BISMARCK — At a Bismarck hotel on Tuesday, property hunters placed bids on the Remote Sprint Launcher 4, a Cold War-era missile silo on 49 acres of property in northeast North Dakota. The site, 65 miles northeast of Devils Lake, houses twin missile silos as well as an 11,0000-square-foot underground bunker, its concrete walls two feet thick.
Leslie Volochenko, a Mandan resident, bought the property ahead of the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, hoping he could pawn it off to doomsday preppers on the internet. The site has long been decommissioned, but is a relic of a bygone era when North Dakota was a strategic place for expensive military artillery.
"It's very unique," said Jim Sabe, an auctioneer with Pifer's Auction & Realty, the company running the auction. "It's one of those things where you better have a purpose for it if you're looking to buy it."
The bunker was the last of 20 properties to go on the auction block, landing a final bid of $52,500. Both Volochenko and Pifer's said they didn't know yet if they would confirm the deal because the bid price wasn't as high as Volochenko wanted.
"We had amazing interest. So I was a little disappointed," said Dave Keller, a commercial realtor with Pifer's. Keller cited phone calls from interested buyers all over the country, from Washington state to Texas.
Volochenko said he'd hoped the property could go as high as three or four hundred thousand dollars. "All this hoopla and all this media coverage. We had calls from all over. On the internet especially," he said. And whether it went to a "Doomsdayer" for a personal apocalypse bunker or another sort of client, Volokchenko saw endless options for it: "You're out there, man. You can do anything you want."
The bunker's a little worse for wear. Volochenko has planted tulips and released pheasants on the property, but otherwise it hasn't changed much since he first bought it. He's been working on clearing out about an inch of standing water that's leaked into the bunker.
But even if the missile silo sells, Volochenko will leave behind one mark on the old site. Across the exposed ceiling of the bunker's entry tunnel, Volochenko has painted his last name in big red letters. He says many people don't believe he owns it.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.