In December 2005, Fred Strunk was arrested for
his part in
constructing and operating a secret marijuana farm
in a cave under their house.
Their pot farm was located on Dixon Springs Road in eastern
Trousdale County, Tennessee. This
area is about 40 miles northeast of Nashville. Here
is the story.
THE AMAZING POT FARM!!
Written by Rick Archer, November
Long ago I
concluded that marijuana is probably less damaging
than alcohol. But since alcohol is legal,
whenever it is time to relax a little, I have
decided it is much easier to drink than get stoned.
That said, I don't worry too much about people who
smoke pot. I think the laws against marijuana
are way behind the times.
I smoked marijuana several times when I was in
college (40 years ago). Yes, I found smoking pot worked
wonders for music, food, and you know what.
But then I noticed how difficult it was to
concentrate on my studies the day after. Realizing my
problem was directly related to marijuana use the
previous evening, I decided there was no way I was
going to jeopardize my grades again. So that
was the end of that. I chose the Margarita
over the Marijuana.
I hate hard drugs and I dislike the violence
associated with them. At the same time, I openly admit I got a huge kick out of the story
you will soon be reading. I have no idea
how to explain the hypocrisy inherent to my interest
in this story. Even though I
am a law-abiding citizen with a clean slate, I guess
a dark side that was
impressed by the guts and the ingenuity of
the men who put together the pot farm.
Over twenty years
ago I had an indirect experience with a
sophisticated marijuana operation. One morning
in 1985 I opened the
morning paper to discover that one of my SSQQ dance
students had been arrested. Goodness gracious,
he had been busted
for operating a pot farm! With morbid
fascination, I read the details of how one of our fellow dancers had
been taken into police custody
for operating a marijuana
farm up in the hill
country outside of Austin.
The man’s name was Robert (seen
in his ssqq Halloween costume at right.) Since
Robert was a very popular guy at the studio,
naturally we were all pretty
shocked. Although he
a bit of a rogue,
friendly and outgoing. No one had a
clue what he had been up to in his spare time.
Using agriculture skills he gained at Texas A&M,
Robert had devised a state-of-the-art greenhouse
complete with grow lights and a
sprinkler system that operated
automatically. The pot farm
basically ran itself. Robert only visited the place
once a week until it was time to harvest the crop.
I don’t remember exactly how Robert got caught, but
my feeble memory suggests someone who lived in the
sparsely populated rural
noticed how odd it was to have the lights on in the
dark of the early AM. Curious, the neighbor
walked over for a closer look. Once the person
figured out what was going on, he alerted the
authorities who decided to stake out the building until Robert showed up.
Robert did NOT want to go to jail.
Robert told us he was just the
caretaker for someone else who put up the money
(no, it wasn't me!)
had been caught
red-handed. Despite trying every legal maneuver he
could think of, Robert ended up serving a
couple years of jail time.
me, I live life on the straight and narrow.
But that doesn't keep me from studying people like
Robert with fascination.
The last time
I heard of Robert, he was running a business for men
who wanted to marry Russian wives.
From Russia With Love!!
Same old Robert - always
Some people just aren't
cut out for the normal life. They would rather
live life on the edge of danger. Our
story now turns to another man - Fred Strunk - who
risked everything for a secret marijuana cave.
THE GREAT TENNESSEE
In December 2005, Fred Strunk,
Brian Gibson, and Greg Compton were arrested for their part in
constructing and operating a secret marijuana farm
in a cave under their house.
Their pot farm was located on Dixon Springs Road in eastern
Trousdale County, Tennessee. This
area is about 40 miles northeast of Nashville.
Trousdale County is not
exactly a well-known center for criminal activity.
Located in the hills of rural northern
Tennessee, Trousdale is the smallest county in the state.
This story seemed like an
episode straight out of the Dukes of Hazzard -
three super-smart rogues trying to outwit the hick country sheriff!
However, this time it was the police who came away
What the police discovered was
nothing short of amazing.
Operating on reports of suspicious
activity, they raided a beautiful A-frame home built in the
middle of nowhere.
From the outside, the pot house looked like a beautiful
out in the woods, but investigators quickly realized
served as a prop designed to conceal the amazing pot farm
below. There was a lot more going
on in that house than met the eye.
In an underground cavern located beneath
the stylish A-frame home,
the police found a sophisticated
operation which grew as much as 100 pounds of marijuana
every eight weeks. This secret high-tech underground cave
seemed more likely to be part of a Hollywood drug movie too
crazy to believe, except that in this case it was real.
Using two rooms, our clever crooks were able to
generate 12 to 14 crops a year. Each crop had an
estimated street value around $500,000 or more. Do the
math. At this rate, 13 crops a year would bring in
That's a lot more than you or I make, yes? The
difference is that you and I aren't going to jail. This incident became the biggest
pot bust in Middle Tennessee history.
Rick Archer's Note: As you
read this story, please keep in mind
I have absolutely
no personal connection to this story.
I live in Houston,
Texas. This happened in Tennessee. I
have never met any of these people in my life.
One day in 2007
I received all the pictures posted here in an email that was
being forwarded around the Internet. The email
contained these fascinating pictures, but had no
explanation attached. This is only a guess,
but I think the email was created by one of the policemen who
busted the pot farm.
I was so frustrated not to know the story!!
Curious about the origin of the pictures, I
researched the story on the Internet. Using
Google, I came up with the answer. When I
discovered the story behind the pictures, I combined
the pictures from the email with the information I
discovered, then added my own thoughts.
This is a first look at the sophisticated underground
marijuana farm that the cops discovered.
The house was built on
top of a natural cave, but
investigators say no one lived there. The
house wasn’t even furnished.
Hidden inside the house was
a secret passageway into a
A corridor led from
the hidden doorway into the cave. The corridor had
cinderblock walls, a concrete
ceiling and floor.
The thick metal door to
the secret passageway was held in place by a hydraulic
motor. If someone didn't want you to enter, you would
probably need a small bomb to get in.
the hydraulic door, there was a 40 foot long sloping
downward to the cave.
The cave itself stretched
250 feet (nearly the length of a football
field!) Inside the cave there
were offices, living quarters, and
a growing area. Our rogues spent no
time at all in the house itself.
The office space
came first, then a living area furnished with three
or four colorful bunk beds for camping out in the cave, and
a restroom with a shower and plenty of toiletries. Behind
the restroom was a kitchen with a
fully stocked pantry, air conditioning and microwave.
All the comforts of home, only
this cave was meant for business.
More than 1,000 marijuana
plants were grown deep underground.
There were two growing areas - one held starter plants and
the other held maturing plants. Each
had its own irrigation system. The lights and climate
control kept the air at the perfect temperature: 87 degrees.
room housed 500 to 600 small
marijuana plants. In the picture above,
you can see the clever irrigation system laid on top of each
5 gallon bucket. A few well-timed drips a day worked
wonders. Plants grew faster in this controlled
environment than they would have grown naturally outside.
area had plants
that were nearly ready to harvest.
In this room you could see 500 to 600 plants as tall
as six feet.
Once the plants were harvested, their
buckets were filled with new seedlings.
Just behind the growing
area is the work space with all the equipment to keep the
Ironically, none of the three men
charged with growing marijuana in that cave
actually lived in Middle
Tennessee. Nor did the
investigators think the drugs were sold in Trousdale County.
Apparently the growers thought that
would be too dangerous so they took their crops elsewhere to
sell. More likely they took it to nearby Nashville.
The operation was enormous.
would grow 100 pounds of pot every 8 weeks.
The job of harvesting the marijuana was so big that they
actually brought in outside labor!
To harvest the illegal
crop, the men would hire a half-dozen Hispanic workers in
Arizona and drive them all the way
to Tennessee. For part of the journey the windows on the van
would be covered so the workers did not know where they
were. When they got close to home,
they told the workers to put on blindfolds. They
the workers right into the cave,
take off their masks, and let them out to begin
working. (I wonder how on earth
they talked these men into being blindfolded!)
