A good underground lair has three things: Secret tunnels, a supercomputer with a giant monitor, and a sturdy cage to imprison your enemies. A great underground lair has all of those things plus a bathroom. You’d be surprised at how many evil underground lairs are built without bathrooms. Typically the person designing the lair is so excited about having their own lair that they lose sight of the little things.
In fact, there was a lair found beneath the Mississippi River that not only lacked a bathroom, but it didn’t even have a weapon rack! Can you imagine?! The hatchets and power scepter were just sitting there on the floor like old shoes. If you plan to keep you weapons (both mythic and real) clean and organized, a weapon rack is a must.
When designing an evil lair, one must always think practically.
A lair in Germany was built 1,500 feet below the ground and was only accessible via a long stone spiral staircase, which meant Ludwig Osskar (a.k.a. The Night Bear) who dwelled in this lair had to climb the damp stairs each and every time he wanted to leave. That was fine and well when Osskar was a young villain attempting to rob banks and clone an army of mermen, but by the time he was thirty, his knees were shot from too much stair climbing and after the age of 67, he could never leave his own lair again.
He was last seen alive in 1989. His corpse was discovered eighteen years later when the lair was found by a group of amateur diamond miners. One of the miners said of the discovery, “Ew.”
Because lairs are mostly designed and built by the lair dwellers themselves, you’ll spot some shoddy carpentry in these secret bunkers. While lair dwellers are usually geniuses who excel in the areas of math, magic, and athletics, most don’t know the difference between a pan head screw and a button head. This explains why so few underground lairs last more than a decade before they start crumbling. The owner of one lair in Texas didn’t measure the area properly before excavation and construction, and her vehicle, The Electric Dragon, had to be parked outside in the mall parking lot because it wouldn’t fit through the lair’s door. And she was forced to store prisoners in her parent’s attic during the busy months.
Annual lair maintenance is also widely ignored, as lair owners are far too concerned with destroying the world to care about loose floor tiles, creaky trap doors, and running a decent dehumidifier. Warped wood and rusty metal are the number one cause of lair malfunction. (The number two cause is flamethrower mishaps. And the number three cause is revenge.)
Those who desire a lair may try to hire a contractor to build it, but finding a willing worker will not be easy. Word has gotten out that building an evil lair for someone will result in assassination. Lair owners want to keep their secret base a secret, and will kill the professional handyman upon completion of the job. Many of today’s contractors owe their lives to the valuable pamphlet, “I Don’t Have a Daddy Any More: The High Price of Lair Construction.”
Moats and indoor rivers are more trouble than they are worth. Does a moat look amazing as it winds its way through the lair like an inky, black snake? Of course. But a villain will be too preoccupied with evil missions and karate to properly maintain a moat, and an ill-maintained moat leads to flooding and mold. And frustration.
Also, if you plan on filling your moat with hydrocreatures such as Sea Bats, pirate ghosts, and Aqua Goblins, know the cost of food beforehand. “I can just feed them my victims, right?” Not so fast, Tony. There will be days, maybe even weeks, in which you will have no victims at all. During these dry times, the sea creatures still need to be fed or else they’ll get in the pantry and in the walls. And then, instead of fighting the heroic Stella Goodheart, Warrior of the West, you’ll spend your holiday battling your own demons. So, as a general rule, don’t build moats. In fact, stay away from all water features. Even an evil fountain can end up costing you billions.
Remember: You own the lair, the lair doesn’t own you. If you worry too much about the look and feel of your lair, you will lose sight of what’s important.
The villain known only as “Dr. Toy” spent so much time designing, decorating and cleaning his beloved lair, that he didn’t even realize hero Moon Man Dan had infiltrated his secret base and disarmed all the poisoned teddy bears. Dr. Toy’s bizarre, though beautiful, traps were too delicate and complicated to work in real-world situations. Remember: A giant, wind-up monkey toy robot might seem evil and vicious, but most can be easily conquered by a well-placed piece of trip wire. (For more on this story, please ask your grandparents. And if they say they don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s only because they realize you’re not ready for the truth.)
Due to the very secretive nature of lairs, you rarely see another person’s lair unless things have gone very poorly for you. But there are some rules of conduct one must observe when visiting or being restrained in a lair. First, never touch the yellow button. The red button is usually fine, and pressing it will typically only release a hound or summon GortMaz the Guard of Crypts (He’s fine, really). But the yellow button? That means instant death. Most yellow buttons are wired to toxic gas or toxic birds, and some yellow buttons turn your bones into liquid via magical science.
Second, you should never look directly in any mirror found inside a lair. All mirrors in lairs are tricks. Some have cameras hidden behind the glass, while others will steal your soul and/or make a duplicate of you.
And third, if you need to escape a lair, never exit through the sewers. It’s rude.
Owning a lair can be a rewarding experience for villains of all type, but only if you do your research, plan for everything, and never cut corners. For more about lair construction and maintenance, please attend my seminar “Lair Layers: One Man’s Journey,” which will be held in my lair beneath the old statue in the park. (Press the left thumb and speak the name “Ozymandias” into the horse’s ear.) ✷
Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer and editor. He also makes and sells magic pencils, available at PowerPencils.com. If he had a real time machine, he’d mention it half-jokingly in a rambling author’s bio. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dan_Bergstein.