The Full Story Behind The Great Tennessee Pot Cave

Posted in History | By Spark Report |

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. I have always wondered the real story behind the photos of this amazing setup. The full story.

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.

The Photos

Video Tour

Tour starts around 2:30.

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Your Thoughts:

Discussion: 19 Responses

  1. Great Post! I’m glad you wrote it, I hadn’t heard of this before. Keep up all of the awesome work!

  2. THANKS FOR FINALLY LETTING ME SEE .I LOOK LIKE A WORK OF ART .TO BAD THEY GOT CAUGHT DAMN PIGS

  3. Glen says:

    if only they hadn’t stolen the power to do this. surely they couldve got some kind of battery shit going with all the money they had. theyd be billionaires and free if they hadnt tapped into the states power

  4. Tim says:

    Those buttholes… whyd they bust em!

  5. Angie says:

    Awesome story, It would make a great Movie too!!

  6. noblsht says:

    i would have burned down the house also >> dont let the f#cking state get it

  7. joe says:

    im sure theirs houses that they made like this all over the countrie since its pot and not some hard drugs i think its so cool but im pissed they got caught. it kinda reminds me of the end of pineapple express where they fight the drug dealers in the same type of pot room setup

  8. Jason Ray says:

    I’m definitely calling bull shit on the cops estimation for how much the annual yields were worth. Their is no fucking way in hell they made $6-8 million annually. At 100 pounds a harvest and an estimated 3-4 harvests per year their concluding that each pound (no matter how you crunch the math: $6 mill or $8 mill at 300 lbs a year or 400 lbs a year) comes out to $20,000 PER POUND!! HAHAHAH!!! What a joke!!! It misses me off when they blatantly lie and so many believe it.

  9. Jason Ray says:

    Correct statement after spelling corrections:

    I’m definitely calling bull shit on the cops estimation for how much the annual yields were worth. There is no fucking way in hell they made $6-8 million annually. At 100 pounds a harvest and an estimated 3-4 harvests per year, they’re concluding that each pound (no matter how you crunch the math: $6 mill or $8 mill at 300 lbs a year or 400 lbs a year) comes out to $20,000 PER POUND!! HAHAHAH!!! What a joke!!! It pisses me off when they blatantly lie and so many believe it!

  10. Johnny Scissors says:

    Wow, Fred Strunk is the man… I wish he wasn’t so cheap regarding the electricity to power the cave. If he was really generating 6-8 million dollars worth of revenue per year, I’m sure he could have coughed up the 60 grand to keep the electricity company from getting suspicious. This article actually fuels my desire to follow in this great man’s footsteps by doing something along these lines, while fixing the few mistakes that he made along the way. Great job with this piece, very interesting.

  11. Deez Buds says:

    Man, you would think that old man strunk would have looked into alternate methods of getting electricity. Solar power, Geo-Thermal, Or hell even putting a dam into a small creek. Oh well I guess where those have failed others will prosper.

  12. Big Al says:

    If he had been SMART he would have had it under a welding shop and Bought the electricity. He could have written it off as a business expense. But it was a really cool set up.

  13. ziegler says:

    I lived in this town. Used to smell the operation. They could harvest on a 90 day cycle….stuff sold for 125.00 1/4 oz. I dont recall that the details were ever revealed on how they were found out though. Because they were tapped into the main electrical lines which are not metered or measured in any way that would detect the relative low power draw they used. Also, all wiring and plumbing was up to code…LOL…very nice setup. Now go look up the Obion County pot bust in West Tn…..It makes this one look small.

  14. mike says:

    agree with jason… they probly made 1/4 of that. the saddest part of the whole thing is how some cheese factory can buy everything for a quarter mil! i think the lights alone were probly worth that much!

  15. Bill says:

    Why didnt they just buy a generator???

  16. ron says:

    The guy who says bullsh*t to the dollar amounts and harvests of 3 to 4 times a year, with a setup like this it was a continually harvested, so not 3 to 4 harvests a year, more like daily and weekly with this type of grow. With multiple grow stations, new plants went in daily as mature plants were harvested and the ones getting close moved on to the next stage. This was a 365 day a year harvest cycle. This knowledge comes from experience in the ever growing grow community.

    A setup like that could produce pounds upon pounds on a daily bases of manicured and fully cured buds to sell to the masses. Want to learn how to make and maintain a continual harvest setup, go to 420 mag and many other websites and start learning. But do your research before you speak out on something your not up to speed on.

  17. Chris says:

    Jason Ray, actually the article notes they were able to harvest every 60 days. Not 3 times a year. Still comes out to about $600 an oz which is high. Though the math is not quite as off as you assume.

  18. J R says:

    — I love this story. This is what happens when fools partake of their own product and disregard the rules not mix business with pleasure as well as pointing out that greed is almost always what gets people caught. Though I wish I had known about the auction as i would have seriously tried to buy it. Maybe in this new age of Obama spending the cheese company will have to tighten their belt or close down. Then I might get another shot at a default auction. It looks like it would make an excellent high value secure storage facility… I would never dream of any illicit activity…green acres is definitely not the place for me.

  19. Beauxdean says:

    Th’ feds are a real crock of shit. I bet they were all running around feeling like they were some kind of big shit with their army guns and patting themselves on the back. They act like weed is some kind of dangerous drug. That’s bullshit. They allow drinking. Now, that said, here’s what my buddy Woody once said to his mom (who is a drinker) when she was bitchin’ him out for smokin’:
    “You drink as much as you can, mom, and I’ll smoke as much as I can and then lets both get into each of our cars and drive to the store and see who gets there first and with an intact car…” Needless to say, she was REALLY bitchin’ after that…


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  4. Electricity bill is over $1500!!!