A DOOMSDAY prepper who spent his life convinced the end of the world was imminent worked for decades building a sprawling nuclear bunker he planned to rebuild civilization from.
Bruce Beach had no doubt in his mind that he'd be alive to witness the end times, believing the vast majority of humanity would be wiped out in a nuclear holocaust.
The American-born bearded humanitarian, who was a follower of the Baha'i faith, was so convinced, in fact, that he spent the majority of his life preparing to become a post-apocalyptic Noah for members of his community in Horning Mills, Ontario.
His work began in 1979 when he began building what would later become known as the Ark Two.
Beach bought 42 school buses for around $300 a piece and buried them 14 feet beneath the ground, covering them in soil and concrete.
He then recruited legions of friends, family members, fellow survivalists and strangers to aid his cause, brainstorming ways to restart society in the wake of a nuclear strike and developing a universal language he believed could unite whatever was left of civilization through a common tongue.
Over the next forty years, he converted the bunker into a self-sustaining safe haven that could provide refuge for up to 500 people in the event of a nuclear blast.
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But before the fruits of his labor could be realized, Beach's life came to an end before the world's in May 2021, following a massive heart attack. He was 87-years-old.
Friends and family now say they're unsure of what will become of Beach's bunker because he never planned to die before the imminent catastrophe he envisioned, leaving few instructions on how to continue his work in the event of his unplanned absence.
"We were actually thinking of selling it at one point," Beach's daughter, Bahia Eldner, told The US Sun.
"But then we thought, 'how in the world would we even do that? How do you put something like this on the market to begin with? And what price would we put on it?' We just didn't know," she added with a laugh.
Beach's apparent nuclear awakening occurred during his time working in the US Air Force at the height of the Cold War, according to filmmaker and close friend Paul Kell.
He was stationed for a time in Greeland when USAF jets were doing sorties in the skies above him for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in preparation for a Soviet attack.
"I think for Bruce the whole nuclear war thing was pretty palpable from a very early age," Kell said.
"And then he started building bomb shelters for a company, which became the most successful shelter building company during the Cold War.
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"I think after the fall of the Soviet Union a lot of people thought the threat of nuclear war was over, but Bruce never did, even right up until his passing.
"He was convinced there would be a nuclear holocaust, with the first domino falling between Pakistan and India, and then the world would erupt from there."
THE ARK TWO
Beach built the Ark Two across a period of six years, from 1979 to 1985, and spent the next few decades maintaining and upgrading the bunker, believing the apocalypse to be coming any day soon.
The shelter, the largest privately built bunker in Northern America, spans over 10,000 square feet and is situated beneath several meters of concrete soil on the 12.5-acre property he shared with his wife in the small community of Horning Hills.
The fortified structure includes two commercial kitchens, full plumbing, a radio communications center, a chapel, and a decontamination room.
It also features a reception area, with cubbyholes "for firearms", a mortuary, a dentist's chair, and enough beds to sleep several hundred people.
Beach wouldn't charge people entry to his bunker, but he did only guarantee admission in return for what he called "sweat equity", requiring prospective dwellers to help out with chores in and around the bunker.
While Beach never disclosed how much he spent building Ark Two, Bahia joked to The US Sun that her entire "inheritance is sitting in that thing."
Bahia was a high school student when her father began working on the bunker. She said she doesn't remember much of its construction, only recognizing it was one of a number of her dad's "projects."
"He was always doing different stuff," Bahia said. "I wasn't really involved in it too much, but he'd always rope us into helping him with something."
Bahia added: "We'd always have people over the house, some of whom would end up living with us for a year or more.
"Instead of charging people money, he would make them help around the house by chopping firewood or moving things around before they ever got to step foot in the bunker.
"If people weren't willing to do that, then my dad had no time for them."
THE END AROUND THE CORNER
Describing her childhood as normal – save for a nuclear bunker in her backyard – Bahia said her dad was steadfast in his beliefs the world was going to end, but the date for the apparent imminent apocalypse was ever-changing.
"He'd give me the date and say, 'it's gonna happen on this day', but that day would come and go and then move it to another day," she said.
Amid the ongoing tensions in Europe, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bahia said she's unsure what her father would've made of the conflict, but said she believes he would've felt as though his visions of the apocalypse were edging closer to reality.
