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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

House on the Rock

Now I have been to my fair share of  Roadside Attractions:  Strange museums, oddball sights and weird landmarks.  In my travels I have been to one place that I feel is simply the greatest roadside attraction in all of America:  The House on the Rock.

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Found in Spring Green, WI, The history of the house is muddled in legend, but no less fascinating.  The house is the brainchild of eccentric millionaire by the name of Alex Jordan Jr.  Legend has it that Alex Jordan idolized architect Frank Loyd Wright, who is also from the area.  Jordan dreamed of being a famous architect like his hero and was able to arrange a meeting with his Wright.  Upon showing Wright his blueprints, Wright brushed him off and told him he couldn't design a chicken coop.  Devastated by being spurned by his hero Jordan created the House on the Rock as a middle finger to Wright.  The creation of the House on the Rock would not only lead to Jordan becoming a famous architect, but so much more.

Jordan was surprised at people's curiosity towards his creation.  He was a reclusive and had primarily constructed the house as a personal sanctuary.  He begin charging for private tours.  The House would quickly become a top tourist attraction.  Over the years it became so much more.  Using money from the tours Jordan began to expand on exhibits on his compound.  The attraction quickly spilled out into different buildings.  Jordan was the ultimate collector.  It is said that Jordan actually collected collections.  These collections can still be seen to this day.

The beginning of the tour is of course the house itself.  You enter through a claustrophobic hallway, with low ceilings covered in red carpet.

The house is not air conditioned and is somewhat suffocating.  However, it is an absolutely swinging bachelor pad.

Including such amenities as a three story tall book shelf.

The most unusual feature of the House is the "Infinity Room".  The infinity room is a plank shaped room that walks out from the house several hundred feat above the forest.  The room itself has no supports other then its connection to the house.  The entire room shifts like a diving board under the weight of a single person.

Moving out of the main house you head into the "Streets of Yesterday", a recreated cobble stone main street that is steeped in nostalgia.  Of course if you look close, you will notice a few chilling Easter eggs.

It is in the streets of yesterday that you first encounter one of my favorite features of the House on the Rock:  coin operated clockwork dioramas.

This wonderful little display is known as "The Death of a Drunkard"

And here is its sequel, "Death of a Miser"

Here is "The Sultan and the Necromancer"

And the "Monkey and the Bear"

Also amongst this "Collection of Collections" is a collection of strange weapons, that would make any steampunk enthusiast drool, including this badass set of gun gunswords.

For when stabbing someone just isn't enough.

Then there is this ridiculously overpowered flintlock pistol.....

And this pistol hidden in a wooden leg....

Now we move into the "Heritage of the Sea" room.  We are greeted by an animatronic octopus playing "Octopus's Garden" on a number of instruments.

What makes it truly unique and impressive is that the Octopus is really playing the instruments.  As you can see the drums are really pounded and the guitar has devices hooked to that actually hold down the strings and strum it.

The centerpiece of the nautical exhibit is a massive fiberglass whale, larger then any actual whale, locked in a death struggle with a Kraken.

A hapless fishermen is caught in the crossfire.

The rest of the room is packed with assorted nautical memorabilia....

The House on the Rock is perfect for people like me with a short attention span.  There is something new and amazing around ever corner.  A new set of collections, or an oddball artifact.  The whole place can be absolutely overstimulating.  There is literally not a dull corner.

Not even a trip to the bathroom could save you from the madness that lurks in the House on the Rock.  A trip to the men's restroom features a wide variety of taxidermy including a cougar lurking over the urinal.

And a Jackalope....

If you are woman, or wish to sneak into the women's room, you can see the strange flower-headed people that live in there........

At roughly the halfway point you come across one of the Houses most famous attractions:  The World's Largest Carousel. 

There are no horses on the carousel.  Instead it is populated by strange and bizarre creatures.

Above head is an army of mannequins dressed as angels with their breasts showing....

Into the Monster's mouth the Journey continues......

It is at this point that the House on the Rock starts becoming less of an attraction and more of a fever dream.  The madness starts to bend your mind and you start to remember only bits an pieces.  You wonder through such strange areas as "The Organ Room" which the entire room is made out of a giant organ that you walk through like an Escher painting.

One memorable area is "The Circus Room". 

An absolutely massive miniature circus is laid out in exquisite detail. 

There are also some live sized circus performers as well....

And there is this super duper creepy giant moving clown head....

The circus area ends with a massive animatronic orchestra. 

Much like the Octopus in the nautical area, the mannequins actually play their instruments.  Mechanical fingers operate string instruments while air is blown into wind instruments to make them play.  Each figure is detailed and unique.  I even think I found Abe Lincoln.

In case the first carousel wasn't crazy enough, we enter a room with a three story DOLL carousel....

Check it out....

As our tour through the House on the Rock winds down, who is there to see us out?  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, no less....

I really cannot endorse this place enough.  If you can only go to one Roadside attraction in your life, go here.  Our tour here took four full hours and we probably could have spent another four.  This is the only time in my life I have ever filled up my entire camera memory card.  There is just so much to see, I can not fully express it.  These pictures are merely a sample, there are whole sections I did not even mention.  This is a once and a lifetime sort of visit.

The Carpetbagger

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