Strange roadside attractions are an American phenomenon that followed mass production and widespread use of the automobile, after the America highway system made long-distance road travel popular in the 1930s. Bizarre roadside attractions were meant to catch the eye of travelers, luring them in to stop and spend money. While many roadside attractions are free, they often come complete with diners and gift shops that help collect tourist dollars.
The advent of super-fast road travel on the interstate highway system in the 1950s caused many roadside attractions to go out of business, but a few of the more well-known strange attractions managed to stay alive, using billboards to bait travelers, often for hundreds of miles in advance. After all, who wouldn’t want to stop and pay a dollar to find out what “The Thing” is after being enticed for over 200 miles by signs advertising “the mystery of the desert?” Although often considered tacky or kitschy, many bizarre roadside attractions are iconic to American highway travelers.
Even if you don’t do road trips, if you live in America you’ve probably heard of Wall Drug (South Dakota), the Douglass Jackalope (Wyoming), or The World’s Largest Ball of Twine (Kansas). While Nebraska’s “Carhenge” may sound a bit more exciting than potatoes, here are a few, lesser-known roadside attractions out west that you won’t want to miss if you’re on the road this summer.
Bishop Castle, Wetmore, Colorado
Located outside Colorado City in the San Isabel National Forest, Bishop Castle is the ongoing, lifelong project of a single man: Jim Bishop. The strange castle has been under construction since 1969, and now stands over 70 feet tall. Working alone, Bishop harvests the rocks from the national forest and has been building his own castle for 41 years. The multi-room castle boasts a tower, stained-glass windows, and a fire-breathing dragon, with future plans for a moat, drawbridge, and possible second castle. The exhibit is free and visitors are welcome to enter and explore the castle at their own risk after signing the guestbook (waiver of liability).
UFO Watchtower, Hooper, Colorado
While in southern Colorado, swing on over to the UFO Watchtower. In 1999, former cattle ranch owner Judy Messoline built the tower as a bizarre tourist attraction in the San Luis Valley, known for its UFO sightings and other strange phenomena. Although the “tower” is actually a second-story platform, the view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and nearby sand dunes is spectacular, and one could easily spot a UFO in any direction. In addition to the tower, the strange attraction features a domed gift shop with alien info, articles, gifts, and souvenirs; an alien alter where it is customary for visitors to leave offerings; and a healing garden. Admission is free, but donations are accepted, at this odd roadside attraction, and visitors must sign the guest book.
Gilgal Garden, Salt Lake City, Utah
Mormon bishop Thomas Battersby Child Jr. spent the last 18 years of his life building his bizarre attraction, Gilgal in his backyard as a retreat from the world. Featuring a giant sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith and a statue of himself in brick pants, the Utah State Park is both a rock sculpture garden and religious shrine. In addition to a number of other odd sculptures, the garden is complete with a sacrificial alter, rocks bearing literary and religious inscriptions, walkways, and fountains. Admission to the garden attraction and its mishmash of cool, strange and bizarre sculptures is free.
Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, Oregon
Visitors flock to this odd roadside attraction to experience paranormal activities and optical illusions, rather than man-made structures. Those who have lived on the former mining claim over the years have both witnessed and scientifically studied the strange activities that occur there. In the vortex area, the positioning of magnetic fields renders the laws of physics void, sometimes even reversing them (as in the case of a ball that reportedly rolled uphill). Other phenomena that regularly occur there include the inability to stand up straight (the magnetic fields will pull you toward either the north or south pole), and people appearing to be both taller and shorter than they really are, depending on where they stand in the vortex. Ailing visitors frequent the vortex due to claims of its healing powers. Located outside Medford in southern Oregon, this bizarre attraction currently collects $7-10/person over age five.
Idaho Potato Expo, Blackfoot, Idaho
As their website states, the Idaho Potato Expo is “dedicated to the history and current information regarding the potato.” The expo doubles as the Idaho Potato Museum and Gift Shop, and Blackfoot is reportedly “the potato capital of the world.” You can visit the museum (formerly the railroad depot were potatoes were picked up for export) to learn about all things potato in America, including historical and nutritional information. Other strange roadside attractions include the world’s largest styrofoam potato (now topped with sour cream and butter), a Mr. Potato Head shrine, a “potatoes in space” exhibit, and a sampling of potato based treats, such as potato fudge and potato ice cream. Although admission for children over 6 is $1, and a whopping $3 for adults, each adult receives “a box of yummy hash browns to take home with you” (in place of the free baked potato they used to give away).
Spud Drive-In Theatre, Driggs, Idaho
If you haven’t had enough of potatoes after visiting the potato expo, head northeast to Driggs, Idaho to catch a flick at the Spud Drive-In. Although the Drive-In offers camping and hosts concerts and other events in addition to it’s regular movie screenings, this odd roadside attraction features the “Spud Truck”—a vintage truck carrying the world’s largest (concrete) potato.
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I can’t believe the surreal life that some celebrities live. I can’t imagine tearing down a $12 million dollar home. But that is just what Elin Nordegren did. Kind of like what Tiger Woods did to his career. What? Who said that?
There are times when divorce forces people to do strange things. Burn sheets. Throw out clothes. Toss rings into the ocean. But when you get $100 million in your divorce, you can trump just about anything and that’s what happened with Tiger Woods’ ex-wife when she bought a $12 million home and bulldozed the whole thing.
Yes, according to TMZ, Elin Nordegren bought a $12 million home in North Palm Beach, Fla., but didn’t like it, and has plowed the whole thing.
The house, which had six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, is now just rubble, with no word yet on what is going to replace the beautiful building you see above, but I guess when you have nine figures in the bank, it doesn’t really matter what you want.
Obviously this is something you don’t see every day and so it is somewhat startling and amazing…ballerinas all hung out to dry.
There’s a certain eeriness quality about these pictures. The photograph showing Hitler is a good example – such a monster strolling in front of the Eiffel Tower. What would the present day people in the photo think about just being a few feet away from where Hitler stood? Heck, what do we think about this, just seeing the photo itself?
Thanks to Awkward Family Photos for this gem. What is the weirdest thing about this family photo? The lion makeup and body paint, the fact he’s nude or…wait a minute, that she is pregnant with Simba?
World’s smallest Fish
World’s Smallest Horse
World’s Smallest Dog
World’s Smallest…um…Disney characters? and Statue of Liberty?
Small things come in small packages…not very insightful, but true.
Whatever happened to MySpace.com? Possibly some kids today don’t even know what that is or was? But you can say the same about Google+ as well, most people have never heard of it. But Facebook? Of course! It couldn’t become the next MySpace, could it? I guess we should ask MySpace. But then Google+ might get jealous if we don’t talk to it.
There is so much to love…and fear in the black and white photo. I can only imagine this was the spark of an idea for Madonna and her spiked bra back in her heyday. You must admit this lady makes it hard to get close to her and her offer for free hugs is probably a one-time offer.
Sometimes I wonder if humanity will really achieve a heightened sense of awareness or will we one day reach the golden age of enlightenment. And then I find a product like this and know in my heart that it will never, ever, never happen. Baby slippers have to be the most disturbing shoes every made.
The Storseisundet Bridge in Norway is the longest in a series of bridges that make up the Atlantic Road, one of the country’s most popular roads for tourists. It’s unique bends make it look different from every angle. Essentially, it’s the real life version of those freaky magic stairs in Harry Potter. Approaching the apex gives the impression that you would simply fall off the road into the water given its relatively steep angle at the top. Next time I’m in Norway, I’m definitely stopping by the “Drunken Bridge.” Even more cool photos of the bridge can be found here.
As most people know, most octopuses have four sets of arms. Before you start biology and grammar raging, yes octopuses is a correct pluralization, yes they have sets, and yes they’re arms, not tentacles. Trust me, I checked wiki. This little guy, however, has nine arms. Unfortunately, he was not spared because of that fact, despite the rare condition only showing up every 20 years. The Japanese seafood shop he was found in only discovered this after having already boiled it. I hope your insatiable hunger for exotic and rare creatures of the world has been quelled at least temporarily, you life eating monsters.
Today’s modern furniture craftsmen could learn a thing or two from Seth Kinman. Kinman was a legendary grizzly trapper, musician, barkeep, hotel owner, furniture maker, and general Renaissance mountain man. As a mentor to Chuck Norris, he ate nails for breakfast without any milk and used rocks as toilet paper because bark was too soft. Oh, and here’s a chair he made out of freaking grizzly bears. As captioned, it was given to President Johnson in 1865; without a doubt the best gift he ever received. President Lincoln was also presented with a special chair made out of elk horns. Apparently no one told Kinman he could use wood to make furniture. The man himself is pictured below in all his rugged glory.
If you’re not impressed yet, check out the chair with its real special feature, a bear’s head popping out of the bottom. Read about his custom violin as well.
Technology rears its ugly head or rather, its kooky head again. This time it isn’t a new iPad or iPhone. There’s a whole new gadget world that’s built up around all the latest technology according to smartphone reviews and mobile news websites. Bizarre items that are seemingly impractical are taking over technically clever souls, who many would think should know the difference between practical and nonsensical. Many feel that these “thingamajigs are the coolest devices going.” Here’s a peek at a few of the latest Smartphone accessories that may seem quite unusual, but fun nonetheless.
5. Black Pepper Cell Phone Strap
Something happened along the way to the market, and it was the Black Pepper Cell Phone Strap. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to carry around their own personal black pepper, no less strapped to their cell phone, unless they need it as a weapon. The victim could easily throw the pepper into the perpetrator’s face causing them to go into a “sneezing fit” while they get away with everything in tact. Unless of course, the attacker happens to have a delicious club sandwich, then they may simply sit down to enjoy a good meal with a dash of pepper.
In the USA alone, over one trillion text messages were sent in one year, almost double that of cell phone calls. Luckily, there’s finally hope for the text-crazed generation. TextTees, are little rubber gadgets that fit snuggly over the texter’s thumbs. They’re shaped somewhat like pencil eraser tops, but look sleek and high-tech. This device is somewhat practical. It makes texting more accurate and faster. However, the question is “should texting fanatics wear them all day long?” Goodness knows they’re small enough to easily get lost in someone’s pocket, or their younger sibling could easily mistake them for erasers. Texting extremist may very well bypass this useful device for the mere fact that in the end, it’s faster and more practical to just use their naked thumbs.
3. iMeshi Japanese Food
There’s no doubting that mobile phones can be life savers. However, being stranded in a remote location without food or water with an iPhone all dressed up in sushi, bacon and eggs or chocolate cake that can’t be eaten, is downright cruel. This iPhone gadget is strictly for laughs and serves no other purpose than to make their owners hungry. On the other hand, it may be worth a bite if the rescue team takes too long.
2. TV Hat
Human civilization at one time was well on its way to evolving, until the TV Hat was invented. The TV Hat advertisement states that “it’s great for those who want to catch up on their favorite TV shows, use it for entertainment on trips, catching-up at the gym or while waiting at the airport.” Speaking of airports, there’s no better time to alert airport security then when someone’s wearing this oddly shaped gadget on their head. It is compatible with MP3 players, iPod and iPhones though. But unfortunately, it isn’t compatible with civilization.
1. Dokkiri Hand Case for iPhone 4
This accessory is a bit creepy to say the least. Who wants a severed hand lying around? Then again, regardless of its absurdity, it could really come in, well, “handy.” For example, gripping the hand will secure the iPhone so there’s less chance of dropping it, in addition, it’ll win the owner plenty of attention, if only out of curiosity. There’s no sense in trying to turn water into wine here, this accessory is downright peculiar.
As if sharks weren’t scary enough, try to imagine one with only one eye in the middle of its head. Oh wait, you don’t have to, we have pictures. This little bugger, let’s call him “Louis,” not only has the rare condition of cyclopia, but is also albino. Mexican fisherman Enrique Lucero León was “lucky” enough to catch a pregnant dusky shark near the Gulf of California and find Louis, one of the unborn embryos. Local biologists have gotten permission from Enrique to study Louis and while he’s gotten offers from others to buy the shark, he refuses to part with it. I can’t imagine why, though; Louis is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.
No, you can’t unsee this.
Louis next to his normal siblings.
Yes, he is smiling at you…with his lifeless doll’s eye.
National Geographic has the whole story here. Now excuse me while I go relieve myself of my lunch.
Are you a baconphile? If so, you should buy Effervescent Bacon Drink Tablets! Then you should vomit immediately to remove the substance from your body. Remember all those times you were eating a BLT with a side of bacon with bacon bits sprinkles and thought to yourself, “I wish I could DRINK bacon.” Well now your fantasy can finally come true. Just add two bacon drink tablets to any drink and you too can enjoy the sensation of greasy pig meat sliding down your gullet, in liquid form! Add four tablets and you get a complementary ride to the ER. Add six and Bacon Drink Tabs will sponsor your headstone.
Buy them here if you dare.
You know how people spend years at school to learn how to build bridges in America? Turns out a tribe in India has been building bridges with just trees for hundreds of years. All their bridges are made solely out of trees that only get stronger as they grow. Sure, it takes a dozen years or so before they are strong enough for use, but you’re still saving a bunch of money!
Read about the process and more about the tribe at www.treehugger.com.
Hone your brain suckling skills for the inevitable zombie apocalypse with this skull shot glass. Let’s face it, we’re not all going to be survivors, so those of you with weak immune systems better get practicing. The great thing this is you can still use the glass aside from pretending to be a zombie, but be warned, only the coolest of alcohols may enter this chalice of the damned. Other than that, go ahead and amuse your friends, you sick fiend.
You may read about it and order one at Neatorama.
Thanks to Hollywood, once-anonymous places such as Amityville, New York or Burkittsville, Maryland will never be the same quiet towns again. Guests of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado or the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood will forever either request or refuse rooms 217 and 237, thanks to Steven King and Stanley Kubrick, respectively.
Earlier this month, 112 Ocean Avenue, the Amityville horror house, sold for the fifth time since the 1974 murders occurred there. So the house’s reputation and reported haunting has not kept it off the market, nor has it kept people from inhabiting it.
In June, the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, voted to sell the “Welcome” signs donated to the town by Artisan Entertainment, distributor of The Blair Witch Project. Apparently, the signs had become more of a burden than a blessing.
Have the reputations of Hollywood horror film sites ruined them forever? Or have their hauntings, real or not, given them life? The answer, of course, is both.
112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, Long Island
This beautiful Dutch Colonial house is iconic in America: it is the setting of a book based on true events that took place in the house, and the well-known movie, The Amityville Horror, is based on the book, making it one of the most infamous haunted places in the country.
Although many fictional details were added to both the book and movie, the series of events that provided the basic premise for the story are true. In 1974, the Defeo Family owned the home. The entire family was murdered by the eldest son, Ronald Defeo, Jr., who shot his parents and four siblings while they were sleeping one night in November.
The following year, George and Kathleen Lutz bought the house. The Lutzes were aware of the murders that took place there, but they agreed that the tragedy should not prevent them from living in the house. However, shortly after they moved in with their three children, the family experienced a series of paranormal events that caused them to quickly vacate the premises. This is the story that became the basis for the 1977 book The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and the 1979 movie by the same name. In 2005, a remake of the movie was released under the same title.
After the Lutzes abandoned the property, the bank finally foreclosed on the house in 1977 and it was sold to James and Barbara Cromarty, who lived there for ten years without any paranormal problems. It was sold again in 1987, 1997, and now in 2010. The house has been reportedly inhabited most of that time, so perhaps it was exorcised when the Lutzes moved out. If anything, the house’s reputation has probably helped it sell over the years, rather than turning it into another Grey Gardens.
Home of the notorious Blair Witch, pretty much no one had ever heard of this tiny town of 180 residents in Montgomery County, Maryland, before the wildly successful 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project took place there. No one, that is, besides filmmaker Eduardo Sanchez, who grew up in Montgomery County.
