Pot Farm


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.

Written by Rick Archer, November 2006

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 I have 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 was considered a bit of a rogue, Robert was 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 hills 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.  Surprise, surprise.

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!)   But Robert had been caught red-handed.  Despite trying every legal maneuver he could think of, Robert ended up serving a couple years of jail time. 

As for 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 into risky business.  

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.


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 the winner. 

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 vacation home out in the woods, but investigators quickly realized the exterior 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 $6-8 Million.
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 cave.

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.

Behind the hydraulic door, there was a 40 foot long sloping corridor that led 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 room had its own irrigation system. The lights and climate control kept the air at the perfect temperature: 87 degrees.

One 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.

The second 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 operation running.

Ironically, none of the three men who were 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. 
They 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 would drive 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!


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 beneath.




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 villains 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 behind it.

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 incredible?


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. 

  1. Exorbitant cash expenditures made police suspicious.

  2. A truck carrying marijuana got pulled over by State Police.

  3. Electrical disruptions in the area made officials suspicious.

  4. Husband cheated on wife and wife turned him in for revenge.

  5. Argument about how to split the money turned one man into a rat.

  6. Putting too much cash in one bank made a bank official suspicious.

  7. A Mexican farm worker hired to help harvest the crop tipped the authorities.

  8. A dealer got caught and pointed the finger up the chain to save his own neck.

  9. A nearby neighbor was curious to learn why no one seemed to live in the house.

  10. A huge infrared heat signature gave them away. The heat alone coming out from the ventilation system would appear on any thermal imaging device.

Are you ready for the answer?  If you guessed #2 "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 much larger 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.  

They 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.  T
he men spliced into the Tri-County Electric line and began to steal electricity

The huge 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:  I 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 Fred's punishment.  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 Fred's mistake.)

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!)


-----Original Message-----
From: Mike
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:13 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Pot farm information

"I received your page in an email and have more information for you. 

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."


Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:26 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 everyone.

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.

Anyways, you're probably already scratching your head wondering why someone is replying to something you posted in 2007.



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:

  1. They could run their operation at half-capacity and settle for a slower return on their enormous investment.
  2. They could ask the electric company to give them more juice and risk revealing their setup.
  3. They could steal the extra power and hope no one would notice.

You already 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 huge yacht.
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.


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.

Truth be 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!


As 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 few examples 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 victims. 

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 activity?  

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 wives.

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 succeed.

December 2006: Dixon Springs “Drug Cave” house burns
Macon Country Times
Jerry Greenway

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 the story. 

I have noticed that many of the original newspaper stories about the Pot Farm event have disappeared from their original locations on the Internet.
To read them, click here.

Rick Archer

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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 received. 

If you would like to join the party,


 -----Original Message-----
From: Robert H
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2007 6:02 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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. How sad.


-----Original Message-----
From: Leo W
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 4:27 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 the smell......


-----Original Message-----
From: Joe S
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 11:09 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Your Article ...POT

Mr. Archer

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 thought.

Thank you for your time.

-----Original Message-----
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.



-----Original Message-----
From: Alex F
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 2:07 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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?


-----Original Message-----
From: Kyle O
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 10:24 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:10 PM
To: Kyle
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?

-----Original Message-----
From: Kyle
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 orwellian stuff.

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.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bob L
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:39 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Drug House

Where would one look into buying this? 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 11:05 AM
To: Bob L
Subject: RE: Drug House

I heard it burned down.


-----Original Message-----
From: matt s
Sent: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 12:38 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 reply


-----Original Message-----
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:34 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Pot Farm

Hey Rick... Outstanding Web Page... Thanks so much for all the work. Well done, awesome, & interesting!!!

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 Newsletter.

Thanks for the compliment. I hope it didn’t show I was rooting for the crooks…. ;-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 1:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: Pot Farm

Hi Rick...

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 lesson...

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 kids...

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 end.

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 words.

