grow room archeology

PICTURE A: A grow room hidden in a built-in laundry hamper.  Note visible lock.

Austin, Texas, is known throughout the state as a haven for hip, funky, dope-friendly intellectuals--an oasis of liberalism in the otherwise conservative wasteland of Texas. When I was growing up in Dallas, my older friends used to regale me with stories of bohemian hijinks during their college days here. Mark, a former karate partner, told one about moving into a rental house with a bunch of his buddies and finding a fully-functional hydroponic grow room in the attic.

PICTURE B: Power take off, inside cabinet, from light switch, outside.

In 2001, after I myself had been living in Austin for five years, I moved into a rental house with my girlfriend and a mutual pal. After about a week in the house, I made an interesting discovery in the front bathroom.

PICTURE C: Underside of cabinet (top of hamper) detail, showing power box and scraps of aluminum foil.

My first clue came when I noticed the small lock someone had installed on the cabinet door opening onto the built-in laundry hamper (see picture A). I didn’t think much of it until I opened the cabinet above the hamper and noticed a cable running out of the wall on the inside, adjacent the light switch outside, to which it obviously had been attached to draw power (see picture B). When I followed the cable down through holes drilled in the cabinet shelves and through the top of the hamper, I found a power outlet box and scraps of aluminum foil attached to the roof of the hamper (see picture C). That left only the small, flip-down door at the top of the hamper unsecured, and a quick look revealed a small eye screwed into the inside of the door, and a mating hook attached to the inside of the frame (see picture D). It can be secured from the inside by reaching up through the bottom door.

PICTURE D: Detail of hook used to secure flip-down door of hamper, secured by reaching in through lower door.

With the exception of the exposed lock, the system is completely invisible from the outside. Granted, the tiny lock and hook-and-eye aren’t going to deter someone who’s determined to break in, but they would definitely prevent house guests from stumbling onto something they shouldn’t see while looking for a roll of toilet paper.