry, there are no free spaces in the schedule of Mister X or Y for the next year... shall I put you on the waiting list?" or something. Anyway, who but the IRS checks consultant companies anyway? Just pay the tax and you are totally hidden in plain sight!

Appartment Complex

When we could have an office, why not just rent or buy some flats adjacent to each other in a nondescript appartment building and removing the walls between them, adding extra stairs and such till you are at 200m²? Nobody knows their neighbor in those buildings. Mount something in front of the windows to simulate people living there, never bother to change the nameplates on the bells and nobody will even notice. Just pay the bills from different funds and if somebody asks you who those immaginary neighbors are, say you think they all work odd shifts or something. In the run down "Banlieus" nobody cares who is their neighbor anyways, unless they can be blamed for something.

Fancy Skyscraper Anonymity

Well, maybe we want it more fancy than owning a ton of run down flats. Why not take the same idea and go fancy? Rent a penthouse or floor in an appartment building - and pay the porter extra to not be on the name plate. You are just that excentric guy living on the 10th floor, 200m² with perfect view on the Hudson or something. Expensive, but as long as you pay your bills, nobody will be the wiser.

It's all legit!

What kind of equipment does your HQ need? Often times, equipment can be used for multiple purposes at once, so find a solution how it can be done with what is in your lair! Even if they search, they shall not find anything but what they expect.

  • A server farm? Easy, just BE a server farm, just one quite a bit larger with space dedicated for your HQ.
  • You need a war room with spinning globe, huge TV screen and a fancy collection on the walls? Become a broker and have all this fancy equipment double as your screen for stock exchanges and show off how rich you are!
  • So many different equipment that you can't keep track of it and so many goodies you want to stock? Be the R&D (in your own company, run by a straw puppet)! Nobody expects the R&D to plot world domination. It's allways the boss of the company, and those never work in R&D, right?

False Facade

While we just had an official adress earlier, used to hide the operation, you might want some kind of a mix between Plain sight facade and actually hiding the equipment behind a false wall or space. We don't need to start precautions to hide our paper trail then, even welcoming a search of the open parts of the HQ. We need more than 200 m² then though - but power and water can be siphoned from the facade.

Suburbia

In the suburbs, houses can get large. Buying place where gardens are long and wide enough allows you to constuct your secret lair under the floorboards of a normal family life! Construction is a bit tricky, but it is not too uncommon to live in one space for a long time. Just hide the entrance to your lare under your model train landscape, and nobody is the wiser. Just appease the neighbors with an occasional BBQ and they will even vouch that you are clearly not Mister X, even if you plan world domination under the floor.

Industry Mogul

Money is not an issiue? Let's go BIG! I mean not like 500m², go fully large! Not just a fancy house in the suburbs, buy a whole factory, including workforce and produce whatever it produced all the time anyway. Schedule some expansion to the factory complex, and build your secret lair into the floor, then have the plans on file altered. That cellar? Was never built. Every morning the workers come, do their buisiness, secretly funding your plans, go... and under the floor? You plot and tinker on your secret world domination devices.

Farmerboy

Famland is large, cheap, out of the towns... and farmers are crazy anyway, don't you think? In many rural areas people know each other well, and they know when Tom the sherrif comes for a coffee on his tour. Or when Mike Policeman has his patrol on the Highway. Again, keep up the facade well and nobody will be the wiser. And you can hide all the rubble and earth from digging your lair under the barn on or between the fields.

Out in the Blue

We can hide in plain sight with easy access, we can errect a false facade to hide better. But then again, we can go where people don't thread likely.

Parkie

Can you have construction debris disappear with enough money? National park for the Rescue! Make sure to hide the entrance well, and the rangers will have a very hard time to accidently stumble over your lair - and since construction is prohimited in a national park usually, nobody will even think about looking for an underground construction there. Even better, if you can bribe the rangers to look the other way when you haul in a new batch of equipment. You better get autonomous in power and water means though, as you will have to drill your own water supply and sewage dump, and also some means of getting power. Geothermic power might be a solution.

