I've been meaning to put this post together since American Gods was on TV this year, but Halloween is the perfect time to share. If you haven't read Neil Gaiman's American Gods, the iconic House on the Rock is in a pivotal scene. I'm a massive fan of the novel and after I settled back in the states in Chicago, I made many trips to Spring Green, Wisconsin to visit. It's much more than just a house, and if you haven't been it's tough to explain. Very small part house, very large part extreme oddity museum, it takes about four hours to walk through the sprawling complex of buildings and exhibits. The man that built it was an eccentric collector of...everything. He just kept adding on to the house to accommodate his collections. The tour starts in the "house" section of the property with Asian art and artifacts and a ton of Tiffany stained glass. Before you know it, you're going past room after room of musical automatons: rooms full of instruments that play themselves. There's a room full of airplanes. A room with cars--including one completely covered in tiles. Halls of armor and weapons, cobblestone Streets of Yesterday. And then it gets weird. Here is a small selection of some of my favorite creepy things from my visits to get us in the Halloween mood.
The owner built the house on a rock cliff, and you can get a view of the canyon below from the Infinity Room, which hangs out over the cliff and has a section with a glass floor, and beyond it an optical illusion that the hallway goes on forever. If you don't like heights, it's not great. Wobbly knees.
Enter a huge exhibit and a propos nothing, find yourself in a cavernous nautical themed room with wooden ships on the walls and memorabilia from famous ships in history. In the center is a massive sculpture of a 200 foot whale wrestling with a giant squid. Team squid!
SQUID V WHALE SQUID V WHALE Around the corner, there's a miniature circus. You're welcomed by this gigantic clown automaton. The circus isn't spooky, it's neat--these figurines are teeny tiny--but the clown is the star of the exhibit, and he IS a creep. Put in a token and he'll tell you how funny you aren't.
Miniature circus in the dark Miniature circus in the dark Miniature circus in the dark Miniature circus in the dark Miniature circus in the dark Miniature circus in the dark The hallways between exhibits throughout he house are dotted with displays of macabre masks and puppets. A palate cleanser, cheerful and ordered.
In the Streets of Yesterday section, there is a (horror) doll shop. Some are nailed to the walls. I assume that's for your protection. You're hours from the entrance now; there's no going back.
Totally wholesome dolls. yeah, this one just hangs there she's scary AND goofy where. are. her. eyes. Down a hall and into another building, you finally find what you came to see: the world's largest indoor carousel! This famous carousel featured in American Gods has 269 fantastical creatures--no horses!--and the room's ceiling is covered in hundreds and hundreds of winged mannequins. Grotesque and spectacular.
Bonus! House on the Rock has two carousels. The next one is a smaller double-decker, with dolls riding all the mythical creatures. I think this is the creepiest part of the whole place. In the very best way.
The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. above the carousel, dolls are set into the rotating platform in their own red velvet chambers The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. chamber doll set into the carousel, watching The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. The Doll Carousel. Definitely no nightmare fuel here. After a twisting dark room of huge steampunk pipes and endless red chandeliers, you make it to the exit. Four friends are hanging from the ceiling to wish you farewell.
I'm going back in November to see it decked out for the holidays, but for now: happy Halloween!
As always, thanks for visiting!