The Bomb Shelter

High Weirdness, Thin Places, Time Distortions


JULY 1986

The Bomb Shelter is the name used to describe a missing place found in the area of Wyman Woods in Marblehead, MA by 6 kids in 1986.

Eric and I, both ten years old, had spent the last week sleeping over at each other’s houses and it was probably mid-July at this time. We rode our bikes down to Howard’s News to look at comics and then over to the Marblehead YMCA to see who was hanging around in the monument park next to the Y. Marblehead isn’t exactly a big town but at the time there were 3 elementary schools there, so not everyone knew everyone. On this day, we got down to the Y and found a kid Eric knew from Hockey hanging around the monument with some kids from Glover (originally posted as Gerry) school. Me and Eric went to Coffin school, which was on the side of town that wasn’t exactly the good part. There’s not really a bad part but Marblehead is the kind of town where you’ll find a Ferrari parked at the bank next to my parents’ broke-down Honda Civic. You have extremely rich people living on one side of town and everyone else on the side heading out toward Salem. There’s not much room in between. But these were the rich kids we were dealing with and we were considered the poor kids even though our parents were firmly middle class folk. So they kind of fucked with us until Eric’s hockey friend got them to cool it. But then one of them got real spooky on us. He was acting real conspiratorial with his buddies.

“We should take them to the bomb shelter.” He said, and they all enthusiastically agreed.

So, we rode across town to a part of Marblehead that we only knew from little league practices and they guided us on our bikes down a short trail in small wooded area off West shore Drive until we reached a small grassy clearing where we found a hole in the ground squared off with wood framing.

Marblehead is DENSELY populated now as it was then and wooded areas like this place weren’t super common. At any given time, even in the woods, you’re not more than a 100m walk to someone’s back yard. But this place felt very remote. The hole in the ground was about 2′ across, with a rusty ladder descending into the darkness and one of those red on black DO NOT ENTER signs hastily thrown on the ground next to it. The kids all took turns climbing down into the hole and finally Eric and I joined them. No hesitation. Even as a wispy ten year old, the ladder felt like it was going to break under my weight. Eric and I both thought these kids were ass dicks and suspected that they might be setting us up for something bad but this was cool, at the same time. Adventure! The Goonies had come out the summer before this and it had a profound effect on the American pre-teen mind. But in their haste to freak us out, none of these idiots thought to bring a light source and the light from the hole above only illuminated the surroundings so much. A pack of matches lay on a nearby shelf carved out of the wall but to our dismay, the rain had poured through the hole and rendered them a soggy mess.

The darkness down here was dense and tangible. It seemed to consume the light from the hole above. Having just got off the ladder, what I could make out around me were dozens of these small, short white pillars scattered around a shelf next to the ladder. I’d later reach out and pick one up and realize that what I was looking at were the stubs of candles burned down to the last. They were arranged along a shelf carved out of the dirt. I couldn’t see much down here but I could feel the walls and the dimensions of this space we were in were a lot like my house. They were reasonably large rooms linked by halls with plenty of space to move through but the walls were clearly hard-packed dirt and clay. There are other abandoned spots around town and you could tell that the local high school kids made regular use of them by the presence of crushed beer cans and garbage all over the place, but the thing which struck me about this place was how clean it was for a room carved out under the earth.

The kids guided us through the darkness for a couple rooms, just pitch-black darkness the entire way, until we all decided to turn back because what’s the point when you can’t see? None of them explained where we were or anything. There was no exposition at all. Just six pre-teen boys silently walking through this strange space under the ground. And that’s when things took a strange turn.

As we got closer to where the ladder was and the darkness began to give way somewhat to the light I, walking at the back of the group, noticed way more silhouettes ahead of me than there should have been. It was just me, Eric, his friend from Hockey, and three of the kids from Glover school that I knew of. But as we came into the gloom, I was suddenly spooked when I counted 3 more shadows ahead of us than there should have been. And as I waited my turn to climb the ladder, I watched as all 3 of these extra kids climbed the ladder. Definite shapes ascended to the light. Kids, wearing kid clothes, who I only saw the back but were definitely not with us when we came down also went up. When I got back to the surface, however, it was just 6 of us again. Then we kind of parted ways and Eric and I rode back to his house and played Atari for the rest of the day. We kept talking about what these kids called the bomb shelter and planned to go back tomorrow with flash lights so we could really see what was down there.

So, the next day we took a couple of those big-block battery flashlights that his dad had in the garage and we rode back to where the Glover school boys had taken us. We rode down the trail and it eventually took us to the baseball fields. We rode back and forth several times. We walked our bikes off the path and searched through the brush but we couldn’t find the hole in the ground at the clearing. We never even found a clearing. We had to have searched for an hour around a patch of wilderness that couldn’t have been more than 1/4 square mile. Nothing turned up. At all. We were certain we had the right spot, too. So we rode back down to the Y to see if those kids were still around and they were. Eric’s hockey friend was not. Just the Glover school boys.

It was absolutely them, no mistaken identities. It was those three guys.

Eric walked up and asked them about the bomb shelter and when he was done they all looked at us like we had a million heads.

“Who the fuck are you?” Is all one of them asked us.

I was kind of a shy kid so I didn’t do any talking. I just hung back but Eric was insistent and became convinced that they were messing with us and he kept pressing them. Eventually, the three of them got a little aggro and we backed off but the message was clear: These three guys, whom we had just descended into the depths of Marblehead with the day prior, had no idea who we were or what we were talking about. Me and Eric tried a couple more times on our own to find this place but we never did and a couple months later my family picked up stakes and moved to New Hampshire so I only saw Eric once more after that and we never talked about it again. But I never forgot about this.

Submitted by Frater Pera