In 1943, as part of the infamous Manhattan Project, the US government forced out residents of three little towns in Eastern Washington state: Richland, Hanford, and White Bluffs. In their place, they constructed a new site – Hanford Engineer Works, a top secret location to manufacture plutonium on an industrial scale. In other words, an atomic bomb factory. Soon, a construction camp was built to house the many new workers brought to work the site. To support the 51,000 workers, the government also built schools, recreation halls, and stores, and later houses all over the area, designated by letters to signify the different home models.

During the next few years, over 500 structures were built on the site, including several nuclear reactors. By July of 1945, the three main reactors had produced enough plutonium to test an atomic bomb, and soom produce the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in August of 1945.

It wasn’t until after Japan surrendered that the residents at Hanford were told what exactly was being created at Hanford. The area, now dubbed Richland, continued on with atomic energy research, the production of plutonium, and various other nuclear physics projects.

Since the US stoppage of plutonium production in the late 1980s, the Hanford Project morphed into a full environmental cleanup project, which is ongoing and will last decades.

The author of Witchland, Tim Mulligan, was born and raised in Richland. Nearly everyone he knew growing up worked at the nuclear reactor at some point, including himself during high school. Over the years, thousands of residents have filed (and settled) lawsuits for health problems due to the release of toxic waste. Although today Richland is known for its small-town charm and beautiful vistas of the Columbia River, glorious golf courses, PickleBall courts, wineries, and of course it’s pride and glory, “spudnuts,” the area is shrouded in mystery and danger from the toxic cleanup at the Hanford Site. 

This play follows one family’s experience moving to Richland, and living near a mysterious “witch”. Yes, things seem suspicious (and dangerous) but is their neighbor actually a witch? Or are they just another one of the thousands plagued with health issues from living in the backyard of what has been declared: “the most toxic place in the Western Hemisphere”? 

Welcome to Witchland.