The Apple II Houses in Doom Town

[This article contains very minor spoilers from Season 4, Part I, of Stranger Things. If you haven’t watched it yet and want a completely spoiler-free viewing experience, put this issue aside and come back later. If you’ve already watched the show, read on. If you don’t care about that program, good for you! Continue reading!]

The rascal children of Stranger Things continue to pursue the upside-down forces of darkness, as the fourth season premiered in May 2022. The showrunners love to toss in Easter Eggs, some of which correspond to real-world locations. One such inclusion popped onto a viewer’s screen for a split second in Season 4. To date, the following information seems trivial in regards to the plot of the program. They are, however, a fun inclusion that points to some interesting history and geography of the United States.

These coordinates provided a clue to the whereabouts of a character:

A location flashed in Stranger Things

Pop this geolocation into your favorite mapping website and you’ll see a spot in Nevada about 75 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Zoomed out enough, the place might appear to be the middle of the desert. Amplify the microscope, however, and lines begin to emerge. Circles and other distinctly human geometries.

Evidence of human interaction begins to appear at the Stranger Things coordinates

Continue to focus and strange names materialize.

Apple II House.

Apple II House (Brick).

T-1 Training Area.

Fortune Training Area.

These coordinates fall inside the Nevada Test Site, formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds. On 27 January 1951, a B-50 Superfortress dropped a 1-kiloton nuclear weapon, named Able, at Frenchman Flat, kicking off Operation Ranger. For the next four decades, the U.S. military tested over 1,000 nukes in the 1,360 square miles of the open desert at the site.

You might wonder if this spot is a bit close to a metropolis for testing the baddest weapons on the planet. Well, to the movers and shakers of 1950s Las Vegas, the answer to the query is a fat no.

Despite seismic effects in Sin City, nuclear testing produced a significant influx of tourism. The mushroom clouds were visible from 100 miles away, well within the range of the glitzy hotels and casinos. They even touted “nuclear sunrises” as far away as Los Angeles, which is approximately 250 miles away.

Soldiers watch a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1951
Mushroom cloud viewed from Las Vegas - photo from National Nuclear Security Administration
Casinos and nukes - photo from Las Vegas News 
Atomic weapons test illuminates Los Angeles on 7 March 1955

In 1955, the U.S. military initiated Operation Teapot. This procedure consisted of 14 nuclear tests with the goal of improving tactics for ground forces on a nuclear battlefield.

Part of these trials included examining the effects of blasts on various types of buildings. The attention to detail in this endeavor was particularly stringent. Researchers constructed entire towns in an attempt to see what happens when nuclear weapons explode near human settlements. Crashtest (blasttest?) dummies even populated the villages, in the form of mannequins.

The promising opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trades in this portion of U.S. history before devolving into a terrible mess. I still don’t think I’ve recovered from what that film did to one of the world’s great franchises. Although Indy’s survival in a lead-lined refrigerator in the Nevada desert of 1957 is rather dubious, the test town and the depiction of the blast are quite accurate:

As you might imagine, most structures made for human residence stand no chance against nuclear weapons detonated around 10,000 feet away.

Which brings us back to those strange items near the coordinates from Stranger Things: the Apple II Houses.

As part of Operation Teapot, the military assembled Doom Town, also known as Survival Town. On 5 May 1955, the Apple-2 shot illuminated the night sky with a 29-kiloton warhead discharged in a tower. Under two miles away lay Doom Town. As expected, most of the buildings went kaput. First, the burst boiled paint off the structures; then, a shock wave shattered the physical forms, propelling them away from ground zero; finally, they were violently drawn toward the detonation by the suction caused by the mushroom cloud rising toward the sun.

Shockingly, as alluded to in the video above, some houses survived the power of the atom.

Two abodes endured the Apple-2 blast. In fact, they’ve persisted to the present! 

Apple II House in 2018 - photo by Frank Ghirlanda
The Apple II Brick House

As incredible as it is that these structures survived nuclear blasts, perhaps even more incredible is that they aren’t walled off in Area 51 or some other top-secret facility. Since the cessation of tests at the zone, you can go see these houses in person! The Nevada National Security Site offers tours, which include both Apple II houses.

Perhaps, if one believes Stranger Things, one might find something other than the eerie husks of test houses at these coordinates. The Nevada Test Site featured many more underground nuclear tests than atmospheric. Vast subterranean networks spider under the desert floor. To those of you who watch the show, does this photo look familiar?

Tunnel at the Nevada Test Site - U.S. Department of Energy

This location, perhaps better than any spot within the United States, represents the nuclear age and all its oddities, horrors, and power. The relics of the atomic race dot this desert. Here, doomed towns disintegrated and flukes survived.

Though the experiments in Nevada took place well under a century ago, watching the videos produced by the military and government feel as if they came from a different planet. To catch a peek at this other world, watch the video below, called Operation Cue, which is a 1964 update of the film produced from the Operation Teapot drops. Perhaps Stranger Things isn’t so fictional, after all!

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