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Location Scout: The Abandoned UFO Village of Wanli

So yesterday Anna and I headed out to Wanli Village on Taiwan’s North Coast. It’s just an hour out of town, whose two main attractions are a seaside resort and a geological park. But neither were the reason for our visit. We were on the hunt for the ‘most haunted place in Taiwan’ - the abandoned UFO village.

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If you’re planning your own visit; first of all ignore the misinformation that it was demolished in 2010 - that was only the large hotel complex. There are still around 19 UFO Futuro and Venturo specimens still standing, if in an advanced state of dilapidation. It’s relatively easy to get to, you just take the bus to Wanli, get off at the last stop, walk through the White House resort and take the path down to a beach covered in junk and soon you will see the first three Venturo holmes:

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Go a little further up the beach and you will see your first UFO house- the Futuro.

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A Futuro home was a completely furnished, modular dwelling designed to house up to 8 people. They were made out of plastic, and designed to be cheap and easily transportable. The first prototype was made as a ski lodge that could be quickly and easily erected on mountainsides with the aid of a helicopter:

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As Wikipedia puts it: “The Futuro house was a product of post-war Finland, reflecting the period's faith in technology, the conquering of space, unprecedented economic growth, and an increase in leisure time.” Billed as the affordable, space-age home of the future, the dream died with the oil crisis in the late 70’s, with the rising cost of plastic making production uneconomical. There were only 100 made, and they are spread out across the world, you can see from this map where the rest are.

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There is a question as to whether these are ‘true’ Futuro homes at all. The design is slightly different in that they lack the metal frame base and are instead supported on concrete foundation, and the drop down UFO door/stairs to the entrance. Some speculate that these could have been manufactured in Japan or even in Taiwan.

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So why the hell are they here? From my Google research, the best resource I could find was Josh Ellises blog, in which he explains that it cropped up during the ‘Economic Miracle’ of the 80’s in which Taiwan went under rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. The successful soft drink tycoon, Su Ming, saw a gap in the market for seaside resorts. Using his connections in the military, Ming was able to purchase land that was previously unavailable as most beaches were government owned, following a period of martial law. The idea was he would sell vacation homes like he sold sasparilla- to wealthy American servicemen and aspirational locals.

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Of course, things didn't go as planned. These expensive beach homes were a hard sell in an economy that dipped into recession. Taiwanese people don’t exactly have a beach culture, and turns out that Emerald Bay, where they are situated, is a pretty unpleasant place to stay- with long scorching summers and cold, wet winters. From when we went there in the middle of January, it looks like a place where the Silent Hill monsters would vacation:

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Ellis’s blog was the most rational and grounded explanation I could find for the UFO’s sudden appearance and fall into decay. Mystery and rumors abound, ranging from that the resorts bad fortune was ordained when it was built adjacent a cemetery. Some say that a string of mysterious suicides and accidents occurred during the construction. There are little record, as it is believed the construction company shredded most documents regarding the process when it was found to be working in contempt of the law.

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And If you look further into the history of Futuro home’s, things also can get pretty weird. Especially if you start to believe the conspiratorial ideas espoused by obscure YouTube video star Robert Vincelette. Besides having some neat ideas on how to customise and restore you Futuro, Vincelette believes that western culture ‘killed’ the Futuro home, refusing to finance construction of them because ‘they were considered disruptive to architectual style of communities’ and ran counter to the western imperial zeitgeist.

Robert Vincelette, outside his house.

Robert Vincelette, outside his house.

While this is an interesting and colorfully illustated theory, like a crudely made Adam Curtis documentary, I have some doubts as to its validity. The reality is that regardless of an oil crisis, a round shaped house is a difficult space to live in. It makes buying furniture prohibitively expensive, as all items need to be custom fitted; the house needs to take up almost 2x the space on the lot to fit the same amount in it and there is no way you can build a second story or renovate the space without ruining the shape. Maybe it wasn’t marketed well, or it faced some resistance by the status quo, but the Futuro was always doomed to remain a rather gimmicky architectural oddity - a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.

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At current, the future of the village is unknown, as the government has entertained both the idea of demolishing or restoring them. Some of the dwellings remain inhabited to this day, and living up to the designs portable ideal, one has flown away from Emerald Bay and currently resides in Taipei’s Da’an district:

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I found this by accident on a walk around the city- it looks even stranger contrasted against brand new skyscrapers and ordinary looking apartment buildings. If you’re in Taipei, I recommend you go check it out before it gets demolished or restored, as either way it’s sure to lose its spooky ambience whatever the case. I’ve tried my best, but pictures don’t do this place justice; you really have to see it for yourself.