A BoJ Field Trip/Research Project

My dad came to visit over Memorial Day weekend. If you’re wondering after reading my previous post about what happens whenever my in-laws visit, you’ll be happy to know that my dad’s stay was thankfully uneventful.

The timing of him coming when he did worked out fairly well—I’d hit a stumbling block with one of my stories, because I was trying to describe a place I’d never been to; I’d only seen pictures/video. By coming when he did, he unwittingly volunteered to help me research by traveling 45 minutes north to the town of Hutchinson, KS (aka “Hutch” to the locals) to visit the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, otherwise known as Strataca.

Admittedly, it doesn’t look like much from the parking lot.

Strataca has been a fully functioning salt mine since the 1920’s, but just opened to the public in 2007. They provide tours of the facility, showing how the salt is mined and how they go about day to day operations. There is also an underground vault and storage area, which was key to our visit. More on that in a minute.

As the name implies, the salt mine is underground. WWAAYY underground. 650 feet, to be exact. And there’s only one way down (or back up, naturally)—a huge elevator that plummets you into total blackness for about 90 seconds. When you step off the elevator you have to remind yourself that you really are underground; the area just off  the elevator is just massive. Huge open areas with higher ceilings than you’d expect display the tools they use to cut, drill, and blast into the mine, as well as the vehicles they use to get around, like these Road Warrior-looking monsters:


There was both a train and a tram that would take you around some of the abandoned areas of the mine, which was incredibly cool. The size of it is really astounding; they said they might be in danger of running out of salt to mine in a few hundred years. But, as interesting as it all was, it was not really the true purpose of the visit—as I said earlier, I was doing research:

A secured area? Exciting!
A secured area? Exciting!

As I mentioned, the salt mine is also home to an underground vault and storage area. Thousands of things are stored down there, with it’s secure, climate-controlled abandoned mines providing near-perfect conditions for long term storage. And the biggest customer to take advantage of the storage area? Hollywood studios. Some of the items are out on display.

Dorothy II !
Dorothy II !
There are a lot of all cool and valuable things in the vault. They also have this suit worn by Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels
There are a lot of all cool and valuable things in the vault. They also have this suit worn by Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels
Probably my favorite thing I saw in there.
Probably my favorite thing I saw down there.

The ‘research’ I was doing was for a story about some nimrod criminals who find themselves at Strataca and realize how much valuable booty is stored inside. And despite being so stupid, they’re also quite arrogant.

Boxes o'stuff.
A few shelves with dummy boxes, to give people an idea how much is kept in the actual storage area, which is vast.
Could these BE better pictures?
Could these BE better pictures?

They start to get a harebrained idea.

Sure, Dean Cain's Superman suit is cool...
Sure, Dean Cain’s Superman suit is cool…
And so is Matt Damon's outfit from Monuments Men. But do you see all those film reel canisters behind them?
And so is Matt Damon’s outfit from Monuments Men. But do you see all those film reel canisters behind them?


They start to think certain types of people might pay a lot of money for some of the stuff stored down there. Stupidity ensues.

Strataca is a really neat place, and if you ever find yourself in the middle of the country you should certainly take a couple of hours to visit (and, if you have the time, you should also check out Hutch’s other crown jewel, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center—they have all sorts of rocket/space stuff).

My dad and I walked through the entire mine/museum before heading back to the massive elevator that would take us back up to the surface. While we were waiting, I asked, “So…how would we rob it?”

Research is fun.

Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2.

2 thoughts on “A BoJ Field Trip/Research Project

  1. I think that is one of the best parts of writing a story – the little back stories into research or an idea. I was arrested once on a failure to appear over a traffic ticket I didn’t even know about… and started grilling the arresting officer over procedures and such. The worst part was that my neurotic brain and lack of filter made my first question be something along the lines of “How many people do you have to kill before you’re labled as a serial killer, or the FBI gets involved?”
    The looks on their faces were priceless until I explained why I wanted to know.

    1. I know what you mean. I’m doing a ride along next month with the local PD, and I’m already wondering how much I can ask them before I end up on some kind of watch list.

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: