October 30, 2014

Hatteras Island's out-of-this-world tourist attraction


The silver reflective surface is throwing back the rays of the sun. From the windows that encircle the saucer shape, alien faces peer out. Suddenly a green man appears, crouching in the doorway. Cue the opening to a classic 1950s horror and science-fiction TV show and a narrator in the background saying, “It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

Scattered around the alien’s home are images of other green beings and the remnant skeletons of humans who got too close in a nearby "cemetery," surrounded by a picket fence.
It is the Flying Saucer of Frisco -- aka The Frisco Spaceship -- a place where mystery and imagination meet the future and the past.

The flying saucer is actually a Futuro home—this particular one coming to earth in the late 1960s. The homes were designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen who envisioned using plastic and resins to produce a prefab house for vacation getaways.

Though they haven't been manufactured since the mid-1970s, Futuro homes are actually quite famous, have an avid following, and demand a high price when being resold.  

They have their own website (www.futurohouse.com), Wikipedia listing, and Facebook page. And earlier this year a Futuro house in Berlin, N.J., was being sold on eBay for $29,900.
The Frisco Futuro house was bought by a family as a vacation house more than 40 years ago and was located on the oceanside in Hatteras village.  A little more than 20 years ago, Hatteras Island developer Jim Bagwell bought it from the original owners and moved it to the soundfront in Frisco. 

For a time, it functioned as a hot dog stand and then an office, and eventually Bagwell moved it to property he owned on the other side of Highway 12.

There it stands today, where it attracts literally hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of tourists each year, who stop by to take pictures of the flying saucer that seems more than just a little out of place at America's first national seashore.

Recently, the tourists have been greeted by a little green man, who sits on the steps leading down from the saucer, waiting for them.

The little green man is LeRoy Reynolds, who bought the Futuro from Jim Bagwell several years ago, although Bagwell still owns the land the spaceship rests on. 

As Reynolds tells it, Bagwell was surprised anyone would want to buy the structure. 

“Jim was in the Caribbean,” he recalls. “The Futuro home that was the hot dog stand was for sale. He asked me, ‘What do you want with a space ship?’ Why not? It’s been here since 1968, if somebody else buys it, it could leave the island. It’s kind of the island’s history in a way. People come here to look at the space ship. As odd as it seems.

“It was an intelligent design,” he continues. “It just didn’t fit into the way of thinking back then. It’s cool because you can see 360 with windows all along.”

As space ships go, it’s not very air tight -- probably not even completely watertight. Some of the interior renovations that were done to make it an ice cream stand—which it was, before it was a hot dog stand, weakened the structural integrity of the prefab segments.

The Futuro homes were put together almost like a Tinker Toy or Lego -- four wedge shaped bottom segments are fitted together with four top segments that rest on pilings. Structural integrity is improved by cabinets that extend almost entirely around the interior perimeter. 

According to Reynolds, the ice cream shop took out some of the cabinets so they could get to the windows, and, as a consequence, one of the roof segments has begun to separate.
For Reynolds, though, it’s a perfect getaway. “I sit inside, because I do art. I play a little music. I do stuff that’s different. I’ll take a guitar and do decoupage on it and 
put neon strings on it and a light in it.”

The hope was that owning a flying saucer home would stamp him as different.

“It fit right into my thought pattern. Maybe if I do something different from what everybody else has done down here it will work,” he says.

However, he wasn’t getting any closer to his dream of restoring the Futuro, or even being able to tell people its story. Then his grandson, Porter Allender, presented a simple solution.
“He says, ‘You need to dress up in your alien suit and let’s see what’s happening.’ So I put the suit on and the cars just stop.”

Even at mid-week in late October as the tourist season winds down, you can still see vehicles turning off to inspect and photograph the spaceship. Two cars stopped in less than an hour -- one from West Virginia, the other from Michigan.

“I don’t ask for money and if someone wants to leave with a smile, that’s all good,” he says. “If they leave with a smile, I’ve probably done my job.”

Click here for more information on the Frisco Space Ship and to watch a video on its history, go to

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