Alleee and Franc's
INSOLITOLOGY

Back to the front page

Real Life Resources
Destination: Insolitalia





The Cultural Insolitologist may find herself a bit spread out across the bottom, so to speak, from conducting her research entirely too much in front of a computer screen. So, being the Great Mentor that I am, I have provided a list of Field Research Destinations that might turn the pasty, bleary-eyed web-surfer into a Sub/Urban Adventurer. Or, at the very least, get him off his ass.

Roadside America
family fun!
Always reverent,
Texans bow down
to their God.

From the Amazon review of the book:
Roadside America is a Baedeker to the junkiest attractions on America's major, minor, and nearly forgotten highways. Planning to see Graceland? Why not let this delightful volume direct you on the complete Elvis tour, including a miniature "Elvis City" in Roanoke, Virginia; the Elvis-theme McDonald's in Elvis's birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi; and the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Learn about the Curse of the Pyramids, and see the many unfinished pyramids that litter America's heartland. Jump into the debate about which town has the largest ball of string, the biggest tree stump, or America's true weather-forecasting groundhog. The locations of giant statues of the Jolly Green Giant, an "African village" in South Carolina claiming to be an independent kingdom, and the mysterious "Thing" of the Sonoran Desert are all found here. Buy it and drive west, young trendies.

Every good roadtrip must begin with a map. Roadside America is practically the bible for any Insolitologist Spelunker worth his salt.
As I take a ride down my own Memory Highway, stuffed in the cargo area of a white Datsun 510 the places that stand out in my mind have a definite Eau de Cracqpotte to them. Just my luck, most of them can be found within the kitschy pages of Roadside America! One of the best features of the website is the electronic map, where you can search, by state, for all manner of giant statues, stuffed animals, dead people, cemetaries, miracle spots and anything else awe-inspiring.


Mystery Spots
"Scientists think it's caused
by the 'igmmeous' rock in
the hill, I think . . . " offered
one bored, gum-clicking
expert.


The Oregon Vortex: 4303 Sardine Creek Rd., Gold Hill, OR

Mystery Spots, like the Oregon Vortex, are roadside attractions located conveniently near highways where all manner of mystery occurs: balls and cars roll uphill, and people shrink and grow!

From The Oregon Vortex Official Site:

The Famous Circular Area with its Unique Phenomena
The Oregon Vortex is an area of naturally occurring visual and perceptual phenomena, which can be captured on film. No matter your education or profession you will find a challenge to all your accepted theories. [It] is a spherical field of force, half above the ground and half below the ground. The word "vortex" simply means a whirpool of force, like a whirling mass of water, especially one in which a force of suction operates, such as a whirlpool or a whirling mass of air, especially one in the form of a visible column or spiral, such as a tornado.


This, of course, is a load of pooh. The best explanation for this phenomenon is explained at The Ponzo Illusion. Basically, everything there stands on a very steep slope. The trees are not upright. The palatial Mystery House is a leaning old shack. So, short people look like they are as tall as tall people.

I recommend going just for the credulous tour guides and mystified tourists.


Various sharp items found
inside a patient's stomach
Glore Psychiatric Museum and Gift Shop

East of St. Joseph. Take I-29 to Exit 47, head west about 1 mile. After 36th St. Glore sign and building visible on left. Be careful not to drive into the prison entrance -- they're a little touchy.)

I haven't been able to shake the Glore experience in 14 years. The museum is thankfully air-conditioned, considering the oppressive humidity in the state of MO, but I still left with a pulsing headache. Touring this old hospital is like walking through the pages of Phyllis Chesler's 1971 book, Women and Madness. Thank you, Glore Psychiatric Museum and Gift Shop, for illustrating every psychiatric horror inflicted upon mostly women, with JC Penney's Mannequins!

All manners of old-time psych quackery can be seen from the days of witch-burnings to the "lets-open-all-the-psych-hospitals-and-let-themselves-fend-for-themselves" days. The Water Surprise contraption was a hangman's trapdoor-instead of to his death, the patient was lead, blindfolded, to a three-foot drop into an ice-cold carnival dunktank. It calms the patent. A lovely wooden "swing" hooked up to a crank, baby-style, instead swiveled the patient left and right fot his allotted amount of therapy time. It calms the patient. There were also various museum-smelling wooden coffins to keep the victi...I mean, "patient," in. It calms the patient.

It's better than what's usually on TV.
After making my way past the wet sheets, steam vats and old-time electro shock machines (and somehow keeping my sanity intact), we are treated to some schizo-art. A framed collection of pins, needles, blades and paper clips shows what one patient swallowed. Some "doctor's" idea of a "joke," I suppose.

