Image: Volunteer fire department
Bergmeisterwolf  /  via Forbes.com
The town of Margreid, located in the Italian Alps, sought to minimize use of land when building its volunteer fire department. The result: a naturally energy efficient facility excavated from the base of a 300-foot cliff, in which three caverns are finished in wood, steel and exposed granite.
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updated 7/11/2012 8:02:44 AM ET 2012-07-11T12:02:44

It’s most often called the Spy House or the Floating Glass Home. Perhaps the Bat Cave would make a better comparison. Access to 32013 Point Place is an elaborate, secretive affair that starts with a garage door opener.

The $10 million Laguna Beach, Calif,. compound sits hidden from the street below. The only sign that you have arrived at the Floating Glass Home is a wooden garage door quietly nestled off the side of a private road. When the door opens, you drive your car into the space and onto a hydraulic auto lift. The lift then drops you underground into the entryway of a guesthouse. Leave the car parked there (on display, if you will), and then meander down the winding subterranean path to the main house. Perched on a cliff with 180 degree views of the coastline, the main house is comprised of glass curtain walls and cantilevered floors that jut out over the ocean below, giving the impression of home “floating” above the beach below it.

“This is perfect for a buyer who doesn’t want people to know they are home,” says Donna Pfanner, the Coldwell Banker Previews International agent representing the $10 million property. “It’s like living in a piece of artwork or a sculpture.” Or a safe house crafted for a superhero like Bruce Wayne.

Forbes.com slideshow: See 14 real-life lairs a supervillain would love

While you’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the latest Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises," you can take your pick of real-life lairs sure to inspire a comic-book fantasy. We culled through striking and unusual properties both on the market and off that are capable of making a would-be super villain or superhero salivate. With help from the folks at Realtor.com, Coldwell Banker Previews International, Sotheby’s International Realty and others, we unearthed properties from around the world touting architectural designs, outrageous security features, exclusive locations and high-tech gadgetry one would surely demand if looking to rule to world.

Some of the most lair-like places look surprisingly normal to an unsuspecting eye. Take the Silo Home in Saranac, N.Y. “I actually could fly you in and you would think it is just a normal home,” Bruce Francsico, half of the development duo that owns the Adirondack Mountain property, told Forbes in November. “You wouldn’t know this was a missile silo until you get inside and start walking down and realize the stairs just keep going.”

The Silo Home, asking a mere $750,000, once served as an Atlas-F Missile storage system for the U.S. government during the Cold War. Sitting underneath the ground level main house lies a “007 secret palace” -- like Launch Control Center and below that another nine stories’ worth of nuclear attack-proof space suspended in the ground and fortified by 3-foot thick concrete and stainless steel mesh.

In Norway, another secretive site formerly used by NATO recently listed for sale as well. The $17.3 million Olavsvern Naval Base boasts 145,000-square feet of surface building space, but it's the 25,000-square-foot quay carved out of the face of a mountain is what would inspire a villain to use this locale as a hideout. Built in 1967 and costing $494 million, the massive mountainside storage space has a dry dock for submarines, water-filled pathways and an extensive tunnel system.

Cold War sites too extreme for your taste? San Francisco, Calif. has a $4 million Mediterranean style house overlooking Presidio National Park from its quiet child-friendly cul-de-sac. Walk down the stairs of the 1913 house’s main floor and a restored Speak Easy greets you.

“The trap door is still there and that’s where people would go in and out during the days of Prohibition and they would use this door if the police came,” says Monica Pauli, a Coldwell Banker Previews International realtor representing the 18th Avenue abode.

In Hampshire, England, Tukal has been occupying the banks of the Beaulieau River since the 1960s. When architect Seymour Harris built the massive roundhouse in the 1960s, he reportedly designed it so that he could drive his Aston Martin up a ramp and into a first-floor parking bay and turning circle. While the current owner has since removed that feature the £12 million estate still offers privacy from its 10 acres of gardens and an alternative means of getaway thanks to a 60-foot dock for boats.

“It’s a great playground,” says Andrew Rome, head of the Winchester office at Knight Frank, a British realty firm. It’s the second time Rome has sold the home, which boasts five bedrooms, a circular ballroom and an indoor pool sitting under an oculus.

As is the case with many villain-worthy homes, Rome says interest has been quiet. Unique, quirky properties can have a polarizing effect on the prospective buyer pool, taking longer to market and sell. “It’s like marmite: you either love it or hate it,” he chuckles. “I think it’s fantastic.” Goldfinger might agree.

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© 2012 Forbes.com

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