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And in Mount Dora, Fla., a wealthy financier built an underground compound called the Catacombs to support 100 people for six months. The exact location is still unclear. People paid $2,000 deposits for a place in the fortress, which had its own medical facility, private family rooms and weapons arsenal. The owner told those not in the know that he was building a tennis court.

But it was Texas builder Jay Swayze who took the fallout shelter to a new level. Aghast at its claustrophobic nature, he devised a “ship in a bottle” concept: A full-size “normal” home could be built within the protective confines of a concrete shell, and the shell’s interior could be decoratively painted to represent the outside world.

Mr. Swayze built one for himself and his family, and liked it so much he lived in it for four years.

He was passionate about underground living, convinced it was better even under normal, peacetime circumstances. With no weather or airborne pollutants, home maintenance and allergies would be a thing of the past. And a homeowner’s aboveground property could be used for lawns, gardens and so on - doubling the land use, Mr. Swayze said.

In his book, “Underground Gardens and Homes,” one illustration shows a family frolicking around a subterranean swimming pool amid bicycling tots and faux trees, while a maelstrom of radioactivity and tornadoes rages aboveground.

The award for most spectacular shelter arguably goes to Mr. Swayze’s design for Girard Henderson, a wealthy Texas recluse who ordered up an underground “home in a bottle” in Las Vegas complete with putting green, swimming pool, luxurious upholstered rooms, formal dining room with chandelier, fully outfitted kitchen, sunken bathtubs and fake flowers everywhere.

Ultimately, fallout shelters fell victim to the 1960s mindset: If only the wealthy could afford them, and protection meant pitting neighbor against neighbor, there was no appetite for that. Cold War preparedness reverted to the essential: large structures designed to house big groups for bare-bones living.

And even then, pragmatism was taking hold. “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling, who could have afforded to build one, didn’t. “If we survive,” he asked, “what do we survive for? What kind of a world? If it’s rubble, and there’s poisoned water and inedible food and [we] have to live like wild beasts, I’m not sure I want to survive.”

In writing “Bomboozled,” Ms. Roy says, she found that wealth allows the creation of “a very expensive security blanket.” But resiliency is class-resistant. “Even faced with apocalypse,” she says, “hope springs eternal.”