One of the things growing up in Wisconsin taught me is that Wisconsin is weird. Come on, Wisconsin is home to at least two world famous serial killers. Ed Gein liked to make lampshades out of human faces and cover his furniture with human skin. Jeffrey Dahmer engaged in necrophilia and liked to keep skulls as souvenirs. Look it up if you don’t believe me. If that isn’t weird enough for you, the official state dance is a polka — seriously, the polka. Wisconsin produced both Liberace and Joseph McCarthy. Kids compete in jump rope competitions every year, hoping to earn a trip to Bloomer, the jump rope capital of the world. While the official state beverage is milk, any true Wisconsinite will tell you that the unofficial state beverage is beer and that the unofficial state cocktail is a brandy Old Fashioned (although, personally, I prefer a brandy slush served out of a Kemps ice cream bucket). You won’t go to a potluck without finding a bowl of Cool Whip mixed with red Jello (often with a can of fruit cocktail mixed in for good measure). Hunting season is a school holiday in rural areas (or, at least it used to be). And, Wisconsinites are proud to be called Cheeseheads. Which might just be because, at least as of a few years ago, Wisconsin was home to 7 of the top 10 drunkest cities in the country.
But, if you have any doubt about how weird Wisconsin is, just visit the House on the Rock.
You could say the House on the Rock is a dark and dingy house built on a 60 foot chimney of rock. But it is so much more than that.
House on the Rock is all about one man’s crazy obsession. The story is that a man named Alex Jordan used to picnic on Deer Shelter Rock. Eventually, Jordan decided to build a house on the rock to use as a weekend retreat. Allegedly, he carried the rocks to build the house up the mountain by himself.
He kept building and building his very dark, very uncomfortable, shag carpeting filled monstrosity until people got curious. So, he started charging 50 cents to visit his house, thinking it would deter people. But, this being America, people just kept paying and Jordan just kept building.
Now, the house is but a small part of the experience. Jordan built warehouses and filled them with “treasures.” Creepy puppets, creepy dolls, creepy music machines with odd figures pretending to play music that is piped in through speakers, a huge organ, Tiffany lamps, a humongous whale battling an octopus while swallowing a fisherman, and collections of guns and armor and crown jewels are just a few of Jordan’s “treasures.”
If you can name it, you can probably find it at House on the Rock. For years, Jordan insisted that his “treasures” were real. Now, we know that many (but not all) are reproductions.
The highlight is most likely the world’s biggest (maybe) carousel, with nearly 300 animals — none which are horses — and 20,000 lights. Unfortunately, everything is kept so dark that we couldn’t get a decent picture of the carousel. (As you can see from the photos on this post, we couldn’t get a decent picture of almost anything….)
But you know what? As weird as it is, it just isn’t weird enough to justify they $30 entrance fees. The exhibits are old and dusty, the lighting is dim, the entire place smells like dust, and unless something is so out there as to be unbelievable (see the above elephant for example), there is no way to know what is real and what is fake. Feel free to go and enjoy the corniness, but don’t expect a life-altering adventure. (Yes, we are Neil Gaiman fans. Yes, we know this paragraph is probably sacrilege after American Gods was filed at House on the Rock.)