The film’s sequel, Curse of the Blair Witch, could have been about Burkittsville instead, since the town has been cursed by the fictional witch and the movie ever since its release, instant success, and subsequent cult following.
Nearly 11 years after the film’s release, Burkittsville still has a plethora of crazed fans and witch hunters passing through town, asking locals about witch lore and directions to the film’s token locations, such as “Coffin Rock” and the cemetery. Unfortunately for fans, most of the film was not actually shot in Burkittsville, although it does have a cemetery and boasts a “Spook Hill” on the outskirts of town.
Although Burkittsville has somewhat capitalized on the witch-tourism industry, it seems that the town would rather sever its connections with the movie altogether. Burkittsville received four wooden “Welcome to Historic Burkittsville” signs as a thank-you from Artisan Entertainment after the movie created so much hype there. But all four signs were stolen by fans, so Artisan replaced them with heavier, metal signs that quickly rusted out (and one of these was stolen as well). The town recently voted to sell the remaining three signs on eBay auction for $1000 apiece.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel, on the outskirts of Rocky Mountain National Park, was not entirely unknown before Stephen King spent the night there on October 30, 1974. But it has certainly gained a lot of notoriety since.
In 1974, the rags to riches King family moved to Boulder, Colorado for a year so that King could find a different setting for his third book (the first two were set in New England). On a weekend trip, King and his wife stayed one night in the Stanley Hotel before it closed for the season, as it was designed as a summer resort with no heat. The nearly vacant hotel was haunted, according to the staff, particularly by an on-going party in the ballroom.
King was inspired and began writing The Shining that night. Those familiar with the story can easily see how this chain of events became the basis for it (a family from New England moves to Boulder; the husband/writer takes a winter caretaking position at a mountain resort that begins on October 30, closed for the winter due to lack of heat, snow conditions, and its isolated location; the family is haunted by ghosts who attend an on-going party in the hotel’s ballroom).
Once The Shining became a movie, the story’s connections to the Stanley Hotel became even deeper. The interior of the hotel provided the basis for the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film. Unhappy with Kubrick’s version of the story, King produced his own miniseries in 1995 that included scenes shot in both the hotel’s interior and exterior.
The Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon
The Timberline Lodge is the ski lodge and resort located on Mt. Hood about 60 miles east of Portland, Oregon. Also related to The Shining, the Timberline Lodge gained its notoriety as a haunted house from its use in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of the film based on King’s book.
In reality, The Timberline Lodge is not haunted, only a few of the film’s establishing shots were actually taken at the lodge, and none of the movie was shot inside. Just as was done with the interior of the Stanley Hotel, parts of the Timberline Lodge’s exterior were recreated on the film’s set in England. But the gorgeous lodge, its breathtaking backdrop, and year-round snow accurately created the sense of isolation necessary for the film’s setting.
Mission San Juan Bautista, California
California’s largest mission, Mission San Juan Bautista, gained national fame when in appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller Vertigo. Although Vertigo isn’t a horror film, the Master of Suspense still managed to give the mission a creepy, haunted feeling in the movie, which seems completely absent when visiting the sunny mission in real life.
Located 90 miles south of San Francisco, Hitchcock chose Mission San Juan Bautista as the shooting site for the film’s most crucial scenes because of its tall bell tower. But by the time shooting began, the bell tower had been torn down due to damage sustained in a fire, and Hitchcock had to recreate the tower on a Hollywood set. The token tower from the film that made Mission San Juan Bautista so well-known is not actually part of the mission, so visitors to the mission who are also fans of the film may be disappointed.
In Vertigo, the tower was essential to the film’s plot and title. Detective Scottie Ferguson retired from the San Francisco police force because his problems with vertigo made him unable to work. He takes on a job as a private detective, spying on his friend’s wife, Madeline, to learn more about her odd behavior. He follows her to the mission where he watches her race up the stairs inside the tower and jump to her death, unable to stop her because he is plagued with vertigo.
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