And yes, the operation was quite profitable. The
investigators said the men were growing enough
marijuana to make $6 million to $8 million a year.
Who would guess that farming could be so profitable!
THE SECRET ESCAPE ROUTE
In case the
growers had to make a run for it, they built an escape
route. It ran
150 yards from the cave to the surface.
First there was a hidden door in the
ceiling of the pot growing area followed by a long ladder.
As you can see above, the ceiling
escape hatch was painted the same color as the ceiling
to create a disguised escape route. I suppose the
idea was if they needed to leave fast, they could crawl
into the ceiling, kick the ladder away, replace the
concealed entrance, and sneak away.
Just beneath the
ground, there is another trap door. Here a
hydraulic jack lifts the second
trap door, which is hidden underneath
a boulder. The escape hatch
lets out 100 yards from the
home. No one driving by would
have any idea what lies
SO HOW DID THEY GET CAUGHT?
This place was a
virtual modern fortress. In addition to the secret entrance
and the secret escape hatch, there were surveillance cameras
everywhere to warn the people inside of snoopers. With such a sophisticated and well-hidden
operation, surely you wonder how did these
ever got caught?
I wondered the same thing. In
October 2006 my friend Gary Richardson sent me an email that
contained all the pictures listed above. The pictures
had captions included, but there was no story that
accompanied the pictures. I wondered where the Pot
Farm was located and what the story was. I asked Gary
if he knew anything, but he replied he didn't know the story
I loved the pictures! But without the story, my
imagination was going wild. What could possibly have
tripped up such a terrific operation? Where did they
make their mistake?
Unable to be satisfied with just the
pictures, I decided to give the Internet and Google a try.
I had one very big clue: the first picture said "a house in
Tennessee." So I typed in "marijuana bust tennessee".
Within seconds, I had the story. Isn't Google
Now I was able to learn how they got caught. I will
give you the answer in a moment, but first see if you can
guess. One of the possibilities below is correct.
Exorbitant cash expenditures made
A truck carrying
marijuana got pulled over by State Police.
disruptions in the area made officials suspicious.
on wife and wife turned him in for revenge.
how to split the money turned one man into a rat.
Putting too much
cash in one bank made a bank official suspicious.
A Mexican farm
worker hired to help harvest the crop tipped the
A dealer got
caught and pointed the finger up the chain to save his
neighbor was curious to learn why no one seemed to live
in the house.
A huge infrared
heat signature gave them away. The heat alone coming out from
the ventilation system would appear on any thermal
Are you ready for the answer? If you guessed
"Electrical Power Disruptions", then
go to the head of the class. Yes, suspicious
fluctuations in the area's electricity led to their
downfall. Personally, I wouldn't have guessed this was
the answer in
a thousand years!
The men started stealing electricity from the local
power lines to supply their fortress.
They spliced into wires and caused power disruptions
to the local area. Supervisors at
the local power company were losing power somewhere and
decided to look into it.
Back when Fred
Strunk and company were
building their invisible fort, the
local electric company was asked to install a
transformer than usually required by a residence. But
once the growing operation began, Fred
and his gang
found to their dismay they still did not have enough electrical power to operate
the grow lamps required to raise 1,000
marijuana plants at a time.
were afraid to ask the electric company
to install more power
since this would be a very suspicious request without a
"reason" to explain the greater need.
Afraid to risk exposure by making a second request, this
left them with two choices: reduce the size of their
operation or steal the needed electricity. They chose
the latter path. The men
spliced into the Tri-County Electric line and
began to steal electricity.
thirst for electricity proved to be their downfall.
The electricity company detected that a large amount of
electricity was disappearing. Since there was no simple answer
to account for the problem, the company had no choice but to track the problem down.
Investigators eventually discovered the illegal splices and
alerted the police.
(RICK ARCHER'S NOTE ONE:
wish I could be more specific with the details about how
they got caught. As I previously mentioned, I have
absolutely no direct connection to this story at all.
Everything I report is something I gained from research on
the Internet. I am very curious myself to learn more
details. I must have read through a dozen
different stories on the Internet and what I have shared
with you is all I could find out.
For a while, I wondered why the articles were so
were vague when discussing how the police tracked Fred down.
After all, the same stories gave a thorough description of
After giving it some thought, I decided that the lack of
information was deliberate. Most of the articles I
read were from Tennessee newspapers.
Since the newspaper articles about
Fred's Pot Bust were written from interviews with Law Enforcement, I suppose
the police didn't want to be too candid about how they got
onto to his trail and take the chance that other potential bad guys
might learn from
(RICK ARCHER'S NOTE
TWO: In April
2008, I received an email that answers some of the questions
I raised above. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of
the email, but my gut feeling is that this account is
correct. I appreciate the help!)
ABOUT THE DOWNFALL OF THE POT FARM
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:13 AM
Subject: Pot farm information
"I received your page in an email and have more information
My brothers and I hunt just outside of Hartsville, TN (near
Trousdale) and one of my brothers lives there. The following story
comes from my brother who knows many people up there.
He told me that an
electric company official went to the property to
investigate the power spike. He went to the front gate. Yes,
the geniuses had an "estate" gate that you would imagine
would be at the front of a mansion. The official could not
raise anyone from the elaborate intercom system and hopped
the side fence. He went to the house; found that there was
nothing inside. The idiots didn't even put up heavy curtains
or such to hide the vacant nature of the home. When
the official was looking in the window someone came out of
the woods with a shotgun and told him to get off of the
property. Now, they may not be the most intelligent people
in the world, but if you are doing something illegal,
wouldn't you try to make the official leave without pissing
him off? Well, you guessed it; the official went to
the police and reported the suspicious incident.
My brothers and I have talked about this for a few years,
and, being the stereotypical 'Monday morning quarterbacks",
would have set up some other LEGAL operation going to account for
the power spike. Our other explanations: small
factory, brewery, computer server bank that could be turned
off and on…
Also, a few more points: They found a dead neighbor a few
months before the bust. It is thought that one of the escape
hatches came out onto his property and the victim
encountered one of the pot farmers. A few days after
that they found two dead immigrants on outlying properties.
It is thought that the pot farmers were tying up loose ends.
I hope this gives you more information. This story was
better than most cop movies."
A RESPONSE TO
THE LETTER ABOVE
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:26 PM
Subject: pot farm
I was doing some web surfing and came across your page on
the Tennessee pot farm. I grew up here in Nashville. All I
have to say is Tennessee is the second largest producer of
Marijuana in the country, next to California. It is very
much a part of Appalachian culture and is used by just about
everyone. Everything comes through Nashville. So much is
produced and trafficked through here. And everyone knows
everyone. It's a given here, you never say names and you
never talk about who you know, because everyone knows
I mean there is a serious underground marijuana
movement in Tennessee. The old farmers have taught the kids
everything they know. Now all the kids are grown up and
pulling the weight themselves. Anyways, in answer to your
question, how did Freddie get caught? It was a snitch. He
didn't want to pay what the wizard was asking, got pissed,
and snitched. It was that simple. His whole operation went
down because of some jerk. People out here are pros. It's
never "carelessness" that gets them busted.
It's always some
greedy kid new to the game, thinks he can push his own
prices. The snitch told the electric company, who then investigated.
I don't know what happened to the informant, but I'm sure he
was probably a low life that got busted on some other
charge. As for the dead immigrants in
that other letter, I think that was bull.
These guys were professional gardeners, not murderers, I mean its
weed, not crack.
probably already scratching your head wondering why someone is
replying to something you posted in 2007.
DOES CRIME PAY?
The ancient axiom says
"Crime doesn't pay". The Tennessee Pot Farm case gives an
ironic slant to this saying.
If the men had simply "paid" for their electricity, no one
would ever have said a thing. But they had a problem.
