Rumors of tunnels disputed by officials, ex-followers

Records show extensive addition to basement

The Shawano Leader/October 13, 2004
By Tim Ryan

Neighbors and others who live near Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy's property in the Town of Wescott say they have seen frequent activity going on there over the years, including digging, excavation and the delivery of cement and steel beams.

The activity has fueled rumors that Samanta Roy and his group have been building extensive underground tunnels, and even bunkers.

"I've heard those rumors," said Shawano County Planning Director Tim Reed. "I'm not aware of anything that would indicate that. I can't say with certainty that they don't exist. I'm just saying we've seen no indication of it."

Town of Wescott Assessor Paul Hahn, who last inspected the property in 2002, said there were no tunnels.

"We looked behind every door and we never saw anything we suspected would lead to a tunnel," Hahn said.

Shawano County Zoning Administrator Roger Mathison noted that digging seemed to go on quite frequently on the property.

"They dig holes and they fill them up, and they go and dig some more," Mathison said. However, he said, digging is not an issue for the county unless a structure is being erected.

Former members, who have made a number of other accusations about the group, also say there were no tunnels or bunkers when they were on the property. One of those members left as recently as three years ago.

They described digging tunnels but not tunnels that lead anywhere. They were dug, one former member said, to build up the footings around Samanta Roy's house.

"For a while there was a thing where we were building tunnels under the house," said Elliot Lane, a member of the group who left in 1996. However, he said, those tunnels were filled up with rocks and gravel because of swampy areas on the property.

Another former member said the group was often digging but not digging tunnels of the kind that have been rumored. Much of the labor seemed to be only for the purpose of keeping the group working.

"He kept everybody busy," this former member said.

Wesley Kemp, who left the group permanently in 1993, described much of the work members were put through as meaningless exercises. Except for a three-year period when he had abandoned the group and then returned, he had been one of Samanta Roy's followers since the age of eight.

"We were always moving dirt when I was growing up," Kemp said. "Take this pile of dirt and move it here, then move it back. You work so hard and you start to wonder what's the purpose?"

Town of Wescott officials said the concrete that was delivered was likely for an extension of the basement to the house on the property.

The square footage of the basement has in fact nearly tripled since 1995, according to assessment records. A Residential Valuation Report done that year lists 4,136 square feet of basement space. By the time the property was appraised in 2002, the basement's gross area was recorded as 11,469 feet.

Handwritten appraisal notes list 2,600 square feet of below the first floor living space; 728 square feet below the garage; 2,880 square feet below unheated storage; and 5,338 square feet of heated area below a steel deck.

According to the notes, the basement was figured as unfinished.

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