Ms. Pac-Man lives in a cave in Independence

Bill Houlehan stores millions of Atari games in a limestone cave in Independence. And he’s selling them for $5 a pop.

I read a story about Bill Houlehan, who bought up Atari’s inventory in the ’90s in The Escapist yesterday. It brought back a lot of memories for me; my first video-gaming system was an Atari 7800. So I called the cave and spoke with Bill’s son, Tom Houlehan.

Houlehan told me that in the early ’90s, as Atari struggled financially, his father swooped in and bought the company’s 3-million game inventory. Every last one.

“There was a bit of a bidding war for the games,” Tom Houlehan said, “and we were able to get in there and snatch them all up.”

Bill Houlehan and his closeout/liquidation company, O’Shea Limited, ended up with 40 to 50 titles. They stored the cartridges 150-feet underground in a 20,000 square foot warehouse. But they didn’t buy the classic games to sit on them; they immediately started selling them to overseas buyers.

“They were still buying container loads of games,” Tom Houlehan said. “There was still a thriving market over there for the games.”

The best sellers are Dig Dug, Pole Position and Ms. Pac-Man.

“Those are the games that are in every order, practically,” Houlehan said.

They still have about a million games left, although some titles have sold out. Collectors are also starting to grab titles in anticipation of a biopic of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell with Leonardo DiCaprio attached, Houlehan said.

Makes me want to bust out the 7800 and re-start my romance with Ms. Pac-Man.

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