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The Domes

In almost every small town in America, there seems to be at least one place like The Domes of Casa Grande, Arizona. It's the kind of place that has no real past, and not much of a future. It's the kind of place where teenagers go to drink beer, start fires, and practice their graffiti skills. It's where the locals go to dump trash illegally. It's the kind of place your mother may have told you to avoid.

This collection of unusual structures is at the southern edge of Casa Grande, just south of Interstate 8 on South Thornton Road.

They are tucked away in a rural neighborhood of low-income homes, a short distance after the paved road ends.

Trying to describe these buildings is a challenge all its own. Some of the structures look like a giant caterpillar––rounded sections joined together into a long, continuous building. Other structures are saucer-shaped and look similar to the UFOs seen in your favorite '50s science-fiction movie.

On the outside, the domed structures are perfectly geometric. The doorways are square, though the doors themselves are nonexistent after years of abandonment and vandalism. The domes are made of concrete, and appear to be covered with foam insulation on the outside. This is largely visible in areas where the outermost layer of concrete has worn away or been removed. Several large holes in the walls offer a glimpse at construction methods of an earlier time. There is no supporting rebar in the walls or any other building material present besides concrete.

Close by the property are the visible outlines of more foundations. It's likely that more domes were planned for construction and never built, for reasons unknown. They have a kind of swimming-pool shape, with rounded edges and a circular design.

Inside, the domes are very large and some are quite lengthy. There are no supporting beams or interior walls. The ceilings are high and are mostly blackened, presumably from smoke. One dome is littered with so much burned trash and melted tires that it's difficult to walk through. Another dome appeared to have been swept clean and was quite spacious inside. Several cars could easily be parked inside.

The walls are adorned with years of graffiti from all different kinds of taggers. Most of it was illegible, but it did fit in with the atmosphere of the place. The Domes have a mysterious aura about them, though it's hard to describe exactly. Because so little is known about them, one often wonders who built them, and when, and most importantly, why? What happened there, or what was supposed to happen there, in the desert surrounding Casa Grande?

The other part to the story is much more interesting. Rumors of a shadowy figure lurking about at the domes have earned it a place on numerous lists of haunted sites in Arizona.

There have been reports of weird vibrations, tapping noises on cars and uneasy feelings from visitors.

While I did not encounter any shadowy figures, I was startled several times by strange noises at the site. One turned out to be an empty beer can being pushed along by the wind. Another strange noise was discovered to be a plastic bag snagged on a piece of debris inside one of the domes. The acoustics inside the domes are impressive, and small sounds are amplified remarkably well. This can be startling to visitors, especially those who are visiting alone. The whole place definitely gives off some creepy vibes, especially when visiting after dark. –Trevor Freeman

Unsettling Sunset at the Domes

On my second trip out west in preparation for writing Weird Arizona, I found enough courage to drop by these "Domes" I'd heard so much about then and just had to see if they were as sinister as people had told me. Unfortunately, though the structures were certainly unusual, I wouldn't have called them scary. I'd been told the site was used for Satan worship and animal sacrifice, but I suspected the most insidious activity to occur there was probably just a dirty-tactics game of paintball. For the most part, it struck me as little more than a bizarre dumpsite. If you were looking for a skinless bedspring, a spare oven knob or a fresh dose of tetanus, this was the place to be.

As I explored the Domes further, however, my flippant attitude gave way to trepidation. There was an unusual stillness about the place––the kind of tranquility that makes you feel like you're being watched. As I peered through my camera with one eye, I couldn't help but scan for mutants with the other. The creepy reverb produced inside the domes only made things worse, though up until sunset, the only sounds I heard were those I made myself.

Yet, once the sun disappeared, the whole scene grew absolutely unsettling. I was there long enough before dusk to determine there was no one else around, but in the dark, the noises I heard were no longer just my own. No one could have arrived at this isolated location without my seeing them drive up in a car, yet there was something definitely moving around me and it didn't sound like a small desert creature.

Just as I opened the shutter for my last photo, I heard the sound of a jug being kicked. Not falling over––kicked! It was the longest 8-second exposure of my life. As soon as the shutter closed, I threw everything in my rental car any way it would fit and sped away, tripod legs sticking out of windows and light stands poking me in the back of the head.

Of all the sites I visited for Weird Arizona, the Domes were probably the most foreboding. –Wesley Treat

Weird Arizona

 

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