Why you should care
Scary enough in broad daylight, it’s no doubt utterly terrifying at night.
An exit in the middle of the desert and a turn down an endless road to nowhere. And then it comes into view — a cluster of giant, white-and-yellow semi-hemispheric domes poking up out of the desert like a copse of giant poisonous mushrooms. Pulling to the side of the road, curiosity turns to unease. If Texas Chainsaw Massacre–style villains existed, this is the sort of place they’d lay in wait. The Middle of Nowhere, Arizona. Utterly isolated.
It’s clear that hundreds have climbed over the low barbed-wire fence where a broken plywood sign lies faceup in the dirt. It’s covered in graffitied tags, but just visible beneath them all are the spray-painted words: “Welcome to Hell.”
I had some terrible things happen to me after visiting that place.
Adam Forner, paranormal investigator
This is no haunted house or tourist attraction. The abandoned, never-completed domes of Casa Grande, an hour south of Phoenix, were intended to manufacture semiconductors in the ’70s. The domes have become a regular spot for local devil worshippers, as well as curious ghost hunters and daring late-night partygoers. The front dome is shaped like a spaceship; the others are larger, as if a chain of half-domes were joined together into a caterpillar shape. There is a white-and-yellow pattern on the outside where the concrete shell has been destroyed to reveal insulation beneath. Graffiti is everywhere, but in addition to the big block and grotesque cartoon faces are more pentagrams and 666s than you might expect.
What looks like a No Trespassing sign (the letters are obscured by black spray paint) warns visitors away, but it’s clear that nobody pays any attention — there’s even an Instragram location filter here. There is trash everywhere, from lumps of concrete to used fireworks, spray paint cans and a near-universal carpet of broken glass. And then, in the middle of a concrete forecourt between the two largest remaining structures, a disturbing sight: a dead pigeon with its chest cavity cut open and a half-burned matchstick poking out. Satantic ritual perhaps?
Dead animals are regularly found here, according to Adam Forner, co-founder of a small group called the Casa Grande Paranormal Investigations. Forner has visited Casa Grande four times, twice on formal paranormal investigations. There have been dead bodies too, he says, though I can’t find any reports to support his claim. On his first visit, in the dead of night, Forner says he saw a spirit that “almost looked like the Grim Reaper … it was like black feathery flames in a cloak.” On another occasion, when asking questions into the dark while listening to a spirit box (a device used by ghost hunters to scan radio frequencies for fragments of semi-intelligible audio — ghosts trying to communicate), Forner describes distinctly hearing the words “get out” before a dust storm blew through the dome.
Whether you’re a believer or not, the site is decidedly creepy. As I walk around — in the daytime, I might add — every footfall pings around the circular structures half a dozen times like a ricocheting bullet. Combined with the wind whistling through odd holes in the structures, the natural sound effects of the place are as disorienting and eerie as any horror movie score. And if the accidental acoustics lesson doesn’t float your boat, then you could spend hours reading through the endless graffiti to delve into the minds of the occult (and of the far-right and the downright weirdos — there are swastikas and even glory holes aplenty).
“I had some terrible things happen to me after visiting that place,” says Forner. Although a born skeptic, I’m still thankful I spoke with Forner after my visit — I had enough chills down my spine walking around without the need for visions of feathered and flaming visitors from the afterlife. Finding that poor mutilated pigeon was more than enough for me.
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