Photographer Visits ‘Spooky’ Nuclear Bunker Made to Hold Members of Congress

A composite image features three scenes: a yellow room with patterned walls and a double door, a control room with a wall of switches and military helmets, and a display with an American flag, podium, and painting of the White House.
Left to right: Hidden blast door, control room, TV room for broadcasting.

For 30 years, a secret nuclear bunker designed to house all 535 members of Congress in the event of nuclear war lay hidden beneath the luxurious Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Photographer Alastair Philip Wiper tells PetaPixel he “had to go there.”

The secret operation began in the late 1950s — at the height of the Cold War — and was codenamed Project Greek Island. United States government officials approached the Greenbrier Resort with a proposal that Congress could use the facility if a nuclear international crisis happened.

The nuclear bunker was cleverly intertwined with the Greenbrier Hotel. “Conferences were regularly held in the halls intended to be used for sessions of Congress,” Wiper explains. “With guests blissfully unaware that they were inside a top-secret nuclear bunker.”

A narrow hallway with blue-tiled walls and ceiling, illuminated by a blue-tinted light fixture on the left wall. The hallway leads to a set of double doors at the end. Caution signs are visible on the floor.
In the event of an attack, members of Congress would have first been ushered to the decontamination room, where they would have stripped, showered, and put on uncontaminated clothes.
A large lecture hall with green upholstered seats arranged in rows. The room features white walls with light blue and white striped lower panels, white columns, and a ceiling with fluorescent lights. The space is empty and brightly lit.
The Governor’s Hall. Built to hold the House of Representatives in the event of a nuclear attack.
A spacious, empty industrial room with white walls, several large square pillars, and a polished light-colored floor. Overhead, there are rows of lighting fixtures attached to the ceiling beams. The room is brightly lit by fluorescent lights.
Exhibition Hall which staged trade fairs but was part of the nuclear bunker.
A spacious communal shower room with cream-colored tiled walls and multiple showerheads arranged on the side walls. The floor is covered with matching tiles, and the room is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights.
Communal showers.
A tidy military-style dorm room with two sets of tan metal bunk beds, one on each side. The center has an open locker displaying a green uniform, hangers, and a small canister on the top shelf. The room has overhead lighting and a shiny floor.
The dormitories comprise 18 rooms, each built to house 60 people in metal bunk beds. There is also a kitchen and a 400-seat cafeteria, which was at one point decorated with fake windows featuring scenic views.

The existence of Project Greek Island was revealed by the Washington Post in 1992 which led the government to decommission the bunker. It is now used as a data storage company (they were attracted to the bunker’s security) but the parts that don’t have servers are now available to visit.

“It was pretty spooky,” Wiper says. “It was amazing to imagine what it must have been like if it had actually been used.”

In the event of a nuclear catastrophe, senators and members of the house would have been ushered into the decontamination chamber, their clothes would have been burned and they would have all had to wear the same uniforms.

Members of Congress would have been expected to stand in a TV studio with a picture of the White House behind them while addressing whatever remained of the American population. There was a tiny jail with two boxes of straight jackets in case any of the congressmen and women went crazy.

A person with short blond hair sits at a desk typing on a computer keyboard. The desk is cluttered with various office supplies and papers, and a nameplate reads "Deanna Hylton." Behind them is a large landscape painting, and the room is well-lit with overhead lights.
Tour guide Deanna Hylton working in the bunker. This room was used by the government employees maintaining the bunker, who were pretending to be TV repairmen working for the hotel.
A control room with a vintage setup, featuring communication equipment, surveillance screens, and technical diagrams on the wall. Two camouflage military caps and a gas mask sit atop the desk. A rotary dial phone and microphone are also on the desk.
Security room. After its construction, the Greenbrier bunker was maintained by 12-15 permanent government employees who worked undercover as members of an Arlington-based television repair company called Forsythe Associates, who pretended to be doing TV work for the hotel.
A small podium stands in front of a large photograph of the White House, displayed on a wall in a room with blue carpeting. An American flag is placed to the right of the podium. The ceiling features a circular vent.
Television, radio, and communications facilities. In the event of a nuclear attack, members of Congress would have been expected to give speeches broadcast to whatever was left of the American population. The TV conference room even includes a backdrop of the White House and Capitol Building, giving the illusion of normalcy.
A cutout of a man in a suit stands next to a corner of a room with gray walls. A vintage television sits on a wooden stand below a small wall-mounted display case holding pins or medals. The room has blue carpet, and there's a piece of equipment on the floor.
A cutout of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president that commissioned the bunker.

“The bunker’s power room includes a ‘pathological waste incinerator’ designed to cremate bodies,” Wiper adds. “The bunker also has a hospital, operating room, and pharmacy, which once kept a plentiful supply of antidepressants.”

Wiper visited the Greenbrier Resort as part of a wider project called How We Learned to Stop Worrying . PetaPixel previously featured his visit to a cryogenics facility in Scottsdale, Arizona that preserves over 200 human bodies and heads.

The photographer spent a day in West Virginia with an assistant and a guide using a digital medium format Fujifilm GFX 100S and a remote strobe to capture the facility clinically.

A spacious interior with red and beige walls, featuring a checkered black-and-white tile floor. Several square columns are evenly spaced throughout the room, each partially painted red. The ceiling is white with recessed lighting panels and some visible vents.

A medical examination room with an adjustable chair, covered with white paper, situated under a large examination lamp. A medical supply cabinet containing various items is in the background, along with a blood pressure monitor and other medical instruments.
The bunker has a hospital, operating room, and pharmacy, which once kept a plentiful supply of antidepressants.
A room with bright yellow patterned wallpaper and a shiny, patterned floor. There is a large, closed, grey, metal door in the center, a red fire alarm on the right wall, and an image of a building on the left wall. A circular light fixture is on the ceiling.
Hidden blast door to the nuclear bunker.

A well-lit, clean hospital hallway with white walls and a reflective tiled floor. The corridor has closed double doors at the far end, overhead fluorescent lights, and several doors along the sides. The scene is empty, with no people present.

A woman sits alone in an empty auditorium with rows of green chairs. She is wearing a patterned top and appears to be waiting or observing something. The room has beige walls with small windows and a door in the background. The scene is well-lit with overhead lights.

More of Wiper’s work can be found on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs by Alastair Philip Wiper.