-----Original Message-----
From: Malcolm C
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 5:02 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Pot Farm

You're more than welcome Rick... It's been great chatting with you!!!

All the best, Mal


-----Original Message-----
From: Richard from the United Kingdom
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2007 8:10 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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

(Rick Archer's Response:  This one left me speechless. He may have a point.)


From: Freddy R
Sent: Sunday, May 06, 2007 9:04 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 point on.

So to all those people who contend that marijuana is harmless, I beg to differ.  There can be serious negative consequences to one's psyche.

I will conclude with a famous quote: 

“Researchers have 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.” -  Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show


 -----Original Message-----
From: Hulio M
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 10:02 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: potfarm/potheads

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 Sundays.

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 math.

(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 time. 

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 ask: 

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 experience. 

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.)


-----Original Message-----
From: Scott C
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2007 2:25 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: pot farm ... comment

Once upon a Time, In Nanaimo County B.C., Canada, I bought and renovated a "Dope Growing Operation".

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 "heavy lifting".

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 same.

(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.

Several 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 suppose 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. 

Based on 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 society. 

On the 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. C...

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 same."


 -----Original Message-----
From: C
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2007 11:04 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Pot farm

Mr. Archer,

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 under artificial 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 family.

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!

Rick Archer's 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 problem.


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 for you.

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" now.

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 modification.


-----Original Message-----
From: Fellisha Shrum
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 9:45 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Tennessee Pot Farm

Dear Rick:

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 Cave.

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 be Auctioned.

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 auction.

The Auction is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday, December 8th, 2007, and will be selling Absolute.

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 jtshrum@nctc.com

Thank you
Fellisha Shrum


(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)


Tuesday, 05/09/06

High-tech pot palace is mind-blowing in scale
Man of many aliases guilty in operation in cave beneath house

Staff Writer

LEBANON - The cave had it all, everything Fred Strunk and his work crews needed to grow 100 pounds of marijuana every two months.

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 said.

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 marijuana "farm."

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 pleaded guilty.

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 and theft.

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 marijuana.

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 electricity.

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 state prison.

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 David Raybin.

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 names.

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 scheme.

"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 said.

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
By LEE ALLGOOD, 12/18/05

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 Hartsville.

"They could grow in 60 days what it would take four and a half months to grow outside."

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 to Tennessee.

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 lived there.

"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 said.

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 rock.

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 prosecutor said.

"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 movie."


From: Jon
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:33 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 ;)



From: E
Sent: Sunday, March 08, 2009 12:00 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: pot cave

I love this story!!!

The thing that gets me no one thought of getting their own generator??  Heck, 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 crime. LOL!

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 movie.

2. Generators in caves would kill you from the fumes.

3. I don't think the generator would have worked out very well.

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 electricity.
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 unwanted attention.

I'm surprised they were able to tap into a high voltage transmission line without killing themselves!

Should've used solar panels or those fiber-optic tubes that can transmit light - sorta like flexible skylights.

Nice story!

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.



From: a
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 situation.


----- Original Message -----
From: E
Sent: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 02:07:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 1 a.m cant sleep and read your Potllarious Article

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 night.


-----Original Message-----
From: k
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011 10:44 PM

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 large pole
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 cookie jars.  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 them. Unfortunately 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 Strunk.

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 this.  How sad.  What a waste of 18 years in prison.



From: john
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 9:33 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: pot cave

Hi Rick,

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.


Rick Archer's Note:

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 below.

The Property

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.

The Bust

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 gate.

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 Florida.

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.

The People

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 identity.

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.

The Auction

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 below ground.

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.

Source: SparkReport.net


From: rachel
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2011 12:11 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 this year.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dave
Sent: Friday, April 29, 2011 9:43 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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 today?  Would he agree to a series of interviews?


Sorry, Dave, I have no idea what Fred is up to.  I live in Texas and have never met the manI 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 came available.  

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?


From: Matthew S
Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2011 8:21 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
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.  

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