"His thinking was so different from anyone else's so it's hard to say what he'd think beyond that," Bahia said. "But his big thing was he wanted to save the children.
"That was his whole purpose of the bunker, to save young adults and people who could carry on humanity.
"That's why it was called the Ark, like Noah."
UNFIT FOR PURPOSE
More than 40 years on from Ark Two's completion, Kell said the shelter, which is damp and dimly lit, is in a state of disrepair and likely unfit to shelter anyone through a nuclear attack.
"I think the shelter's shelflife has since inspired," Kell said. "When he started building it in the later 1970s the expectation for him at that time was that he'd use it within a few years.
"He always felt the nuclear war was imminent and would happen in his lifetime.
"It had never happened," he added, "but when you think there's going to be no tomorrow you don't really plan for beyond that."
Kell spent nine years filming a documentary with Beach about his life, titled The Dawnsayer, which is due to be released later this year.
The pair first met in 2011, and over the next decade formed a close friendship.
Like Bahia, Kell said Ark Two was just one of a number of ambitious projects dreamt up by Beach that was never seen through to completion or reached the heights he'd anticipated.
'AN ELON MUSK TYPE'
According to Kell, Beach defined himself as a social inventor, whose Achilles heel was that everything he did was "extremely grandiose", often reaching far beyond his means.
"For example, like when he built the shelter, instead of building something small for his family, he built the largest privately constructed shelter in Northern America – and that pattern underlined most of what he did in life," he said.
In his forthcoming film, Kell said he highlights a number of incredible inventions Beach made, including what he believes should be recognized as the world's first portable computer.
"It was called the Light Writer and he made it around 1973," Kell said. "It was 15.5 pounds and came in a briefcase that had a modem, and a portable keyboard."
Beach had reportedly lined up a deal to mass-produce the device with Xerox, but the deal was ultimately killed by IBM, a giant in computing at the time, and the Light Writer never made it to market.
While for much of his life outsiders deemed Beach a "kook", Kell insists he was one or two lucky breaks short of being considered an innovative genius of his generation.
"Bruce could have very well have been a Steve Jobs-like figure or an Elon Musk type, but instead he ended up basically living in poverty," Kell said.
"There were a number of dreams that he came very close to realizing but, in the end, he was just a few lucky breaks away from infamy rather than obscurity, with the exception of the fame he got from the bunker."
A UNIVERSAL TONGUE
While Beach, both in his life and in the wake of his death, is best remembered for the Ark Two, both Kell and Bahia say the bunker was just one of his many dreams.
His ultimate goal, they say, was to create a Universal Auxiliary Language (UAL), intended to be used between people who don’t share a common first language.
When the rapture came, Beach believed that a singular tongue would be the most effective way to rebuild society from the ashes.
He left behind a half-finished blueprint for his UAL, called "Anjel Tung", which was a stripped-down, phonetic form of English that he thought would be easy for people to learn.
Beach authored various posts on his website about Anjel Tung, but never fully explained how the language would work in a world post-apocalypse.
"Again this was one of Bruce's grand ideas that he never managed to see through to the end … ultimately he just didn't have the money or support to do it," Kell said.
"Bruce's life was kind of a sad story in a way, but at the same time, it's very uplifting because, despite all the failures, setbacks, and all the other things that didn't go his way, there wasn't a day in his life that he wasn't optimistic and determined to accomplish his ultimate goal anyway.
"Life never beat him down," Kell added. "That's something I always found very inspiring about Bruce."
Above all else, both Kell and Bahia say Beach was a humanitarian, determined to "save humankind from itself."
"He devoted his entire life to doing that at the expense of everything," Kell said. "And there was never one ounce or moment of regret in his life.
"Most people identify success by the amount of money that you've made. People look at Bill Gates or the Steve Jobs of the world as success stories, but he said he felt he was a success.
"So even though he didn't achieve his goals he did feel that there was nothing in life that he didn't do or try, and he inspired a lot of people along the way.
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"There are a lot of people that were in Bruce's orbit that still to this day are helping to keep his dreams alive, to keep the shelter open, possibly even to keep his universal language plan alive for future generations.
"Some would argue that was a success," he added.
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