Dale Hufford decided to go on a vacation so he boarded a flight from his hometown in Baltimore to visit his longtime friend, Mike Peters, for the Christmas period in Lobetal, Germany. Mike mentioned to him about a pair of mysterious “pipes” that were protruding from the ground. Since the area was near his home, Dale, fancying himself quite the Urban Explorer, could not wait to see them for himself.
Mike had grown up in the small village and had recounted stories of his adventures in the forest, but he had never dared to explore the pipes himself. As Dale got closer to his destination, he was filled with excitement and fear, but how could he have known that his descent into the woods and deep underground would spiral into an amazing tale that included buried treasure, and eventually a run-in with the law?
Even after the long flight, Dale could barely contain his enthusiasm to finally arrive. After the small talk, he got right to the point of making plans to inspect the site. Mike explained to Dale that he suspected the pipes were part of something deep underground, and there were signs all around the area that were indicative of some sort of structure, hidden beneath the forest floor.
He had played in the area as a child but had been forbidden to get too close. As they began packing supplies for the hike and possible overnight stay, they were unaware that they were laying the foundations for their lives to change in unimaginable ways.
Mike knew the path well from years of walking it and it wasn’t too far from where he lived. There were no signposts, but he managed to find the trail among the trees. It was eerily quiet as they entered the forest, and the morning had stretched into the afternoon. Mike had warned Dale that they needed to get an early start, but Dale’s feet were itching for adventure and he could not wait for the following morning.
Finally, they had arrived. The two enormous pipes stood out looming in the murky afternoon. They protruded from the ground, their metal stark against the forest backdrop. A shiver went through Dale’s spine at the sight of the foreboding twin metal soldiers… guarding what? What secrets were hiding beneath? – They would soon find out.
After scoping around about 100 meters from the strange metal periscopes, they spotted the concrete entrance — a dark rectangular hole that was sunk into the ground at an angle. It was hidden by a grassy mound of overgrowth and dead leaves and covered with a wooden lid. Excited, the pair got to work removing the lid with a crowbar and peered inside.
“Aaaaarghhh!” Mike shouted in alarm, as a black cloud of flies buzzed up into their faces. There were stairs leading down, and there was an old iron gate barring entrance. They came across a sign that warned “Betreten Verboten”. Nevertheless, they mustered all their courage, took a deep breath, and slowly walked inside.
Someone else had definitely been here since the lock on the gate was broken. The pair pushed it open and started to walk down the stairs. Soon, they were in total darkness and Dale fumbled for his flashlight. When he flicked it on, he was greeted with an endless hallway. The smell was foul, and the silence was deafening – All Dale could hear was the beating of his own heart and their careful footsteps, echoing off the walls and down into the dark.
Dale checked his phone for the time and was irked to see the signal disappear. They had been warned by locals that there were rumors of live munitions on the site, yet they had no way of calling for help, so they proceeded very, very cautiously.
The corridor seemed to go on forever until they reached a junction. To prevent getting lost in this mysterious underworld, Mike said that they should avoid taking any unnecessary turns. Dale shuddered at the thought of being underground in the concrete labyrinth, wandering for hours with no way out.
So, without another word, they walked straight on. Then, something on the floor caught Dale’s eye — something green and shiny. As they neared, they saw what it was. It was a plastic bag from a local supermarket. Who knew who — or what — would be waiting for them further on, down in the dark?
Suddenly, the long corridor turned sharply. They started breathing heavily, which began to echo and that rose back to their ears and sounded like a flat and inhuman hiss. They must have been miles underground now, and the claustrophobia, suddenly unbearable, clawed at them in the dark.
The stench grew stronger here, and the corridor had widened. Dale thought he heard a girl’s laugh from the distance and stopped abruptly, with his hand on Mike’s chest. They both listened intently and made out a faint sound.
They found marks on the wall that appeared like someone had punched at it with a hammer at random intervals. Dale didn’t know why, but the thought of someone down here, swinging a hammer in the dark, made his skin crawl.
He had a sudden urge to turn back and run, but it was too late to go back now. As they moved on, they both secretly hoped to reach a dead end. Then they would have the excuse they needed to end the terrifying descent and run back to the entrance; mission accomplished. Alas, it was no dead end.
There was a rusted door that had been ripped from its hinges and cast aside, revealing a narrow doorway of blackness. The door looked like the door to a vault and had Cyrillic writing stenciled onto it in blood-red ink.
But who had done such a thing? And how? Dale’s mind traveled to every horror story he had ever heard, now let loose and filled with a new life now that he was underground with darkness all around him. What awaited them behind the doorway?
The smell of sewerage and rot filled the air. Dale and Mike entered through the doorway, gagging. Dale’s strained mind couldn’t help but remember that the smell of rotten eggs in any of the silly books he had read meant that denizens of the underworld were close by.
But he didn’t believe any of that. This environment was ripe for his imagination to run wild, so he tried to keep it in check. He had to have his wits about him for the very real threat they were about to face.