Afloat

What happens with an oil rig after it has run out of oil? Usually, they are deconstructed. But some are kept for other reasons - like an excentric millionair who might turn it into his private resort maybe? So, with enough money, an empty rig is available. What's even better is, some are out of the 12/24 miles zone of any country, and thus in international waters. What does that mean? You are out of jurisdiction of the country! Yes, that's right: Police and FBI can't go and arrest you on your oilrig out on the ocean. Why? Because a floating offshore oilrig is in the eyes of the law a ship (unlike one affixed to the seabed, which is an artificial island), and thus it is in the coutnry of the flag it flies. Just fly the flag of a country that is very unlikely to give a damn and your HQ is safe, even if they can see you building up a world domination device. Even better: if they try to stop you it is an act of agression against a foreign state without a declaration of war.

If you have mounts to the seabed and are further away than 200 sea miles from the shore, you are an artificial island wich belongs to the state that ordered its errection, which means it is part of the country you choose. For closer to the shore installations, it gets a bit more tricky, as construction of artificial islands there makes them part of the closest country (see Artificial Islands in the Law of the Sea).

Water purification can be powered with wind and tidal power, you just need to schedule monthly supply missions per helicoper.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

A disused mine

Some of the answers here may overlook various safety inspectors or intrepid workers in a coverup business. The advantages of using an already dug mine:

  • Not visible by satelite
  • No visible heat signal from aircraft
  • No external foot traffic
  • Government grants available if you do choose to reopen it (though this may not be the best option)
  • Depending on the mine there may already be provisions to move your heavy machinery below surface (dedicated lift)
  • Ample surface area
  • Facilities (water and electricity) can be installed as you wish.

However the real advantage here lies with the danger associated with mining. Say there's a government inspector that wants to have a look at your operation- fine, let him explore everywhere except shaft C, which is flooded/ unstable/ collapsed and retired from operations.

If you choose to open the mine for business you could realistically limit employees from venturing into the shaft C by using any of the afore mentioned techniques. What would be particularly effective would be if you could flood a part of the mine at will, opening it only for your access, though I can't imagine this would be a structurally viable option.

What might be a better course of action would be to buy the mine for a handsom price (based on current estimates of remaining coal/gold/uranium) then claim that the resources are considerably more depleted than thought. In this instance you have a cover story to justify initial investment and moving in machinery, installing/ renovating a heavy duty lift and facilities, but you have no need to send workers in, as it's no longer cost effective to dig. You could even potentially justify hiring a few low paid security guards to keep visitors away whilst protecting your land. You yourself (if you want to remain unknown to said guards) could enter under the guise of a structural engineer carrying out routine checks on the integrity of the mine.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

If money is not an issue than a remote Island can be an option, all to yourself with perfectly set up recycling facilities to deal with wastes and no check ups by local authorities. As for electricity solar panels or any other means can be set up

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Build it at Disney World...errr evil overlord world! Disney runs that area. They have full control of the local politics, policing, and management. They can bury almost anything there under a wall of employment contracts, service bills, and purchasing deals. Bits and pieces of stuff can be inserted into legit agreements, almost anything can be bought under the guise of research for a new concept. About the only thing you couldn't do is nuclear power/radioactive material refining. The US govtracks stuff needed for that much too closely, but almost anything else could be allowed and built in secret. There are entire departments at Disney that are blacked off from the rest under the guise of preventing corporate espionage. An evil base would fit right in. Heck, one could argue that Disney is itself an evil corp manipulating the US right now!

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Here's a low-tech option. Buy a farm, maybe wheat or dairy. Build a new barn (or refurbish an old one) to cover construction of your underground facility. Add water wheels on the nearby river for hydroelectric power (get your water there also).

With a farm you have an excuse for trucks coming and going. Nobody inspects farms, especially if you advertise yourself as organic, with no pesticides or hormones. To casual visitors, your farm will look genuine because it is. If your "hobby" involves biology, so much the better, you can hide unusual creatures in a herd--just make sure they don't escape.