Once they realized they didn't have enough current to run
their operation to capacity, they had three choices:
could run their operation at half-capacity and settle
for a slower return on their enormous investment.
could ask the electric company to give them more juice
and risk revealing their setup.
could steal the extra power and hope no one would
know what their decision was. And their gamble paid off
for a while. Mastermind Fred Strunk
lived the good life with an expensive home in Florida plus a
But now Fred Strunk, 63, is not only facing 18 years of prison, he
lost every cent he put into his operation. His house
and all his holdings were confiscated by the government.
The pot house is now up for sale! In addition, he is
expected to reimburse Tri-City Electricity $61,000 for the
energy he stole.
$61,000. That's quite a light bill.
INSIDE THE CRIMINAL MIND
Did you enjoy the pictures of the high-tech operation?
Take a quick guess who published the pictures.
No, it wasn't me. The pictures were published
by the authorities who
busted Fred and Friends. Like trophy
hunters, the crime fighters wanted the world to see the
evidence of their good police work.
Obviously the police were proud of themselves and rightly
so. I can't imagine that Fred is your every-day
run of the mill criminal. In the game of "Cops and Robbers", it had to be a
thrill to catch a smart guy like Fred.
told, back when Fred was building his underground
fortress, I would have put money that Fred would get away with
it. Given what little I know about catching
bad guys, I cannot
imagine how an operation this well planned would ever be caught!
Therefore I suppose another reason to publicize this
remarkable drug bust was to discourage other would-be pot
farmers from trying as well.
One reason to
publish the story is to make a point to all the bad
guys out there. If someone as smart as
Fred can be caught, what chance does anyone else have?
Better not try it!
SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
I put together this article, I realized that I
admired Fred for his enormous gamble. In the
process, I began to wonder why a law-abiding citizen
like myself was on the side of the bad guys instead
of the good guys. After all, these guys
weren't exactly Robin Hood. They were drug
dealers. I examined my feelings. Why was I vaguely sympathetic?
Embarrassing as it
is, I have to admit sometimes I root for the bad
guy.... depending on the crime of course.
Growing up, my favorite TV show was the
Fugitive! For that matter,
Oceans 11, The Score, Topkapi, The
Italian Job, After the Sunset, and the Cary Grant
classic To Catch a Thief are just a
of movies that come to mind about
smart thieves who risk it all to pull off dangerous capers.
We go to see movies like these because they are fun.
I don't know about you, but as long as no one gets
hurt, I usually root for the bad guys to get away
with it. Nor do I think I am alone.
Movies like these usually do good box office.
If the thief is clever and there is no victim crying
with grief, it is fun to root for the bad guy.
On the other hand, if the bad guy is some crook like
Bernie Madoff, I say lock him up for life.
Obviously I am very conflicted.
In the movies, the
bad guys often win.
But that's the movies. In real life, Fred put it all
on the line and lost everything.
Fred lost his dream, his freedom, and millions of dollars. He
is sentenced to be in prison till he is 81. This means
Fred will likely be in his 70s before he gets parole.
By the time he gets out I would imagine Fred will be a bit too old to give it
another shot . And truth
be told, I am sorry he got caught.
Hard drugs are one thing, but I guess memories from my
hippie days remind me that marijuana isn't that
dangerous. Furthermore, as crimes go, from what
I read about Fred's escapade, there weren't any suffering
But then on the other hand, if Fred hadn't gotten caught, we
wouldn't have had his fascinating story to tickle our
fantasies, now would we?
And of course you have to wonder if someone like Fred is
smart enough to come up with an operation this clever, why
didn't he consider trying to use his talents in a legal
Don't cheaters win some of the time? If
it isn't Fred, then it is my old friend Robert
trying to cash in on a strange scam like Russian
The temptation to take a short cut is out
there for all of us.
I suppose that is why the police decided to send
pictures of Fred's demise flying around the
Internet. Fred is living proof that crime
doesn't pay. Tales like the capture of Fred
the Marijuana Man keeps ordinary people
like me from harboring even the slightest fantasy
that pulling off a daring crime might actually
Dixon Springs “Drug Cave” house burns
Macon Country Times
State and local authorities are investigating a Tuesday
night, December 5 fire that destroyed a $1 million gated
A-frame house in the Cato community of Trousdale County.
Arson was strongly suspected in the 11 p.m. blaze, which
brought firefighters from both Hartsville and Riddleton to
the scene, and to the scene of a second fire which broke out
at the same time and in the same general area, less than a
mile from the Macon-Trousdale county line.
The resort-like home, located at 2125 Dixon Creek Road, hid
an entrance to a sophisticated underground marijuana growing
operation whose owner was arrested in December 2005.
Authorities said a second home, located just a half mile
away, also burned at about the same time Tuesday, pointing
even more strongly to arson as the probable cause.
Metro Hartsville Sheriff's chief deputy Waylon Cothron said
the state Fire Marshall and several other law enforcement
agencies were investigating the cause of the fires.
The second fire, also called in at about 11 p.m., destroyed
a vacant home undergoing renovation on the Scanty Branch
Road. Formerly the residence of the late Edison Cornwell,
the house which burned belonged to Raydean Gregory,
according to Jerry Richmond of Hartsville radio station WTNK.
“They'd been working on the house, thinking about putting in
new windows, stuff like that,” said Richmond. “The shame of
it is there was an old abandoned house that needed to be
burned right next to the good house that was destroyed.”
“Obviously it was determined to be acts of arson because we
had two unoccupied houses within a half mile of each other
that burned at the same time,” Chief Cothron said.
The lavish, gated home, which had been confiscated by the
state, had been used by Fred Strunk, 63, of Florida and two
other men, Brian Gibson and Greg Compton to hide a large
“pot cave” equipped with artificial lighting and irrigation
system. The elaborate operation included an office and bunk
room which could sleep eight, and escape hatches that could
have been used to elude law enforcement.
The drug operation was one of the largest found in
Tennessee, with capacity to grow as many as 800 marijuana
plants and was alleged to have produced millions of dollars
in illegal proceeds. Strunk pleaded guilty in Wilson County
Criminal Court last summer to charges of manufacture of
marijuana, money laundering and theft. Strunk had been
lodged in the Macon County Jail for the period of time
before his trial.
The other two men arrested with Strunk are also now serving
time in connection with the crimes. The property in
Trousdale County, along with boats, a van and other property
in Florida, were also seized by the state and confiscated
when Strunk was arrested.
“We deal with arson in this business on a regular basis,”
said Assistant District Attorney David Durham, “Sometimes
there is no motive or could simply be an act of vandalism.
It could be a conspiracy. It could be a number of different
things,” Durham said.
Internet location of this story
Rick Archer's Note: I would like to thank my friend Gary
Richardson for passing on these amazing pictures. He
forwarded a PowerPoint presentation filled with the pictures
you have seen above. Please note that none of the
information in this story is in any way copyrighted.
Everything I printed was borrowed from newspaper articles on
I have noticed
that many of the original newspaper
stories about the Pot
Farm event have disappeared from their original locations on
To read them, click here.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Editor's Note: I originally
posted this story in November 2006.
Since then, the article has become a
minor Internet phenomenon as people
click in to see the pictures and
read the story. Not
surprisingly, many readers have
thoughts they wish to share.
Every year I get new letters. Here are some of the emails I have
If you would like to join the
From: Robert H
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2007 6:02 PM
Subject: great story
Thanks for the great story. For all the thought
that went into this operation, it's odd to me
that they didn't install a supplemental
solar/wind or state-of-the-art hydrogen power
system. They obviously had the money and the
underground area was perfect for high capacity
storage batteries. The simplest solution would
have been a large propane fired generator
sound-shielded by the cave and state-of-the-art
absorbent material. It came down to greed, since
there were technological fixes that could have
hidden their excessive power usage or they could
simply have grown less. But, eventually, any of
the other eight scenarios would have done them
in. As an aside, for all the money wasted on the
Drug War, we could all be using
solar/wind/hydrogen systems every single day.
