Back to the Future: the Sanzhi UFO Houses in Taiwan

Have you ever seen a crash-landed UFO up close? Until five years ago, Taiwan had a reasonable facsimile thereof: a strange and spooky complex called the Sanzhi Pod Village.

Situated along a remote stretch of coastline in the Sanzhi district of Northern Taiwan, this luxury resort-turned-ghost town was abandoned in 1980 but continues to attract tourists and repel locals. Even after the buildings were torn down in 2010, visitors continued to converge on the area from all over the globe, drawn by the rumors of ongoing paranormal activity.

The pod village was originally intended as a vacation destination for wealthy travelers and U.S. military personnel posted in East Asia. It made sense at the time: UFOs were all the rage on television and in films. What vacationer would pass up the chance to relax on a beach with neon buildings shaped like flying saucers in the background?

kevinhung / Shutterstock.com
kevinhung / Shutterstock.com

A Series of Hauntings

The freaky but futuristic pod-shaped buildings followed two basic architectural designs: the flying saucer-shaped Futuro and the Venturo, a curved rectangle, both of which were made famous by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. But two years after construction began in 1978, all development was suddenly – -and mysteriously — halted.

Government spokespeople claimed that investment losses were to blame. Others, however, insisted that the complex was doomed after workers damaged a Chinese dragon statue next to the entrance gate. Their reason was that the approach road needed widening and the dragon was in the way, but on the Chinese bad luck scale, defacing the statue was the equivalent of smashing a thousand mirrors. There were also whispers that over 20,000 skeletons, the remains of fifteenth century Dutch colonists, were unearthed when construction began, causing their angry spirits to retaliate.

Whatever triggered the problems, disaster followed fast. A number of fatal car accidents took place on the nearby highway, and at least one worker committed suicide. There were supposedly more deaths, but the Taiwanese government never released any numbers and refused to discuss the subject, even decades later. Site records were destroyed, which fanned the flames of speculation over Sanzhi’s mysterious collapse. Within a few years, the futuristic vacation spot deteriorated into an eerie ghost town.

Carrie Kellenberger
Carrie Kellenberger

Ruins of the Future

Colorful, quirky, and forlorn, the Sanzhi UFO houses became a fixture on the creepiest ghost town lists, earning nicknames like the “ruins of the future.” Instead of American serviceman and wealthy globetrotters, the place attracted urban explorers with a taste for the uncanny. Most of them brought cameras along, capturing the ruins of the pod village in all their dismal glory. Even MTV got in on the act, shooting some footage there.

Despite an online petition to retain at least one of the now-famous UFO houses as a museum, demolition work began in the village on December 29, 2008. There were plans to redevelop the site into a new and modern resort complete with upscale hotels and beach amenities. The last of the structures was razed in 2010, and there has been no word since, either on future developments or the activities of the spirits that may still haunt the grounds.

Carrie Kellenberger
Carrie Kellenberger