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

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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.

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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:


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Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.