By MARINA WATERS
Two minutes before Sarah Dill saw a Herald & Tribune staff writer pull up in the driveway to her underground house, the rain was pouring down, and in her mind, it was most likely going to rain out her interview and photo-op. That’s when the clouds parted, the sun came out and there set her little hillside bunker paradise, shining like a brand new penny.
“There’s something more to this house. That’s what I keep feeling,” Dill said. “It was pouring so hard I couldn’t even see my car out there. Two-minutes-till-10, it completely stopped. I don’t know, it’s just some kind of magical something.”
Dill found her magical underground abode three years ago, and though she says she’s found happiness and contentment in the two-bedroom home, what first lured her to the house were the safety features.
“I used to train troops to go out at Fort Hood, Texas. I heard a lot of talk of, ‘oh we’re going to be invaded’, ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,’ and ‘if you could get an underground shelter, we’re burying these pod things and that’s what we’re storing our food in,’” Dill said. “When I saw this I said, ‘Well this is just like that. It’s already buried!’ So from doing the work I did, it just resonated in my mind, ‘You’ve gotta get a place that’s safe. You’ve gotta get a place where they can’t get in.’ That was just in my head all the time. And I found it and I said, ‘That’s it.’”
Dill, who’s originally from Texas, said the man who built the home built a roof with three layers—one of dirt, one of concrete, and finally, one of shingles. Though the house originally had a tennis court and an intercom system, Dill believes, this man mainly wanted and believed in the safety of an underground house.
“They said that he was a wealthy man and he believed we were fixing to be attacked. That’s what he thought,” Dill said. “He was building an underground bunker.”
But now the home’s creator has left a lingering mystery that often tugs at Dill’s imagination.
“If he was rich, I wonder if he hid stuff. I wonder what’s behind the walls,” Dill said. “I know there’s probably nothing, but you just think…if he thought this was really the place he was going to go, wouldn’t he have put stuff here? That’s what I always think.”
Storage is also a large part of the house; inside each room is plenty of storage space and then the top portion of the house serves as a locked-up, attic-like compartment that almost seems more like a basement, complete with a concrete floor.
But for Dill, who keeps the top compartment empty, the best part of the home is the peacefulness. With just a few singing birds outside of the spacious patio, few sounds can be heard from inside the underground home. Dill especially loves the good night’s sleep she gets in the dark, quiet back bedroom.
“When you go in your bedroom and close the door, you don’t want bright lights. That’s why people put those blackout curtains on their windows. You go in there and shut that door, honey, it’s totally silent and black,” Dill said. “So you’re gonna sleep and you’re not going to be disturbed. I figure that’s what a bedroom’s for. You go in there because you want to be quiet and check out.”
She’s not in total darkness like one might think, however. Dill’s favorite part of the house is the patio and the plethora of honeysuckles, morning glories and wildlife surrounding her back door.
“It’s just open and you can see the mountains. So it’s like the horizons are expanded,” Dill said. “You’re not closed in to houses here, houses here, houses here. You see the wilderness. It’s just awesome. It’s almost a healing experience, I guess.”
From the dark circle of mushrooms known as a “fairy ring” in Dill’s yard, to the fragrant honeysuckles she has adorning her patio, the underground-house owner believes in sustaining the quiet nature of the house and the natural growth that surrounds it.
“Even nature, it’s coming around and growing. It’s engulfing the house. In August, if you were to come back, as soon as you walk out you can just smell nothing but those honeysuckles,” she said. “Everyone plants and everything is so organized, but what if you just let nature be nature? If a weed comes up, just let it come up.”
When one thinks of an underground house, they don’t initially think plants and an open view of the Appalachian Mountains. One also might not think the person who lives in such an underground house would be quite as chipper as Dill either, but she thinks there could be a science to it.
“I’ve never felt better since I’ve been living here. I’m happy,” Dill said. “I know back in the day cavemen lived in caves and Indians lived in caves. Maybe there’s something to it. I wonder if it puts your body back in check where it’s supposed to have been all along.
“Even my neighbors, they’ll ask what I’m on and it’s nothing. I don’t even take Aspirin. I never have in my whole life. They say no one can be that happy every day.
“But I really am. I try to tone it down,” she adds, laughing.
Dill realizes that her happiness, whether she’s inside her darkened underground living room or on her well-lighted patio, is a rarity in today’s world. Whether happiness is found in an underground house or listening to bird’s chirp through the summertime breeze, Dill believes some just refuse to let the sunshine in.
“I’ve found that a lot of people don’t want to be happy,” she explained. “They’re obsessed with their depression and their sadness and their problems and if you try to bring them out, they just look at you like you’re crazy. So I’ve just learned, just tone it down.”
Dill found happiness and contentment in her Limestone home, but now that she’s off to be closer to her family, she’s looking for someone else who could find safety, peace and tranquility in the place that has offered her all those things for so long.
“Maybe it’s just time for someone else to have it — someone who needs it,” Dill said. “Maybe someone who’s really scared or paranoid, this might ease them. When you walk out there and sit down on that patio, it’s healing. I’m not kidding. When you just look out over that mountain and the peacefulness, it’s just so healing.”
If you’re interested in the underground house, call (423) 302-9143 for more information.