From: Leo W
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 4:27 AM
Subject: Hi Rick and greetings from England
I just read that amazing story of the pot bust
in the cave, within the last month here in
England the police found a number of similar
large scale operations in empty rented houses in
England, they where run by Vietnamese, the funny
thing is that they too tapped into and illegally
sliced into the electricity grid, but more
strange was that they where not busted because
of that, they where busted, because England is
so small these houses are kinda on top of one
another and the neighbours complained because of
From: Joe S
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 11:09 AM
Subject: Your Article ...POT
I just read the article about the house in
Tennessee. As I read in fascination, I realized,
it really wasn't the information that was
keeping my interest. It was the way this
information was being told. Your descriptive
dialog is what was intriguing.
You ar every good at letting people see your
personality. Now your probably thinking this is
a compliment and it surely is, but the reason
I'm contacting you is. I'm wondering, if you
would perhaps be interested in Ghost Writing a
manuscript I wrote back in the Eighties. I think
its very good, but of coarse I would. I am not
as gifted a writer as you. It was something I
did, to see if I could, as I always had a yearn.
But once you do this, you see your limits and
face the truth. So I packed it away.
This day and age there are several ways to
publish any writing. I dont know, the legal
obstacles, that would surface. But I know 50% of
something is better then 50 %, of nothing . As
it could be alot of work for nothing. Just a
Thank you for your time.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2007 2:30 PM
To: Joe S
Subject: Your Article ...POT
Bless your heart, you have given me a wonderful
compliment. Thank you very much.
I will be honest - I run two businesses (dance
studio, travel agency) that I can barely keep up
with as is. I can't see any chance of finding
any free time to help you as I continue to write
my own stories.
Nevertheless, I am deeply touched by your
request. I am very grateful that you have
thought of me in this way.
From: Alex F
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 2:07 AM
Subject: pot house story
I just read the thing you put together on the
pot house and I wanted to pass my compliments
along. It was well done and funny.
Also, I've got a question and I was wondering if
there was anyway you could help. The place
was"put up for sale by the gov" and also "was
burned down", so does that mean its still for
sale, and just somewhat charred?
From: Kyle O
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 10:24 AM
Subject: pot farm
The guy likely was caught because of the huge IR
(infrared) signature his place was putting off
to the cops. The heat (alone) coming out from
the ventilation system would look red as hell on
any thermal imaging devices which are now
readily used by law enforcement agencies.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:10 PM
Subject: RE: pot farm
I think the reports deliberately downplayed the
means by which the Pot Farm was detected, but
the rumor was the electric company caught them.
Wouldn't the pot farm understand the need to
protect against a thermal image? I mean, what's
the point of taking it underground if it is
easily visible to the infrared cameras?
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:24 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: pot farm
You know ; I've heard a couple of things. That
lead (yes, lead sheets) would stop the IR ; and
some rumors have been circulating that those
security blankets have (some) degree of
resistance (to IR) as illegals crossing the
boarder have been using them for years to foul
the border agents.
Also ; just to note -- if it was deep enough
underground, they wouldn't detect his garden but
the heat coming out from ventilation would be
easily detectable with an IR unit. They have
units now that even look through walls ; pretty
Most of the growers up North whom grow indoors
no longer rely on the power co. for their
setups. There is one point up north where a
friend and I can go and we hear about 4
individual diesel generators kick off at various
times. They're completely off of the power grid
; but I didn't see any generator setups with
this guy's ; so I'm pretty sure he was either
tapped in (illegally) or just drawing a
boat-load of power which would be a big tip.
From: Bob L
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:39 AM
Subject: Drug House
Where would one look into buying this?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 11:05 AM
To: Bob L
Subject: RE: Drug House
I heard it burned down.
From: matt s
Sent: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 12:38 PM
Subject: Fred Strunk's pot mine
I am Fred Strunk's nephew. It's December 2006,
and I am just now finding out about this. Please
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:34 AM
Subject: Pot Farm
Hey Rick... Outstanding Web Page... Thanks so
much for all the work. Well done, awesome, &
Thanks again, Mal
On Nov 30,
2006, at 6:02 AM, Rick Archer replied:
How did you find that page? I was going to
announce it today in the new December
Thanks for the compliment. I hope it didn’t show
I was rooting for the crooks…. ;-)
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 1:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: Pot Farm
I did a search in "Dogpile" for it... A friend
had sent it to me in an email previously (how to
do that is over my head), & I had saved it as a
"Draft", but I had lost it accidentally when I
was installing an updated email program...
I use it periodically when I minister at a Boy's
Prison camp in a "Keynote" presentation (they
love it)... Although I'm a pastor now, I'm a
retired Robbery-Homicide Detective, & it is a
great piece to share with the kids as an object
Re the "rooting for the crooks", yeh, it kinda
came across that way initially, but I thought
your analogies were really good, & at least from
my point of view, you brought it back "on track"
again very nicely...
Anyhow, the kids really appreciate it, as do I
(only now I can give you credit when I share
it), & I thank you once again for all the effort
you put into it... I sure hope I'm not violating
any copyright laws in sharing this with the
If you have done or ever will do any similar
pieces in the future, & there is a way to tuck
me into your, "NOTIFY WHEN COMPLETED FILE" that
would be great...
Sincerely, respectfully, & with much gratitude,
On Nov 30,
2006, at 12:44 PM, Rick Archer replied:
Aha, you ran across it with a Search Engine.
That makes sense.
As I said in the article, I am a law-abiding
citizen. I pay my taxes, have little debt, and
have never been arrested for anything in my
life. I am respectable enough that I am
fortunate to have a policeman working for me as
a part-time dance teacher. I consider him a
friend so I hope he doesn’t get mad at me when
he reads this story.
I suppose my sympathy for the bad guys in this
story revolves around the fact that I don’t
think marijuana is any more dangerous than
alcohol and there were no victims (except for
the power company that was out $61,000).
If anything, this story is a law enforcement
coup! It shows no matter how smart the bad guys
think they are and no matter how clever their
well-financed operation is, they will probably
make some mistake that will trip them up in the
Moral of the story: Crime doesn’t pay.
Why else would law enforcement people put this
story out on the Internet for people like me to
see? They probably would be pleased to see it
getting as much coverage as possible.
I wish I could think of another story to help
you with, but I think this story is one of a
kind on my web site. Thanks again for the nice
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 5:02 PM
Subject: Pot Farm
You're more than welcome Rick... It's been great
chatting with you!!!
All the best, Mal
From: Richard from the United Kingdom
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2007 8:10 AM
Subject: Russian Wives
Hi, Just read your article about the weed farm
in Tennessee, it was good to get a bit more
information because I had seen pictures of the
same place before but without the background.
However, in your article you also write:
"The last time I heard of Robert, he was running
a business for men who wanted to marry Russian
wives. From Russia With Love!! Same old Robert -
always into risky business. Some people just
aren't cut out for the normal life. They would
rather live life on the edge of danger."
"Don't cheaters win some of the time? If it
isn't Fred, then it is my old friend Robert
trying to cash in on a pathetic scam like
Russian wives. "
I fail to see why running a dating agency is
living on the edge of danger, or why Russian
wives are a pathetic scam. Many people in
western Europe, including myself, have met their
wife from former Soviet states now in the EU and
are very happy. The UK and Ireland has a large
community of Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, and
Estonian workers as well as some Russians, who
all came here to work. The women from Russia and
ex-Soviet eastern Europe are in the main
wonderful, kind and traditional in a way that
has not been seen in the west for 1 or 2
generations. It is slightly offensive to read
someone would consider the whole idea of meeting
women from there pathetic.
Anyway I enjoyed the rest of the article but
felt I had to write to you about that!
Best Wishes, Robert
Archer's Response: This one left me
speechless. He may have a point.)
From: Freddy R
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2007 9:04 PM
Subject: My take on the pot farm story
My Assessment is that pot makes you stupid... My
observation over time is that a pot smoker's
quickness of wit and promptness of thinking is
greatly or slightly impaired depending on the
magnitude of their habit.. And yes, Pot is
addictive... It also robs the user of his
ambition and his dedication to goals.. These are
my profound observations... To me, they are
truths and beliefs I wish to share to youth who
wish to excel in the battle of life.
