Once home to the most prolific LSD manufacturer in the United States, William Leonard Pickard, the unremarkable concrete exterior of this former Cold War-era Atlas E missile silo belies the patent strangeness of the site’s history.
Originally installed by the Air Force as part of a missile defense system in the Topeka area in 1961, the site was only operational until 1965, when it was decommissioned and ultimately abandoned. Following three decades of decay, the building was purchased by Gordon Todd Skinner, a young psychedelic drug enthusiast with a massive inherited fortune, who converted the mostly underground structure into a kind of hidden palace, complete with luxurious hot tubs and baths and furnished with imported marble. Skinner had ties to an LSD manufacturer operating out of California named William Leonard Pickard, who eventually decided to move his operation to the Wamego silo and work together with Skinner.
Although the site operated as a drug manufacturing facility for only a short time, the DEA estimates that Pickard and Skinner produced up to 90% of the LSD circulating in the United States during the latter half of the 1990’s. In addition, Skinner, a self-taught chemist and pharmacologist, is also known to have synthesized other psychedelic drugs, such as synthetic mescaline. By 2000, Skinner had become paranoid of being caught in his illicit activities, and began working as an informer for the DEA. This led to the arrest and eventual imprisonment of Pickard and his lab partner Clyde Apperson, as well as a major dearth of LSD in street drug markets that would last for years.
Skinner later left Wamego and was eventually convicted of kidnapping, assaulting, torturing, and forcibly dosing a number of victims, including his former girlfriend Krystle Cole as well as several minors, with dangerously large amounts of various psychedelic and dissociative drugs.
Nowadays, the former silo is now owned by the Charles and Kellie Everson family, who, despite the site’s scandalous past, still offer group tours by appointment. Charles Everson is also a notable collector of military paraphernalia and equipment, and his collection is now housed in the silo.