Your nearest neighbors may be miles away, so odd noises and sights won't be noticed. If you have "special" visitors who can't be seen in town, they can travel cross-country or use small aircraft. Larger farms often have airstrips, so yours won't arouse suspicion.

Keep your employees out of trouble, maintain a plausible level of output, protect your property discreetly, and you should be able to indulge your hobby as long as you like.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Are you familiar with any actual farms? $\endgroup$ – Jasper Jul 17 '17 at 22:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You may be inspected if you try to get "certified" organic. Certainly any farm that sells something edible will be inspected. And any farm that has employees is likely to get a visit from OSHA (or whatever country's equivalent.) $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 16:29
0
$\begingroup$

A combination of in plain sight and invisible. A novel I read some time ago talked about pretty much just that. The good guys/bad guys (the protagonist changed allegiance in the middle of the book) had a front company in New York with a legitimate office building. Their secret facility was located in an artificial cave several hundred feet below the city, with an elevator shaft running down from the office building.

The story didn't explain how all this was constructed without anyone noticing, but one can imagine the rubble being carted out during the construction of the New York subway and water/sewage tunnels by just mixing it with the rubble from that construction work. What they used for water and energy supplies wasn't explicitly mentioned, but they appeared to have access to large quantities of natural gas so a small generator powered by that could work, the exhaust gasses vented into the subway tunnels where they'd rapidly disperse. Similarly, sewage could be mixed into the city sewers through hidden valves opening only after making sure there are no people in the sewers, or directly into the East River. If you can dig a large cavern like that unnoticed you can also dig a sewage tunnel to some way outside the city of course, making detection even less likely.

If you want more secrecy, James Bond movies have several secret lairs, ranging from underwater cities to caverns in extinct volcanoes with covers over the crater that can be made to swing out to launch rockets from them. All of those of course eventually exposed by Bond, but secret for a long time until our hero tracks them down through mistakes by the minions of an overly confident evil genius (and you're of course smarter than Mr. Blofeld, right?).

Then there are the existing conspiracy theories about secret CIA and Nazi bases under the Antarctic ice cap. Exploiting those to create a real base there, then reinforcing those conspiracy theories to ensure that anyone talking about your base gets branded a conspiracy theorist and never taken seriously could very well work as well (this was in fact how the US government kept secret what really goes on at Groom Lake AB for decades, the conspiracy theories about aliens at the facility made anyone talking about secret research there appear laughable at best).

$\endgroup$
-2
$\begingroup$

Underwater

For all the same reasons as the Sealand answer, an underwater lair far enough from the coast would be in international waters. What that one left out is that if anyone did spot you there, you could just shoot them and feed them to the local wildlife. What's anybody going to do about it?

The benefits of having it under the water is that you can install a room to filter the water to make it drinkable, and simultaneously use this room to both power itself and the rest of your base. The weight of the water on the base is enough to get the gears moving, and once you've done that, it's all - literally - downhill from there.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Weight only can't get gears moving. The water has to move to turn something. Not going to do that unless it has somewhere to go. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @WGroleau The water would move over the gears, then... I dunno. A pressurized hose pushing the water out the other side to prevent the room from just filling up with water? If the hydroelectric motor is built properly, enough electricity could be generated to deal with that, too, I suppose. $\endgroup$ – DonielF Jul 18 '17 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ If the water on the other side is the same pressure, what is going to make it move? $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 16:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DonielF, you need to read a little about why no one has yet developed perpetual motion. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Jul 18 '17 at 18:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Why can't the hydroelectric motor produce enough electricity to pump the water out and charge the base," because that would be violating conservation of energy. The water outside the base has potential energy ($E_1$), expressing its ability to transition to a lower energy state ($E_2$) by entering the the base. The kinetic energy released as it enters is the difference in those potential energy states ($E_1-E_2$) (and eventually electrical energy). To pump that water out of the base again one must provide that much energy to raise its potential energy back to the state it was before. (cont) $\endgroup$ – Lyndon White Jul 20 '17 at 6:13

protected by Separatrix Jul 18 '17 at 12:40

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.