Rick Archer's Response: I agree with Mr.
R's letter above. During the brief time I
used marijuana in college, I remember clearly a
sense of apathy that came over me. One
night I smoked pot at a college party. The
next day I discovered I was walking around the
dorm like a zombie. When the time came to head
over to the library, I realized I could care
less about studying, writing papers, or cramming
for tests. I had zero drive, zero
ambition. I remember just sitting there in
my dorm watching TV for hours on end, helpless
to get up and get moving.
Fortunately after a good night's sleep, the next
day some of my ambition returned. I worked
hard to make up for the lost time and made a
mental note to skip marijuana until Christmas
Break. I didn't want to take any more
chances of losing my will to compete. Then
by the time vacation rolled around, I found I
had lost interest in taking any more chances
with my competitive edge, so I avoided all
offers to smoke dope with my friends from that
So to all those people who contend that
marijuana is harmless, I beg to differ.
There can be serious negative consequences to
I will conclude with a famous quote:
discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the
brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities
between the two, but can’t remember what they are.”
Lauer on NBC’s Today Show
From: Hulio M
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 10:02 PM
To counter one of your responders who claims
that pot makes you stupid.
(Editor's Note: Probably Letter Ten above)
I've been able to observe a pothead over 15
years. He dropped out of junior high and has
mostly sold and smoked the stuff every day even
He was a clever kid when he started and is a
smart guy to this day. He managed to pass an
exam for a real estate license recently. I've
never seen him read a
comic book let alone anything of complex
literacy or any math
books. He aced the test without cheating.
I think I may buy myself a waterbong because I'd
probably fail the same test and I read and do
(Rick Archer's Response: Mr. M, I
completely disagree with your letter. I
believe you have done your son a disservice by
condoning his drug use. If I have
understood your brief letter correctly, your son
completely lost his ambition to succeed for some
I propose that his lost of interest in success
and his drug use is NO COINCIDENCE. You
said he dropped out of junior high, so I assume
he also skipped high school. Did you fail
to notice the letter that you criticize said
this exact thing: prolonged marijuana use
robs you of your ambition!
Therefore, I fear that in your attempt to refute
Mr. R's convictions, you have unwittingly
supported his words instead.
Mr. M, like you, I am a father. As a father, it
is my duty to protect my children. This is
what I would tell my children if they were to
In my opinion, Pot does not makes you
permanently stupid, but it definitely makes you
temporarily stupid. For the time being,
marijuana makes intelligent people less
intelligent and stupid people more stupid.
It definitely impairs a person's ability to
concentrate. Its effects last for at least
one complete day after use. I know this is true
from personal experience which is why I quit
using it 30 years ago.
I also believe that prolonged use of marijuana
can contribute to a loss of ambition, but
unfortunately I can no longer speak from
There can be no doubt that like all drugs,
indiscriminate use can be dangerous. It does
have negative consequences. For example,
you could easily have a car accident under the
influence due to impaired judgment and spatial
disorientation. Like alcohol, you have to
be careful. This is one reason why Society is
concerned about the use of this powerful drug -
the use of marijuana increases the potential for
harm to the individual and to other people.
That said, I also believe the occasional
recreational use in the safety of one's home is
probably no more dangerous than a couple of
Margaritas. But since marijuana is illegal
and alcohol is legal, it makes sense to avoid
pot altogether while we wait for the lawmakers
to decriminalize its use.)
From: Scott C
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 2:25 PM
Subject: pot farm ... comment
Once upon a Time, In Nanaimo County B.C.,
Canada, I bought and renovated a "Dope Growing
Actually, I bought the house and 5 ac property
from the county court, as it had been
confiscated and the prior owners were in jail.
Local law enforcement clamed that the operation
was busted due to electricity consumption ...
somewhat unlikely, because they used a concealed
gas fired generator, very well muffled, for the
The reality is more likely that someone turned
them in , either over a grievance or for a
reward. Note to all you Dope Growers: fooling
around with other people's wives and/or teenage
daughters is really risky, so is buying new
Harleys with cash.
Renovation, in my case, included removal of all
the equipment, addition of bath rooms,
structural repairs, etc. (this little project
was followed by the "contract" renovation of the
only house ever confiscated in Nanaimo, B.C.,
for the practice of "Satanic Worship -
Witchcraft" ... but that's another story)
Back to the story, this Tennessee operation
is really neat, professional, well designed and
constructed. In many ways, a thing of
beauty....Illegal of course, but neat all the
(Rick Archer's Response: I
smiled when I read Mr. C's concluding
statement above. I am grateful to him
for sharing his thoughts.
In May 2007 my article on the Tennessee
Pot Farm went big-time when Reddit.com
decided to list it, a development I
never anticipated. Imagine my
surprise! One day all sorts of
emails came pouring in out of the blue.
Fortunately one of the emails mentioned
'Reddit', so I was able to understand
what was going on.
After a wave of emails flooded my In
Box, I decided to post some of the
letters. Immediately I received all
sorts reactions to these emails. It did
not take long to realize I had
accidentally positioned myself to be a
player in our country's long-standing
debate on the legality and the danger of
marijuana. Since I am not a
marijuana user myself, I initially found
myself quite flat-footed to know how to
respond to some of the letters.
However, after giving it some thought
for a day, I have chosen to list my
replies to several of the letters.
people emailed offers to sell me pot.
One man said he grew the finest
marijuana in the world, Green Goblin,
as he called it. He even sent me
some proud pictures as testimony to the
quality his product. I have included one
of his pictures at right.
I left myself open for these kind of
advances due to my ambiguous stance on
marijuana. However, now that I
have been inundated with emails, I think
it would behoove me to clarify my
position vis a vis marijuana.
my very limited experience, I don't
think marijuana is anywhere near as
dangerous as the draconian laws of our
country make it out to be. I feel
the judicious use of marijuana is
unlikely to be a major threat to
other hand, I also feel that marijuana,
like alcohol, has physical and
psychological risks. If someone abuses
marijuana, they are asking for trouble.
Visitors to this web site need to know I
could care less about Pot. I was
attracted to the story of the Tennessee
Pot Farm Bust because it showed daring
and ingenuity. Furthermore there
were no bleeding, injured, suffering
victims to ruin the fun.
I feel the same way as Mr.
Tennessee operation is really neat,
professional, well designed and constructed. In
many ways, a thing of beauty....Illegal
of course, but neat all the same."
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2007 11:04 PM
Subject: Pot farm
Interesting photo collection & article on the
pot farm. What I'd give for that place! Not to
grow pot, but as I was raised on a farm I have
always wondered about ways to improve crop yield
conditions without the use of chemicals or
genetically enhanced crops.
Of course when I was a kid we just used
chemicals. Trust me, if you haven't
washed the produce well enough, you don't get
all the nasties off. Trust me- apples treated
with Diazonon aren't healthy or taste good
(though I have no problem with insects when in
the mountains, so perhaps
it's a trade off?).
In response to Malcolm C (LETTER
EIGHT) you said "Moral of the
story: Crime doesn't pay."
Buddy, come to Chaffee County in central
Colorado. Here citizens have no rights and not
only are YOU at risk, but so is your wife and
Anyone can do anything to you and or family and
get away with it. And if you so much as raise a
finger in defense, you will be arrested. Not my
opinion, but fact.
Good writing on your article!
Reply: Fear of unreasonable law enforcement in a
rural setting is a theme that Western movies
used to deal with on a regular basis. I
have driven through Chaffee County and know it
to be an area blessed with huge mountains,
rolling hills, and many streams. I also know
this county appeared to be pretty civilized.
If you are afraid of the authorities, obviously
the most direct route is to protest to your
politicians. If they are unresponsive, then
organize an effort to vote them out. And
if the situation is so corrupt that the
politicians and law enforcement are in cahoots,
then maybe it is time to get the Denver
newspaper involved. I don't envy you this
FOURTEEN - DID THE FARM BURN DOWN?
