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3 Weird and Wonderful Roadside Attractions

September 23, 2015

Some people consider these road trip stops totally fascinating…while others might call them “tourist traps.”

Miracle of America

If you like American history and also Tyrannosaurus Rex models made out of old tractor parts, then this museum in Polson, Montana is the destination for you. Gil and Joanne Mangels founded Miracle of America in 1981, and the colossal non-profit museum is now comprised of dozens of buildings stuffed full of over 112,000 “artifacts” ranging from Native American headdresses to rusty army helicopters. Some of the crazier items at this museum that follows no particular theme include a two-headed calf, a motorcycle made out of wood and one of the flying monkey costumes from The Wizard of Oz.

Miracle of America Museum

The House on the Rock

This strange attraction has perplexed visitors since it first opened in 1959. Located in a rural spot north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, it’s literally a house on a rock, specifically Deer Shelter Rock, a large stone column. Several additions, including a nearby inn, have been added over the years and the complex now contains uniquely designed rooms, full-scale recreations of historic streets, gardens, and other odd features. “The Heritage of the Sea” includes a 200-foot model of a sea creature that might be a whale. There are also lots of old-fashioned music machines, in addition to what the owners called “The World’s Largest Indoor Carousel.” Even weirder: no one seems to agree on why exactly the original house was built. According to legend, it was inspired by an argument between an eccentric local designer and the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The House was even featured in the video for 10,000 Maniacs’ “More Than This.”

The Oregon Vortex

Strange things are said to happen all the time at this attraction in Gold Hill, Oregon, about 30 miles from the Bathroom Readers’ Institute. The Vortex’s “House of Mystery” once served as a gold assay office, until the building weirdly slipped off of its foundation in the 1910s. The structure was eventually turned into a tourist attraction and both it and the surrounding grounds offer visitors all sorts of strange optical effects: You can watch a ball roll backward up a ramp in the house or get totally freaked out by a spot outside that makes people appear either taller or shorter than they are in reality. Since opening in 1930, the Oregon Vortex has been mentioned on The X Files and supposedly inspired Gravity Falls, the Disney Channel cartoon set in a weird Oregon town. If you enter “Gravity Falls, Oregon” into Google Maps, what pops up? The Oregon Vortex.

House of Mystery

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