The pair then came to another corridor, and Mike slipped, sending waves of stagnant water to the far side, lapping at the walls. He screamed, and his flashlight beam revealed a dark silhouette of someone crouching on the far wall for a split second before it plummeted into the water, as he scrambled frantically to get out.
Dale swung his flashlight blindly in the direction that he had seen the figure. But it was gone.
Mike immediately ran back in a blind panic and took cover behind Dale. The room was completely flooded. To Dale’s dismay, he noticed that the walls were made of heavy lead.
The water rocked back and forth, releasing unseen clouds of gas. They hadn’t expected to find this kind of rooms therefore hadn’t brought respirators. The air was growing thick and both of them knew they were in trouble.
Mike and Dale had unwittingly stumbled upon the secret back entranceway into the subterranean depths of Lager Koralle, built in 1939 during World War II. It was used as a naval intelligence school, but soon after, the German Naval High Command moved in and transformed it into their U-Boat headquarters.
They used this place to store rockets, away from prying eyes. The subterranean entrance was little-known, even to the locals, and tales of live munitions had ensured that errant teens and curious children stayed away. What mysteries would they find there, waiting quietly in the ruins and decay?
These urban explorers were rattled by what they had seen. The silence and the sensation of being cut off from the world were taking its toll on their senses. It must have been hours in the dark now, and it was surely night up above, in the world of fresh air and natural light that now seemed like a distant memory.
Was there someone down there in the dark with them, or had it been a trick of the light? – Either way, they had to get out. Visions of a gibbering maniac, crouching alone in the flooded room in the dark was enough to make them run.
With one flashlight and their own panicked footsteps for company, they tried to trace their way back. They could feel, as they drew breath, that the oxygen supply down there was dwindling.
Dale’s brain was starting to become oxygen deprived, and his blood pressure was rising, so much so that he started feeling a migraine coming on. Mike was experiencing it as well as his heart was pounding through his chest, and his legs felt like lead as they pumped him towards the exit.
Caught His Eye
Dale stopped mid-run and shone his flashlight on a puddle of dark water, straight ahead. He was sure they were going in the direction that they had come, but he couldn’t tell anymore. Navigational senses were useless below ground, with only a flashlight to guide the way through the tunnels that all looked the same.
They were lost and his heart sank. Then, he saw something wink in the corner of the waterlogged room — A glint that caught the light and bounced into his retina. Feeling delirious now, and with all reason escaping him, Dale shakily started to wade to where he thought he saw it. Mike saw Dale’s intentions and tried to stop him, but he was too weak to protest. Sliding down the doorway, he sat on the damp ground and watched helplessly.
Dale slid into the dirty water until he was knee-deep. It was icy cold, with little pockets of warmer water that swirled around him as he moved forward. Holding the flashlight with his mouth, he purposefully splashed to the far corner, where there was a pile of rubble that rose from the surface.
There it was again — Something winking back at him from the murky water. He made his way over and plunged his hands in and felt along the bottom with his fingers. They closed on something flat and solid with rounded edges, with engravings on one side. He slipped it into his pocket and made his way back to Mike, who was slumped on the far side of the room.
Finding An Exit
Dale started to organize his thoughts logically. They were lost, so they must have taken a turn at a junction further along. His instincts told him to find the junction where they had taken the wrong turn.
So they backtracked until they could no longer hear the dripping of the water, and the smell of sulfur started to diminish. Then, surpisingly, they saw the yellow door lying on its side in the doorway and knew they were close. Hope flooded their hearts when they turned and finally reached the long corridor. They furiously ran on and didn’t stop until they saw the dim light of the entrance in the distance.
Bursting from the bunker, Dale and Mike rested their hands on their knees and doubled forward, taking breaths of the fresh air. It was already night, and they could see the stars shining faintly through the trees. The backpacks that they had left at the entrance were still there and just the sight of it was like coming home to family after a long stay away. They lay down on the dead leaves to catch their breath. That’s when Dale remembered the prize that he had found.
Dale shone the flashlight onto it to take a closer look. It was heavy, and etched on it were some numbers that read 999,9. Then it hit him. What he was holding in his hand was a 500g bar of pure gold. He couldn’t believe his eyes! How long had it been down there for, in the forgotten bunker, lying in the rotten water for him to find it?
Other Treasure Hunters
Dale had no clue that there was a search going on in the area for WWII-era gold, and the rumors had sent one particular treasure hunter into a frenzy. Hans Glueck was a 76-year-old expert on a WWII treasure, and he was convinced that he located the exact place where it was hidden.
His suspicions were confirmed when a teenager found a gold bar that was similar in appearance to the one that Dale had found while she was swimming in a lake near her home. She handed it into the police, but a six-month investigation and search for the gold bar’s rightful owner had been fruitless. She was permitted to keep it.
Glueck’s search for WWII treasure had consumed his life, and with his metal detector, he’d carefully combed the world for the hoard of gold, diamonds, and artworks that were never recovered after the war. His quest was full of twists and turns.