Re: Tennessee Pot Cave at Auction!
Post by Lynn Roebuck on Oct 31, 2007, 7:57am
Here's the scoop on the "Pot Cave"
If you are interested in checking out the
property and cave before the Dec 8th Auction
and can not make it on a Thursday call J.T
Shrum and they can arrange a private viewing
The main Fred Strunk House shown in
the Photos did burn in Dec 2006 but
the basement is in structurally sound
condition however it did receive smoke
damage during the fire. But also in this
tract is a small living quarters that was
separate from the main house, it has a
kitchenette and full bath. From what I
understand you probably could even live in
the cave since it was modified from its
natural form and has electricity, climate
control, a living area, etc.
At this time I'm still not sure about the
size of the 'modified' cave. The length of
the natural cave, Cato Cave, is listed in
Caves of Tennessee by Thomas C. Barr Jr. as
1,100 feet . The cave and property are now
being surveyed so I'm awaiting the results.
I understand some of the rocks used to build
the retaining walls came from the cave. The
cave does have a concrete floor. A lady I
spoke with said the cave is not illegally
spliced into utility lines now and an
electrician has the cave electricity "legal"
I don't know how true this is -- but I heard
from a friend that Fred Strunk put about
$750,000.00 or more into the caves
LETTER FIFTEEN - PROPERTY FOR SALE
From: Fellisha Shrum
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 9:45 AM
Subject: Tennessee Pot Farm
I was searching the interenet yesterday to find
a picture of pot plant to use in the back ground
of an Auction Sign. To my surprise, as I was
scrolling through the pictures, I noticed a
picture that I recognized - the Tennessee Pot
I read your article and it is very good. The
house did burn in November 2006. The basement,
the cave, and the separate living quarters still
remain. I Thought you may be interested and may
want to post on your sight that the "TENNESSEE
POT CAVE" in Dixon Springs TN, is now going to
We will be auctioning the tract of land that
includes the cave, a second tract of land which
is approximately 1+ Acres, and some of the
personal property from the cave such as grow
lights, bulbs, etc. I have been to the cave many
times preparing for the auction and am amazed
each time I go !!!
The company I work for, J.T. SHRUM AUCTION &
REALTY of Lafayette TN, will be conducting the
The Auction is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M.
on Saturday, December 8th, 2007, and will be
We have scheduled Media Day for November 1st.
We have also scheduled to have Public Tours on
Thursday, November 8th and 15th. We can also
arrange private tours for someone who is
interested in the purchase of the cave.
We will have more information regarding the
auction on our website soon --
If you or someone needs more information, you
can contact me at our office (615) 666-2600 or
my email address is
(Editor's Note: I never expected my story would
become a place for a real estate agent to make a
plug ! ;-)
Now read the next story.)
Cave that once housed pot sold to cheesemaker
New usage to be 'tasty in a legal
way,' representative in $285,000 deal says
updated 10:47 p.m. CT, Tues., Dec. 11, 2007
HARTSVILLE, Tenn. - A home built above a large cave that
once housed a sophisticated underground marijuana operation
may have a delicious — and legal — future.
Authorities seized the home in 2005 after finding more than
850 marijuana plants growing under lights in two secured,
100-yard-long underground rooms connected to the home.
“Everything was just perfect. Look at the craftsmanship,”
auctioneer Pete Scruggs said of the marijuana operation in
the natural cave about 45 miles northeast of Nashville.
Roth Kase USA Ltd., a Wisconsin-based maker of
European-style cheeses, won a court-ordered auction of the
property Saturday with a bid of $285,000. The company’s
auction representative, Chuck Olson, hinted about the future
of the cave after he was named the winner.
He said the plan is to “make money,” and the cave’s new
operation will be legal “in a tasty way.” Caves, with their
consistent cool temperatures and humidity, have long been
used to age cheeses.
Fred Strunk, the previous owner of the home, was sentenced
to 18 years in prison last year on charges of growing
marijuana, money laundering and theft.
(Editor's Note: Thank you, Todd Reuschlein, for
sharing this article from MSNBC.com)
palace is mind-blowing
Man of many
aliases guilty in operation in cave beneath
By LEE ALLGOOD
LEBANON - The cave had it all, everything
Fred Strunk and his work crews needed to
grow 100 pounds of marijuana every two
Row after row of white-bright grow lights
were powered by "free" electricity via an
illegal splice into utility lines. An indoor
irrigation system was nearly an engineering
marvel. A ventilation system controlled
humidity, while a security system featured a
bank-vault-like entrance, with security
cameras placed everywhere.
Strategically located were escape hatches
should lawmen come knocking.
And there was the cave itself, a rock
fortress shielding the illegal activity.
Strunk's pot harvests, without a doubt,
replaced tobacco and vegetables as Trousdale
County's biggest cash crop, investigators
The operation made him rich, allowing Strunk
to lead the high life. He frequently
traveled for business and pleasure and had
stylish homes in Tennessee and Florida and
nice cars, not to mention enough false
identification papers to get lost in a crowd
should the need arise, investigators said.
In December, investigators alleged in a
17-count indictment that his
more-than-comfortable lifestyle was financed
by profits from his high-tech, subterranean
On Monday, Strunk, 63, acknowledged that he
was the mastermind behind the "pot cave."
Faced with a trial when two of his
employees, Brian Gibson and Greg Compton,
decided to testify against him, Strunk
He shuffled into court here Monday morning,
his arms and ankles shackled, to face
Circuit Judge J.O. Bond. Known over the past
decade by at least seven other names - Fred
E. Fox, Fred E. Grant, Jerry R. West, to
name three - Strunk agreed to plead guilty
to three of the 17 counts: manufacturing
more than 500 marijuana plants (about 850
were found in the cave), money laundering
The man who spent four to five years and
untold thousands of dollars turning a dark,
musty cave into a brightly lit pot palace
that had two growing rooms stretching for
100 yards each will now be incarcerated in a
state prison for a maximum of 18 years, the
sentence received for manufacturing
As an offender with no prior criminal
record, he could be released after serving
30% of the sentence, depending on his prison
record and the parole board's blessing. If
so, he would be nearly 70.
Strunk also received 12 years each on the
money-laundering and theft charges. All of
his prison terms will be served together. He
also was fined $4,000 and must make
restitution in the amount of $60,001 to
Tri-County Electric in Lafayette for stolen
When arrested in December, Strunk had been
on the radar of local and regional law
enforcement for about nine years.
He answered Judge Bond with "yes" as the
judge led him through the process of
certifying that he understood he was waiving
his right to a trial. In addition to being
shackled, the prisoner wore the uniform of a
detainee in Macon County, where he has been
held since his arrest. He was taken to
Wilson County because that is where Bond is
holding court this week.
Strunk will be transferred to the Tennessee
Department of Correction for assignment to a
Defense attorney Jack Lowery said his client
chose to accept the plea.
"This is something we've been working on for
some time now. It was an offer that we felt
was reasonable. It was his decision to
accept it,'' said Lowery, of Lebanon. Also
representing Strunk was Nashville attorney
Assistant District Attorney General David
Durham said he expected the guilty plea.
"When you have a Drug Task Force who knows
what they're doing, you don't have any
issues. The evidence was overwhelming. I
didn't see a lot of wiggle room in this
case,'' Durham said.
After Strunk's arrest at his home near
Gainesville, Fla., authorities found
numerous fake identities, leading
investigators to question whether that was
his real name.
An investigator testified about finding
driver's licenses issued in four states,
including Tennessee. The licenses all had
the defendant's photo on them, but different
Lawmen also found birth certificates from
several counties in Ohio, baptismal
certificates from several churches, grade
transcripts from Castle Heights Military
Academy, a defunct prep school in Lebanon,
and numerous Social Security cards.
Some of the documents were forged. Others,
such as the driver's licenses, were genuine
but were probably fraudulently obtained.