Another bit of amusement was a tragic collection of "letters" a mentally ill, old-timey "hobo" wrote and stuffed in the back of a television set, desperately trying to keep the staff from stealing his Social Security check, and hoping to get back on his boxcar. It made me want to cry.

Most museums have a gift shop, and this one is no exception. After all, the word Gift Shop is on its sign outside. This one not only sells postcards and mugs, but "patient art:" stuff made out of clay and yarn. Some of it is pretty good. I noticed that past the gift shop area was a shiny, linoleum hall leading to another wing of the 100 year-old building. I wondered who was there. Is that where the artists were kept? *Shudder.*



Sylvester Sylvia

Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe

N. of Pioneer Square, 1001 Alaskan Way, Pier 54 Seattle, WA

From the Roadside America article:

This narrow, cluttered gift novelty store -- a mainstay of Seattle Tourism -- never fails to please and revolt. Your host and hostess are Sylvester and Sylvia Mummy, a desiccated though likable couple behind glass. They are American rather than Egyptian mummies.

Other Shop denizens include a virtual family of Barnum Mer-creatures: a Mermaid, a Mer-Baby, and a Mer-dog named "Petri-Fido."

The requisite freak pig in a jar shares space with a ship scale model constructed entirely of matchsticks. There is a 350-year-old "African voodoo monkey" -- its intestines have been removed and braided onto its head.


I haven't been there in years, even though I lived in Seattle. Downtown is so inaccessible (traffic sucks there, unless they get with it and build the monorail)! Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe is the home of two human-and American-mummies, pictured here to your right and left: Sylvia and Sylvester, respectively. There are also a number of Barnum "mermaids," two-headed things in jars, Maritime oddities and Voodoo stuff. The shoppe has been here since 1899, and so has a lot of this stuff.


It's a bunch of slabs too, it'll do in a pinch.
Pick Your Stonehenge

Goldendale, WA, Hwy. 14 east of U.S. 97, along the Columbia River. Leave I-84 at BiggŐs Junction, cross the Hwy. 97 Sam Hill Memorial Bridge, go uphill to Hwy. 14. Turn right, watch for access road to Stonehenge.
Awaiting the Sun-God.


Sam Hill's Stonehenge is definitely not the only Stonehenge in America...and, of course, you could go to the real one, I suppose. But that one's broken! Why not see it as it was! I only recommend the Goldendale Stonehenge because I've been. For purposes of Cultural Insolitology, try going on a solstice, especially the Summer Solstice. For at that time you will witness not only people who just want to see how an old sundial calendar works-it's cool-but people who mean to Worship and Give Praise. Praise Be!

Watch the reverent atheist
as he performs his evil
atheist ritual.

In the winter of 2004, Franc and I managed to drive by Goldendale on our way back from a family reuinion in Oregon. It's a beautiful place, but you will soon notice it has little to do with druids, and a whole lot more to do with the dearly departed souls of Klickitat Country, lost in WWI. That doesn't stop people from messing around in there, as you can see.





,



Trees of Mystery, and Highly Responsive "Ralph" Bunyan

Trees of Mystery,15500 Highway 101 N,Klamath,CA. 95548, 1-800-638-3389
It's okay, I'm not gay!
She's a female ox!
Giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox guard the entrance of Trees of Mystery, as a mid-morning crowd pours off the coast highway to embrace freaky Redwood hooha. Paul's right hand gives a continual sluggish wave as his breast-pocket loudspeaker greets all who enter in cheery lumberjack fashion. "Hiya, kids. Hi, folks."
Most of Paul's banter involves describing the clothes that people at his feet are wearing, so they don't think he's a recording. "Hello, there...you're wearing a blue sweatshirt! And the lady next to you is wearing a green jacket!" He'll also answer your size questions (Paul is 49 ft. tall, has a 24 ft. long axe, and 10 ft. high boots).



Ah, childhood. Nothing is exciting enough, nothing is stimulating enough. And car trips are hell on a cracker. That is why men are driven to create giant, colorful characters by the side of the highway. That's because kids are always bored, always hungry, and always have to pee. And what better place to do that than by a giant blue ox or dino? I know, deep in my heart, that the first man to put a giant thingamabob by his drive-in restaurant or souvenir hut made a lot of cash, and was probably jealously coveted by his neighbors (something God says not to do).

