Waiting for the End of the World: Fallout Shelter Tourism


7th Aug, 2014


Most people travel the world to visit various natural wonders, take a tour of the famous monuments or go in search of authentic cuisine. Richard Ross goes in search of bomb shelters. Armed with his camera, Ross took a five-year journey into the underground world, documenting not only the bomb shelters of the United States, but also examples as far as Vietnam, Russia, England, Turkey, and even Switzerland, where citizens are required by law to have a bomb shelter. In 2004, he published his book, Waiting for the End of the World and in his foreword, he writes about a realisation he came to while working on the project.

“Shelters are the architecture of failure– the failure of moderation, politics, communication, diplomacy, and sustaining humanity. They represent the ultimate in optimism and belief in individual survival and paradoxically the ultimate in pessimism– the expectation of the destruction of humanity.”

Above: Abbey Data Storage | Bellsize Park, London, England 2002


Charlie Hull’s Shelter | Emigrant, Montana 2003

Comprised of recycled oil tanks welded together by members of the Church Universal and Triumphant in 1989, this shelter was built in response to a prophecy that nuclear annihilation would arrive on March 15, 1990. On that night, 90 people crowded inside and waited. Church member and retired high school history teacher, Charlie Hull (pictured above), who does most of the maintenance, saved for 15 to raise the finances along with pooled money from the church community. Over the years, church members stopped paying their annual $100 maintenance fee. “I do wonder whether it was a good idea sometimes,” Hull admitted in an interview the same year Ross photographed the shelter. “You get to thinking about the trips to Hawaii you could have taken instead.”

Exterior Entrance Group Shelter for Scientists at Lawrencce/Live

Shelter | Livermore, California, USA 2002

Interior/Looking out-Group Shelter for Scientists at Lawrencce/L

Kitchen Charlie Hull Shelter (90 family) , Emigrant, Montana

Charlie Hull’s Shelter | Emigrant, Montana 2003

The full stocked shelter holds enough food and fuel to support 90 people for seven months.


Underground City | Beijing, China 2003


The Underground City, also known as Dixia Cheng, is a bomb shelter comprising a network of tunnels located beneath BeijingChina, which was later transformed into a tourist attraction. Often referred to as the Underground Great Wall, the complex was constructed during the 1970s in anticipation of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union and was officially reopened to the public in 2000. Visitors were allowed to tour portions of the complex, merchants even set up shops in the eerie underground network. Dixia Cheng has been closed for renovation since at least February 2008.


Pink Doors, Public Shelters near Zurich, Switzerland

Public Shelter | Zurich, Switzerland 2003

In Switzerland every citizen is required by law to have access to a bomb shelter. And who says bomb shelters need to beed dark and grey and depressing?!

Pink Door, near Zurich, Switzerland


“The Trendy Griboyedov Club” | St. Petersburg, Russia 2003

“I found it wildly optimistic,” says Richard remembering the underground Russian nightclub. “People use these clubs– converted underground shelters– to drink, dance, and mate. This is a celebration of life rather than an anticipation of death and destruction. The club rejects the intent and purpose of its origins. Finally it made sense.”

Charlie Hull, Group Shelter, Emigrant Montana, Hallway

Charlie Hull’s shelter | Emigrant, Montana, USA 2003

The twisting tunnel entrance built by Charlie Hull and his fellow church members out of recycled oil tanks welded together, were designed to deflect radiation that might get past the door. 

Entrance to Shelter St. Pete County, Utah

Shelter | San Pete County, Utah, USA


The Seyfriend’s Shelter | Salt Lake City, Utah, USA 2003


Abbey Data Storage | Bellsize Park, London, England 2002



Kelvedon Hatch | Essex, England 2002



Jiaozhuanghu Village | Beijing, China 2003



I think you’ll agree that Waiting for the End of the World is sort of a coffee table essential for any MessyNessyChic reader.

All images from the Richard Ross website.

You might also like


More in Comedic TherapyHow to start a subcultureLife is MessyLost & FoundNostalgiaObscure historyTime travel

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Your Office on Cloud 9 in Paris

I remember moving to Paris and not really knowing where to start. In fact, I probably took a lot longer than I should have to rev my engines because I just didn't have a place to go and plan worl...

Trending 1,225

The Messy Nessy Chic Holiday Book List

Don’t count on me as a book critic here and I’m certainly no literary connoisseur, but one thing you might be able to rely on is that I’m not bad at sniffing out a good story. And by now, I th...

Trending 1,924

The Fashion World’s Best Kept Secret

If you asked me to name three fashion photographers off the top of my head, I would probably say, Mario Testino (easy one), Annie Leibovitz ... and does that guy who photographs everyone on the st...

Trending 2,181

The Art of Homemaking in a World War Dugout

It all started with one photograph that caught my interest, and then through the course of today, I think I've easily gone through about 10,000 photographs, searching through various archives for ...

Trending 3,693