On Monday, however, Durham said his office
was "convinced he's Fred Strunk."
Although the defendant did not have a prior
criminal record, the assistant prosecutor
said he did not believe this was the first
time Strunk had been involved in such a
"It was so elaborate, the way things were
set up,'' Durham said.
According to the prosecution and defense,
possession-of-marijuana charges levied
against Strunk when he was arrested in
Florida will be dropped now that he has
pleaded guilty in Tennessee.
Meanwhile, the stylish A-frame house at 2125
Dixon Creek Road - sold three times in
recent years, each time to one of Strunk's
aliases - will now be sold again at public
auction, Durham said.
"The 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force
has seized the house and property,'' he
Durham noted that the house and 30 acres
would probably be a hot item, no doubt
because of the size of the basement. o
Authorities say operation
could grow 100 pounds every 8 weeks
HARTSVILLE, Tenn. - Investigators from the
15th Judicial District Drug Task Force found
a mother lode of marijuana in the
unlikeliest of places - a cave.
Beneath a stylish A-frame home on Dixon
Springs Road in eastern Trousdale County,
three men allegedly set up a sophisticated
operation to grow as much as 100 pounds of
marijuana every eight weeks.
"It's pretty amazing what they had under
there - water for irrigation, special
lighting, devices to keep the humidity just
right. These guys were professionals. They
knew what they were doing," said District
Attorney General Tommy Thompson of
"They could grow in 60 days what it would
take four and a half months to grow
Arrested on Wednesday were Brian Gibson and
Greg Compton, while a third man, Fred
Strunk, was arrested near Gainesville, Fla.
All three are in jail, with Gibson and
Compton being held in the Trousdale County
Jail. Bail was set for Gibson and Compton at
$5 million, while Strunk's was set at $15
million, Thompson said. Local authorities
were in Florida yesterday to return Strunk
According to the district attorney general,
the investigation into the operation began
about five years ago when a home was built
above the cave, but it never appeared anyone
"The front of the cave used to be a hole
that you'd crawl into, and it opened up into
a pretty big room that was 20-feet high.
They cut the side of the hill so you could
just drive right into the cave,'' Thompson
The cave, reached from the house via secret
entrances, is said to be about two miles
long, but the marijuana operation was
located about 100 yards inside. Thompson
said the other end of the cave had been
blocked to keep trespassers out.
According to the prosecutor, the men told
locals they were going to be mining statuary
In another suspicious incident, the local
electric company was asked to install a
larger transformer than usually required by
a residence. But apparently that was not
enough electrical power to operate the grow
lamps required to raise 800 marijuana plants
at a time. Instead of asking the electric
company for more power, the men spliced into
the Tri-County Electric line and were
stealing electricity, Thompson said.
"They had the operation set up so that one
person could operate it during the growing
season,'' he noted.
To harvest the illegal crop, Thompson said
the men would hire a half-dozen Hispanic
workers in Arizona and drive them to
Tennessee. For part of the journey the
windows on the van would be covered so the
workers did not know where they were.
"They would drive right into the cave and
let them out to begin working,'' the
"As for distributing it, we're sure that
some of it went to Nashville and other
locations in the area."
There could be more arrests, but Thompson
said he believes the ringleaders of the
operation have already been nabbed.
"It's just unbelievable what they've done.
It's like something out of a James Bond
SIXTEEN - POT PROBABLY ISN'T GOOD FOR YOU, BUT USED
IN MODERATION IT'S OKAY
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:33
Subject: Tennessee pot house
Mr. archer i really liked the story about
the pot house, i was impressed by all the
content and letter published over the years
and really enjoyed to read each one of them,
seriously, i must say that im 19 years old
and i have smoken pot for 8 years and still
smoking, i must say ur right about the loss
of ambition and everything but smoking is
something i like to do and that i live with.
but over the years i have putted a control
on my addiction, i never smoke on my job or
in my car, i like to smoke it cause i feel
it gives me a break after a long day im just
saying to myself whatever u do never put the
important thing aside (sorry about my
spelling im used to speak french lol). and
to get back to your storie specially letter
10 and 11 I think that smoking weed is not a
bad thing but is not to be over used because
the more u use it the more u get depressive,
and i could even say that a controled use (
smoking like one joint per day and not every
day) may have good consequences depending on
the user. I don't know why i wanted to share
this with u but this is it!!! thank u for
building a page about this storie it was
really of interest ;)
SEVENTEEN - WHY NOT USE A GENERATOR?
Sent: Sunday, March 08, 2009 12:00 AM
Subject: pot cave
I love this story!!!
The thing that gets me no one thought of
getting their own generator??
I have 2 of them
and I'm just a carpenter.
I can't get over the
irony. A smaller crime led
busting the big
thanks for your work
RESPONSES (Rick Archer's Note: I posed
the question of generator to some friends.
Here is what they said.)
1. Good question about the generator. I am
guessing with the amount of electricity they
used, it would have cost a small fortune to
run their operation off a generator.
It is a fun story. It should be made into a
2. Generators in caves would kill you
from the fumes.
3. I don't
think the generator would have worked out
1.) Fuel - Needs gas and it's a lot less
efficient than the local electric company at
converting the thermal energy into
electrical energy. Probably would have cost
a lot more to generate the same amount of
2.) Emissions - creates a lot of fumes that
would need to be vented or the guys would
have been asphyxiated inside the cave. Plus
plants don't really like polluted air.
3.) Noise - maybe an issue, maybe not but I
would think loud noises might generate
I'm surprised they were able to tap into a
high voltage transmission line without
Should've used solar panels or those
fiber-optic tubes that can transmit light -
sorta like flexible skylights.
4. The same principle that makes learning to
dance with 30 people at a large studio
cheaper than learning the same material thru
private lessons.....is exactly why
electricity from a generator is easily 10-50
times more than what the power company can
sell it to you. I worked in a power house
for 6 years and the turbines that use
natural gas or coal that are the size of a
locomotive can do it so much cheaper and
efficient than a small gasoline engine
....even with all the extra wiring and
distribution costs. A lot of people were
surprised during Hurricane Ike at just how
costly those generators are to run.
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2010 8:56 PM
Subject: Tennessee pot cave
i was going to a school named tennessee
technology center at hartsville
(look it up) when it happened.
another reason the police was alerted was
because there was a couple of other parts to
the cave that you some how get pictures of.
there was another exit and some living
spaces like a big kitchen lots of bunk beds.
any way the other exit ran out on another
farm that an old man lived on. he was killed
and dumped in his own lake. plus not to
mention that no one ever lived in the house.
there were sheets on the furniture. also
really nice things like flooring and
doorknobs. I don't know if that's any
addition to what you may know about the
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 02:07:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 1 a.m cant sleep and read your
I am a babyboomer for the most part age 54
smoked a few tokes in my college life but
realized the pounds I gained were not worth
the inhales, so did away with the
recreation. Although I sure did enjoy tunes
of Jackson Brown when the air was thick. But
I have to say I was so captivated by these
stories. You my friend need to be a author.
You would keep fans from book to book and I
for one would be a follower. Thanks for
keeping me amused in the middle of the
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011 10:44 PM
Subject: POT GROWING CAVE
This letter is being written in regards to
your article about the drug bust in Lebanon
Tennessee. My husband took a trip to Alabama
in august of 1990. We drove up to
Lebanon Tennessee while visiting my
daughter in Alabama. We were going to visit
some friends who lived in lebanon. They
lived on about 500 hundred acres
with a beautiful gated entrance. We
pushed a button and told them who was at the
gate. He came up to the gate to lead us down
to the house.
We followed him to
the house which was just a little 2
bedroom cabin. Out behind this house just a
short distanace from the house was a very
building. What brought us together with
these people were we both collected
cookie jars. We had met the lady a year
earlier up in Milton Washington. We had
talked occasionally on
the phone from lebanon.
We met with them a few times before
going to see them in Tennessee.