Paul Bunyon is obviously not a tree. The Trees of Mystery refers to a lot of carvings into ancient California Redwoods, trees that grow into interesting, "Face on Mars"-style shapes, and that requisite drive-thru redwood. But what makes this site worthwhile for the Cultural Insolitologist is the "evidence for Bigfoot" that is displayed, appropriately enough, in the gift shop.


The Hanford Nuclear
Facility Bowling
League.
The Funny Farm

Funny Farm: halfway beween. Bend and Redmond, OR, 64990 Deschutes Market Road. Off the east side of Hwy 97 -- look for the sign that says "Deschutes --->

From the website:

The tour starts at a cutaway dollhouse with tiny TV continuously showing the Wizard of Oz. Elsewhere, the Oz theme is pervasive. "We have Dorothy's house and the Yellow Brick Road," Gene promises. Outside we stop at the Agitator Wall, a mounted assemblage of washing machine parts. A sign notes: "Without agitators, nothing in the world would come clean." Gene points to a stack of protest signs, available if you feel like picketing.


Dead animals are funny.

The Funny Farm is a vaguely unsettling mix of artistic statements and animal fun, with a surprise around every corner. Gene introduces us to a goat: "This is Matey, the only unneutered animal here. Can you smell him? Goats urinate on their own beards."
Out in the goat racing field by the highway, Gene points out their lone fainting goat among a dozen normals. Fainting goats have a nervous condition. "Used to have a lot more, but we found homes for them." And there's no fainting to be seen today, though we chase them all around, camcorders held to our eyes. It seems the remaining fainting goat has made some real progress by hanging out with normal goats.


Pareidolia: Sacred Spots

He Will Strangle You
Jesus Tree at Calvary Cemetery
1730 North 18th Street, QuincyM
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


The Skeptic's Dictionary defines pareidolia as

a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. For example, in the discolorations of a burnt tortilla one sees the face of Jesus Christ. Or one sees the image of Mother Theresa or Ronald Reagan in a cinnamon bun or the face of a man in the moon.

Or the face on Mars. I have been to one such place: in Sunnyside, WA on the side of the highway, the back of a road sign had a water stain with the same vague, oval shape. The fun is not in analyzing the stain. No. It's viewing the odd religious paraphernalia left by the faithful, and, if one is lucky, discussing the matter with them. It seems that ususally people visit because they want something, or need something, desperately. They leave not only stuffed animal, food, flower and candle offerings, but notes asking for blessings, money, and healing. Somebody, at some time, asked for the healing of someone terminally ill. It's pretty sad. Don't snicker at the elderly or infirm, please. However, if someone points out the pervasive smell of roses in the air, do make it a point to stare at the burning, scented candles and rotting flowers that were placed there!

Haunted Places

Since this could be a page all its own, I thought I'd give you a short list of websites and addresses.

Vortex Winchester Mystery House
525 South Winchester Blvd. San Jose, CA

The Bell Witch Cave The Bell Witch Cave can be reached by exiting Interstate 24 near Clarksville, Tennessee and following Highway 76 to Adams, Tennessee. The cave can be found by turning right after the small Amoco station and taking Eden Road until you see the sign for the cave.

The Old Slave House The Old Slave House is located near the junction of Highway 45 and Highway 13 in Southern Illinois. It is 14 miles east of Harrisburg.

The Lemp MansionThe Lemp Mansion is located in St. Louis, Missouri, a short distance away from the Mississippi River. Take Broadway from Interstate 55 and follow that to Cherokee Street. Go west on Cherokee and turn right onto De Menil Place. The address of the mansion is 3322.

I think that girl is really Jesus.
Jesus of Illinois.
Bachelor's Grove Cemetary Midlothian, IL. Take Cicero Avenue to the Midlothian Turnpike and go west to the Rubio Woods. Parking can be located across the road from the trail entrance in a small park. The cemetery is heavily patrolled by members of the police force and the rangers for the forest preserve. It is closed after sundown and all visitors should proceed with caution.

AlcatrazSan Francisco, CA. To get there, take a seat aboard the Red and White Fleet ferry service. Reservations can be obtained by contacting (800) 229-2784.

The Myrtles PlantationThe Myrtles Plantation is located just three miles north of St. Francisville, Louisiana.

Pike Place Market In my city, Seattle, at Pike and Pine, by the waterfront, downtown. Don't try to park there; you'll regret it.

The Queen Mary1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA This site claims hauntings; the other does not.

The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital located in Etobicoke Ontario

The Amityville House The house is now located on NW corner of S. Ireland and Carmen Pl. in Amityville, Long Island, NY.