According to Glueck, in the last days of the war, Chief Heinrich Himmler was ordered to empty the Berlin Reichsbank of its loot and send it on a train towards the Alps but was intercepted by advancing Russians. He was then arrested in 1945, and 76 kilograms of gold was recovered from where he had hidden them in his beetroot patch. But this was only a fraction of what the train had been carrying, and the remaining treasure has yet to be recovered.
After a television interview, Glueck was contacted by an anonymous man who gave him a map that he said he might find “interesting”. The map turned out to have belonged to an SS officer and had been hidden in the lining of his coat. Glueck followed the coordinates on the map, which led him to Arrach 15 times, but still, he returned empty-handed. Until one day in Autumn, it all came to him and he was “electrified”. He found an undisclosed area where the numbers on the map – 600, 900, and 750 – matched the location which he found by using a Geomagnetometer, which measures the earth’s magnetic field. He had found something momentous underground.
The Treasure hunter was motivated by the finding of the gold bar by the teenager in a lake, and made moves to excavate in an undisclosed wooded area, but was denied by the landowner. While searching for treasure is permitted by Bavarian law, digging requires permission. Could Dale have found a piece of the treasure that had somehow made its way into the WWII bunker?
As Dale was examining his little piece of treasure, he was disturbed by a disembodied light traveling through the woods. It flickered through the trees. At first, he thought his eyes were playing more tricks on him, but after a few seconds of it growing closer, the truth dawned on him all at once.
He called Mike, who had been speechless with anxiety since they had come to the surface, and told him that they needed to move. There was barking and growling, and it was growing nearer by the second.
Explorers run the risk of being caught by authorities, as the abandoned places that they are drawn to, are often located on private property or are unsafe — trespassers are often prosecuted. Dale knew that the police had gotten whiff of the two and their intentions, probably from the locals that they had spoken to about the site.
He cursed as he hefted his heavy backpack onto his shoulders and mustered every ounce of energy to run once again. Mike followed him, as they gave the policeman a wide berth and circled back to the path that would lead them home.
Home Sweet Home
Finally, Mike’s house came into view in the moonlight, promising warmth and food and a soft bed where the pair could recoup from their harrowing ordeal. Staggering into the entranceway, they tossed their heavy packs aside and went to their respective rooms.
Dale lay in bed that night with visions of forgotten gold and treasures running through his mind as he thumbed his precious find. Then he fell asleep and had a long, endless nightmare of stretching underground corridors and the echoing voices of all the long-gone people who had inhabited the bunker decades before.
The Gold Bar
Dale was thrilled with his find, but Mike was insistent that he hand it into the authorities. Dale soon realized that he had no choice. He handed it in with a heavy heart and explained that he had found it in the forest, omitting that he and Mike had trespassed and explored the abandoned bunker in the woods. Dieter Fisher, the policeman, was amazed.
His eyes had grown wide with surprise when they presented him with the gleaming bar of gold. He turned it over and over in his hands, exclaiming in disbelief, and immediately made a call.
Officer Fisher contacted them after a few days. The bar had been meticulously examined and was indeed 500g of the purest gold. But how much was it worth? – experts estimated a value of a staggering $18,000! – as with the teenage girl who had found a similar bar, he had to wait to see if the owner could be found before he could claim it as his own.
The bar’s identification number had been defaced making it difficult to find out where it came from.
Dale wanted desperately to return to the underground bunker to search for more treasure, but Mike was having none of it. What if there had really been someone living down there, doing who-knows-what in the dark? Mike shuddered as he recalled the crouching shadow he had seen down in the flooded room. It was not safe, and they had been incredibly foolish to even attempt such an excursion.
They were inexperienced Urban Explorers at best, and could easily have been overwhelmed by the dangerous gasses that they had disturbed in the water and succumbed to oxygen deprivation. They could have fallen and sustained injuries, with nobody to help them deep underground. The dangers were endless. That’s when Dale decided to watch the footage that he had taken with a Go-Pro recording device instead.
On closer inspection he was able to make out the silhouette that they had seen, but the light was extremely poor, and it could very well have just been a trick of the light, bouncing off the water and off the sodden walls. But the gold was very real.
He hoped that the owner would not be located. The unexpected windfall would solve all his money troubles, and he had been struggling of late. Watching the recording again though, he noticed something strange.
A Chilling Sound
Just at the point where he had thought that he had heard a little girl laughing, the image becomes grainy and blurred. There were no other anomalies on the recording, so he thought it was odd. And then he heard it: An unmistakable but faint tinkle of laughter. His scalp started to prickle, and chills went down his spine. He didn’t mention it to Mike, but that was the moment when he decided that he would not descend down into the bunker again. Not for any amount of gold in the world.
Who knows what’s hidden in the depths of the forgotten bunker, lying in wait for some brave soul to snatch it up. But who is brave enough to travel past the silent twin pipes guarding their secrets? Down into the forgotten labyrinth and the ruins of time, armed with fortitude and a flashlight, and perhaps a close friend… down through the stifling darkness and stench, through the noxious gas, lead, and live munitions?