Why you should care
It’s an experience that’s out of this world.
Do not enter Taiwan’s most haunted village— unless decaying, deserted flying saucers are your cup of tea. About 40 years ago, dozens of garish yellow “UFOs” quietly appeared on Taiwan’s sandy eastern shores, within striking distance of the island’s high-flying capital city.
While you won’t see Martians here, you will be able to catch a glimpse of a surreal terrain that’s truly out of this world. That’s because the streets of Taiwan’s San-Zhi Village are lined with vacant flying saucer-shaped homes. Each alien-inspired abode even boasts an aircraft hangar–style front door that would amuse the conspiracy theories inside all of us — because deep down, we know those weren’t just airplanes. And now, once hidden from view, the skeletal remains of this curious landscape are slowly rousing back to life as a dark tourism spot for thrill-seeking adventurers, says Li Minghua of Taiwan’s Ministry of Tourism.
Overlooking the aquamarine waters of the East China Sea, the village was supposed to be a high-end beach resort. In the 1970s, an unnamed Taiwanese businessman dreamed of building future-forward chalets geared toward well-to-do travelers seeking some sand, surf and sci-fi. Hatched up by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, the experimental “Futuro” pods were designed to be portable, prefabricated houses. But as the 1980s rolled in, the seaside retreat was abandoned due to extreme coastal weather, a looming oil crisis and a lack of investment. And, according to local lore, a “strange” streak of suicides and ghost sightings actually spooked construction workers away, says Liao Minghua, who works at the nearby Yehliu Tourist Center. Tales that only add to the village’s mystique, Liao adds.
The crumbling structures are held in place by nothing more than gravity and good faith.
On a bleak wintry day, I wend my way through the neighborhood’s silent streets. The ruins of these spaceship homes resemble a run-down retro-futuristic trailer park. Inside there are decaying bedrooms filled with a creeping mist, half-torn wallpaper of an usual pallor and moldering furniture rusted by salty sea spray, all battered by typhoons gone by. The crumbling structures are held in place by nothing more than gravity and good faith. Yellowed newspapers, rusted teakettles and unmade beds lie untouched.
A sneak peak through the shattered glass windows would be enough to scare the hell out of anyone — imagine a gaunt, shadowy figure emerging from behind damp, tattered curtains. But no fear, Chen (who only gives his last name) is a resident. Turns out, a handful of daring folks have tidied up some homes and now occupy them. But they’re careful not to renovate, Chen says, because “they don’t care” — otherwise, the village would “lose” its, um, postapocalyptic charm.
Although, he notes, rumors of demolition have circulated over the years, with developers eyeing the prime seaside real estate. In fact, four of the Futuros have already “vanished” from the site. But in any case, Taiwan’s spooky UFO Village will remain trapped in purgatory for the time being, Chen says.
GO THERE: San-Zhi UFO Village
- Name in Chinese: 三芝飛碟屋 (Sānzhī Fēidiéwū)
- Address: Tingtão Rd, Wanli District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 207 (25°11’13.90″N 121°41’10.25″E)
- Cost: Free — no caution tape, no barbed wire. Simply walk through the open gates of the Howard Green Bay Resort Hotel.
- How to Get There: From Taipei, take the 1815 bus from the Taipei City Hall Bus Station to the 翡翠灣 stop (just before Yehliu Geopark) for about an hour. You’ll see the UFO Village on your right, just along the coast.
- Pro Tip: Consider going during cloudy weather. The misty fog will scare the bejesus out of you.