South of I-8, a long stretch of pavement known as Thornton Road cuts through the parched Arizona desert. The landscape is monotonous and unremarkable as far as the eye can see, until you approach the bizarre cluster of UFO-like buildings known as the Casa Grande Domes.
Four hollow structures, one flying-saucer-shaped and three long and caterpillar-like, share the plot with the unfinished foundations of three others. A network of narrow tunnels runs beneath.
Stories tell of whispers in the dark, strange echoing footsteps, and a mysterious figure that wanders the grounds, lurking in the shadows to stalk intruders. Visitors parked on Thornton Road have heard tapping noises on the outside of their cars. Some have even reported hearing the distant muffled cries of children.
What dark history does this site possess that would account for such eerie phenomena? What gruesome events left the indelible stains that draw malevolent visitors from the netherworld? The truth is far less interesting than you might imagine.
The domes were built in 1983 by InnerConn Technology Inc., a manufacturer of circuit boards for computers and watches. In 1982, Patricia Zebb, the owner of InnerConn, announced plans to relocate the company headquarters from California to the 135-acre site in Casa Grande, AZ.
The unusual shape and composition of the structures was chosen for its relatively low cost, speedy construction time, and efficient insulation. Each structure took approximately six weeks to build and cost about $150,000 apiece.
Construction went something like this: After the foundations were complete, giant balloons were mounted onto them, supported by steel skeletons. A coating of polyurethane foam was applied to the outside of each balloon, which hardened to form a layer several inches thick. An additional three inches of concrete was then added to form the outer shell.
The large segmented buildings were to be used for manufacturing.
The UFO-like saucer structure was to be the office building.
The subterranean tunnels were intended as conduits for ventilation and for piping the fluids used in the manufacturing process.
The project was halted, unfinished, in 1983 when InnerConn Technologies defaulted on a loan and Union Bank of California assumed ownership of the company's assets.
As is the case with many abandoned properties, the land has been used as an illegal dump site for large pieces of trash such as furniture and tires.
With so any people stopping to check out the place, it is no surprise that visitors have witnessed elusive figures lurking nearby. I wouldn't be surprised if the suspicious dark figures were actually trespassers trying to hide when they noticed others entering the property.
Many of the reports of strange noises can also be explained. The unusual shape of the structures causes normal sounds to bounce off the walls in distorted echoes. Wind rushes through the hollow buildings, producing bizarre sounds as it passes through doorways and holes in the ceiling and beats sheets of rusting scrap metal against the walls.
If you're interested in using the domes as a location for filming or photo shoots, a helpful sign out front displays pricing and contact information.
After exploring the awesome Casa Grande Domes I headed toward Tucson, where I happened upon the interesting remains of several abandoned restaurants and tourist traps. Come back next week and I'll tell you all about them!
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