A Walk Through One of the World's Weirdest Houses

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 16 2014 1:53 PM

House on the Rock: One of the World's Weirdest Homes

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

A walk through the House on the Rock, perched atop Deer Shelter Rock in rural Wisconsin, raises a lot of questions: Is this real? Why is it so dark in here? Why is that massive sea monster battling a giant squid, and how does it relate to the robot orchestra?

It's difficult to describe the bizarre fever dream that is the House on the Rock. Opened to the public in 1959, the attraction is a window into the warped mind of Alex Jordan, who built the 14-room home as a weekend retreat.


Jordan was a life-long collector with eclectic tastes. Over the decades, he filled the house with an astounding array of objects: pipe organs, doll houses, antique weapons, coin-operated music machines, chandeliers, and miniature circuses, to specify but a few. Jordan died in 1989, but his house of treasures lives on. The collections are still crammed into dark and dusty rooms, which creates an overwhelming atmosphere for visitors and induces the occasional desire to escape.

Amid the sensory overload, two parts of the house really stand out: the Carousel Room, and the Infinity Room. The Carousel Room contains the world's largest merry-go-round, featuring 269 animals—none of which are horses—and 20,000 lights. The Infinity Room, built in 1985, is a cantilevered, glass-walled hallway that extends 218 feet out over the valley.

Perhaps the best way to convey the House on the Rock's surreality is via Neil Gaiman. The author incorporated the location in his 2001 fantasy novel, American Gods, in which it serves as the portal to another dimension. Gaiman has stated that when writing the book, he had to tone down his description of the House on the Rock "in order to make it believable."

Other fantastical houses:

View The House on the Rock in a larger map


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059


Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How Moscow’s Anti-War March Revealed One of Russia’s Deepest Divides

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.