Back to the pole building, inside this
building were hundreds and hundreds of
It was the largest and most beautiful
collection of antique jars that we had ever
seen. We stayed there for two days and went
to Nashville with
over the years we lost contact with
them after we moved. But they were
two of the nicest people you could ever
meet. Needless to say when I
saw the incident of the largest
drug bust ever on modern marvels I
recogenized the front gate and was
totally blown away when they said
that the mastermind behind all this was Fred
What a shock.
I still can't believe Fred was the
mastermind. Never in a million years would I
ever think Fred could do something like
sad. What a
waste of 18 years in prison.
Sent: Monday, March
Subject: pot cave
Thanks for the entertaining morning...Was
going to accomplish great and wonderful
things this morning and spent the whole
morning reading all the data you put out on
the Pot Cave... Was delighted by the way
that you put it all together and I fully
agree with your comments....Well...I must
say, that I disagree with one comment you
made. Crime Does Not Pay.
I am surprised that no one bothered to
comment on it... Just turn on the new and
see what is going on in Washington... Then
tell me that crime does not pay.... Must
admit that it has never been as bad as what
it is not ...nor how blatantly open they are
about the corruption at this time...
Thanks again for all the work that you did.
P.S. I was in the military from 1960 to 1965
and never saw a joint in all that time...
Was in the UK the last three years....When I
got out of the military, I did find some
people using it..and even tried it once... I
worked much too hard for my money and could
not see wasting it on pot. Put all my money
into cars and motorcycles.... God Bless
You... from a real American.
Here is a more recent
story on the
Tennessee Pot Cave from 2010
If you spend much time online, chances
are you have stumbled upon photos often
referred to as “The Marijuana house” or “The
Great Tennessee Pot Cave”. The photos are of
a seemingly normal house with a huge
marijuana grow operation hidden in a cave
beneath the house. While these pictures have
made their rounds on the internet for years,
details on the story behind the photos are
vague at best. Read the full story, click
The million dollar A-frame style vacation
home was located on Dixon Springs Road in
Eastern Trousdale County Tennessee, about 40
miles northeast of Nashville.
There is a hidden passageway from the home
to the cave that leads to a corridor with
cinder block walls and concrete ceiling and
floor. The corridor slopes down 40 feet into
the converted cave. The cave was complete
with air conditioning, full bathroom, and a
kitchen with a fully stocked pantry. An
excape hatch lets out steps from the home
and has a hydraulic jack that lifts a trap
door which is hidden with a boulder.
The growing operation was complete with an
irrigation system to water the 400 – 500
plants that were between 6 and 12 inches
tall and the 400 – 500 additional plants
that were as tall as 6 feet. To power the
sophisticated lighting and climate control
system that kept the caves temperature at 87
degrees the growers had illegally spliced
into county power lines.
The growers would hire about a half-dozen
Hispanic workers in Arizona, and then drive
them to Tennessee. For part of the journey
the windows on the van would be covered so
the workers did not know where they were.
Police were eventually tipped off to the
operation after the electric company
discovered the missing electricity and sent
crews to investigate. There are
unsubstantiated rumors that man with a shot
gun threatened an electric company worker in
a confrontation at the houses massive front
On December 14th 2005, the house was raided
by national and local law enforcement
agencies and three men were arrested in
connection with the growing operation. Brian
Gibson and Greg Compton were arrested in
Tennessee and are believed to be the
day-to-day managers of the operation. Fred
Earl Strunk, thought to be the mastermind
behind the operation, was arrested at his
home in an affluent area of Gainesville
Investigators estimated that the operation
could bring in as much as 6 to 8 million
dollars per year and could produce about 100
pounds of processed marijuana per harvest.
Fred Strunk, is said to have had at least
6 identifications with various names in his
home along with $50,000 in cash. Strunk was
held on a 15 million dollar bond which was
reduced to 1 million dollars with the
provision he provide a high school or
college yearbook with his photo to prove is
Fred Strunk pleaded guilty in March 2006 to
charges of growing marijuana, money
laundering and theft. He received concurrent
sentences of 18 years for the drug charge
and 12 years for the theft charge. He will
have to serve at least 30% of his sentence,
or more than five years, before becoming
eligible for parole. He also must repay
Tri-County Electric a total of $60,001 for
electric power he stole from the utility to
power the underground lights and other
equipment in the cave.
Gibson and Compton, the “managers” of the
operation, received less time in exchange
for agreeing to testify against Strunk.
The Fire and Rumors
On December 5th 2006, the house and a
neighboring home about a half mile away,
caught fire and burned to the ground. The
suspicious fires were intentionally set and
sparked a wave of speculation about who, and
more importantly, why someone would burn the
houses. A popular theory is that the police
possibly missed a key piece of evidence
during the investigation. Maybe documents or
information leading to more underground
grows or other co-conspirators in the
operation. With the attention to detail that
went into hiding the huge grow operation, it
seems logical that the police could have
missed something small and well hidden
within the home. We will probably never know
the true reason, but the fact that a second
house was also destroyed, fuels suspicion
about how large this operation really was
(or possibly still is).
There are rumors that a neighbor was found
murdered in a house close to the pot cave
about 3 or 4 months before the bust. The
rumor also says that 2 dead immigrants were
found a few days later in the same area. I
was unable to confirm whether or not the
bodies were actually ever found.
On December 8th, 2007, the famous pot
cave was auctioned off on behalf of the
state. The auction was held in what had been
one of the underground growing rooms in the
previous marijuana operation. About 170
people, mostly spectators, came to watch the
court-ordered sale unfold about 90 feet
Roth Kase, a Wisconsin-based maker of
European-style cheeses, won the auction with
a bid of $285,000. The auction included 7
acres of land, the high-tech cave, the
burned remains of the house, and a smaller
house located behind the original which was
believed to house the garden workers. The
property was sold pretty much “as is” and
even still included a majority of the
equipment used in the growing operation,
including the white buckets and grow lights.
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2011 12:11 AM
Subject: modern marvels pot farm
thought you might like to know, i just
watched this story on Modern Marvels on the
history channel. very interesting.
as i grew up in TN,
wanted to know specifically where in TN so i
googled the guys name and your website was
first. thanks for the extra info. the
underground was auctioned off for $300, 000
to a cheese maker in Wisconsin, they are
scheduled to start producing cheese there
Sent: Friday, April 29, 2011 9:43 AM
Subject: Fred Strunk
Thanks for the wonderfully entertaining pics
and story about the cave farm.
If someone like me were interested in
writing Fred's book or making a screenplay
for film, do you know where Fred Strunk is
he agree to a series of interviews?
RICK ARCHER'S RESPONSE
Sorry, Dave, I
have no idea what Fred is up to.
I live in Texas and
have never met the man.
I wrote the entire story
back in 2006 based on news clips and
pictures I found on the internet.
Since then I have updated as additional news
You are right about
wanting to expand the story. Rachel's email
above shows that there is definitely
interest. Now we have the story on TV.
Can a movie be far away? Drug
Pirates of Tennessee?
Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2011 8:21 AM
Subject: RE: Fred Strunk
I believe Fred went to high school
with Gibson and Compton, the two guys who
ran the pot cave. Are you on Facebook? I
recently created a group called Fred E. Fox.
Check it out. Eventually, I plan to include
everything I think I know about Fred
there. Fred would go to the ends of the
earth for his mother, my Gramma. She died
May 11, 2011 She was 90 years old. Fred
collected cookie jars as a hobby. Many years
ago, he rented a warehouse, would do
complete teardowns of very expensive
cars i.e. Ferrari or whatever, and rebuild
them. I know I'm rambling and just spouting
off. I'm really glad you chose to write
about this. I was surfing the web at work
back in 2006, searching for articles about
Uncle Fred, as he was an expert parachuter,
is that a word? He is in the Guinness book
of world records. Something about the
largest free fall formation ever. It
happened in Thailand. His girlfriend died
skydiving at Jump for the Cause. I found one
article with 100, 200, and 300 mph skydiving
"club" records. I think they have Fred
free-falling at 278 mph.