The "Overlook Hotel"The place that is supposed to be The Shining's hotel is actually the Timberline Lodge, midway to the summit of Mount Hood in Oregon.


DISCLAIMER: We at Insolitology are not liable for transportation and lodging expenses if no paranormal activity occurs in any of these locations. And one more thing...

Check out Amityville House Vs. Overlook Hotel:
"Which one of these two evil houses would be the first to take out all nine members of the Brady family?"
Pablo Goldman writes: "The Brady's started it by Mr. Brady redesigning the house to crappy 70's style. The house has a right to be pissed!"








You're gonna stick what,
where ?
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

The Science Museum of Minnesota on the bluffs of the Mississippi river is located at: 120 W. Kellogg Blvd St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

Dubbed "The Quackery Hall of Fame" by the Copley Wire Service, the museum is the world's largest display of what the human mind has devised to cure itself without the benefit of either scientific method or common sense. It comprises the major collections on loan from The American Medical Association, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The St. Louis Science Center, The Bakken Library, The National Council for Reliable Health Information.

I have never visited what sounds like a fascinating place, but I have been very enthusiastic about it since visiting the website. I even started my own collection of useless electrotherapy devices.
Vote Libertarian.
It seems to me (and don't quote me on this) that with the limited use of public utilities around the turn of the century came the idea that this magical thing called "electricity" could be the source of happiness in all aspects of life. I can't blame people for thinking that. I'm convinced that public utilities; the piping in of gas, hooking up homes to electricity and, of course, water, was the true catalyst for progress in the US. I would worship electricity too. Quacks, mountebanks and hucksters, if they wanted the big bucks, marketed wondrous glowing, humming things along with their alcoholic beverages that were supposed to be medicine. It must have been a great boon to the medicine show circuit to display glowing, violet glass tubes to Fisherman Ole Olson in Humptulips, Washington, who didn't even have running water yet.
The objects on display in this quack section at the Science Museum include Electrotherapy devices, strange breast enlargers, Psychographs, Prostate "warmers," Phrenology instruments, Radium Cures, Spectro-Chromes, Relaxisors, anti-masturbation and wet dream machines, and, of course, the Violet-Ray Generator.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
One of many
talking monuments

1712 S Glendale Ave Glendale, CA 91205-3320
Take I-5 North from Disneyland, Merge onto CA-2 North, take the San Fernando Rd exit, turn left onto N San Fernando Road, turn right onto S Glendale Avenue.


Evelyn Waugh on Forest Lawn mp3

From the website:

Imagine... in one afternoon you can see exact replicas of Michelangelo's greatest works such as David, Moses, and La Pieta; Leonardo da Vinci's immortal Last Supper re-created in brilliant stained glass; two of the world's largest paintings, The Crucifixion and The Resurrection; original bronze and marble statuary, rare coins, valuable 13th century stained glass, old world architecture; and much, much more. And in that same afternoon, you can even take a quiet stroll around a splashing fountain pond that's teeming with ducks and majestic swans! Best of all, it's free.

There's probably no better way to go star-gazing than where the stars can't hide from you: at their graves. It's a great place to take the family for a relazing and educational afternoon, too. Right now, at the Glendale franchise you can meet Montezuma or even Jesus Christ himself! It's like a living wax museum.

Lee Liberace
in The Loved One
The brilliance of the Forest Lawn philosophy of the mst beautiful resting places for the most beautiful of people is no more apparent than in the film The Loved One (1965). It has such a stellar cast that some of them are buried there. The author of the script and novel visited there often, as evinced in the recording I've linked for you.

From the book Roadside America:

There are three links in the Forest Lawn cemetery chain. The one in Glendale, across the street from the church of TV madman mystic Dr. Gene Scott, is the best--in fact, it's the best cemetery in the world. It is where history, art, and religion meet each other, decide they are in good moods, then do their best to see that the day's visitors have a fine time. Fun? How many graveyards have gift shops? Forest Lawn's map reads like an amusement park. "Lullabyeland" "Vesperland" and "Slumberland" are all special areas in which one can be interred. Literally tons of famous people like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Walt Disney and Freddy Prinze are buried here. The speed limit is 30 MPH, great by cemetery standards.

I visited two Forest Lawns in the seventies, just after an exciting afternoon in Disneyland. I saw Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton's graves, and my mom bought a marble statue replica of DaVinci's Moses. We went there because Grandma had a David, and we had heard that the art was reasonable there.

Do you suppose that afternoon was the defining moment when I was officially screwed up? One has to wonder.




review written by Alleee, 09/2002, updated on 03/2005

Back to the front page