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If you enjoy the offbeat, creepy and weird, or are just bored with the usual theme parks and tourist traps, you might want to consider including one of these rather bizarre attractions on your next travel itinerary. From a collection of phallic specimens to an island filled with decomposing baby dolls, these spots are sure to provide some rather unforgettable memories.
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Isla de las Munecas, just south of Mexico City set between the canals of Xochimilco, is a small island and long-abandoned hideout of Don Julian Santana, who was ostracized here from the mainland because of his alcohol problem. Legend has it that a little girl drowned in the nearby canal and Don felt haunted by her spirit so he began trading his vegetables for old dolls, which he placed throughout the island to appease her spirit. A reputable psychic medium has said that he was actually seeing an evil spirit that caused the girl to drown. Believe it, or not. Today, it’s populated by hundreds of decrepit, decomposing baby dolls that hang from trees. Some say they possess the soul of the girl. While it was never meant to be a tourist attraction, the creepiness of the island has attracted so many that it’s now open for tours on the weekend.
Karni Mata Temple, better known as the Temple of Rats, is literally a temple of rats. It was named for the Goddess Karni who believed her family members wouldn’t ever die, but instead would be reincarnated as rats. The town’s residents firmly believe this legend, and that the population of more than 20,000 rats are in fact, members of Karni goddess’ family. The rats are considered sacred and are provided with food and refuge in the temple. If you’ve got a fear of rodents, it might help you to know that they’re said to be quite friendly.
This interesting museum is one of Reykjavik’s most unique tourist attractions. Colloquially known as the Penis Museum, it hosts a collection of more than 200 phallic specimens representing almost every mammal in the country. So, if you ever wanted to see what a whale penis looks like, this is where you can do it. Although, it is in a jar, of course. The museum located on the city’s busiest shopping street consists of one large room boasting shelves and glass cases filled with animals’ penises raging in size from a hamster to a whale, all preserved in formaldehyde. In case you were wondering, there is reportedly a vagina exhibition in Rotterdam, Netherlands known as the Museum of Vaginal Imagination.
The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers was constructed in 1926 by the High Point Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to prove that the town of High Point was the “Home Furniture Capital of the World.” The originally 20-foot tall building served as the local “bureau of information.” In 1996, the structure was totally renovated and converted into a 39-foot tall Goddard-Townsend block front chest with a real chest used as a prototype. To add to the visual impact, two ginormous socks were hung from one of its drawers. The chest has been featured on MTV and numerous shows featuring America’s largest man-made attractions.
Electric Ladyland claims to be the world’s first museum of fluorescent art. You’ve got to remove your shoes and put on special slippers before you can descend downstairs to get a look at owner Nick Padalino’s psychedelic sculpture work, cases of naturally luminescent rocks and man-made glowing objects. Upstairs you can check out his art gallery with works that burst into color under UV light as the Beatles and Jim Hendrix tunes are played in the background. If you want a more enlightened experience, you might want to stop in one of the city’s renowned “coffee shops – it may have been designed just for that purpose.
Apparently some shopping enthusiasts couldn’t understand why the state of Texas, considered how big it is, didn’t have a Prada store. Berlin artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset went to work on an interesting solution, of sorts. With the blessing of Miuccia Prada herself, the store that sits on an empty stretch of U.S. 90 outside of the tiny town of Valentine, some 150 miles from El Paso, was built. Unfortunately, high-end shoppers are out of luck. This bizarre store has no door though its front windows which display 20 left-foot shoes and six purses. The structure is permanently locked up and there are very few signs of life – unless you count the increasing population of moths.
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum pays tribute to Cup Noodles founder and creator Momofuku Ando. If you’d like to say thanks to all those super-cheap instant noodles that prevented you from starving back in college, this is your chance. Here you can see a reproduction of the shack where the man himself first invented Chicken Ramen, view an exhibition about instant noodles across the globe and visit a tasting room with a variety of products, including the chance to sample flavors that you’ve probably never tried before.
This fascinating theater is actually an operating room used during the 19th century. Located in the attic of a church on the original site of St. Thomas’ Hospital, it was once a place where surgeons demonstrated medical procedures to students. The oldest surviving operating theatre in existence, it dates from 1822, before the use of anesthetics and antiseptic surgery. The room has been restored with 19th-century furniture and equipment – by climbing the stairs, you can see what operations were like back then.
The upside-down house in one of only a few like it in the world. Others can be found in China, Japan, Russia, Poland, Germany and Austria. The Rumah Terbalick upside-down house was opened in 2012, specifically as a tourist attraction. While it’s definitely strange, most people just ask, “Why?” It seems to defy all reasoning. This unusual house was recently entered in the Malaysian book of records as the only structure of its kind in Malaysia. Tours are available if you’d like to experience walking on the ceiling as furniture and household appliances hover above your head. In the garage, a car is parked upside down. You can even pick up a souvenir at the gift shop.
Ever want to know what it might be like to spend time in jail? You can do just that without committing a crime in Scotland’s Inveraray Jail. This former prison dates back to 1820 and today, it’s a popular tourist attraction where visitors are drawn by the chance to immerse themselves in 19th-century life in the penitentiary, along with its harsh realities. With the help of characters dressed in authentic garb, you can discover early justice techniques like branding with a hot iron, public whipping and torturous thumbscrews. Listen in on sensational courtroom trials, and, if you’re up for it, you can even get thrown into a barren prison cell and work up a sweat trying your hand at a variety of bizarre punishments.
Visit this very different sculpture garden and you’ll be greeted with a brightly colored sign that reads, “Welcome to Hell.” Take a few more steps into the garden where you’ll see a sign that states: “If you meet the devil in this life, don’t postpone merit-making which will help you to defeat him in the next life.” The hell garden depicts, in vulgar detail, punishments that might be in store for those that transgress in life, with statues representing disemboweling, impaling and transfiguration. Two larges figures stand high above the tortured souls, possibly, the “hungry ghosts” of Thai folklore.
There are plenty of wildlife reserves out there, but have you ever seen a gnome reserve? The Gnome Reserve is a one-of-a-kind, with more than 1,000 gnomes and pixies spread throughout a natural outdoor habitat on four acres, along with over 250 labeled species of wildflowers. An on-site museum also holds a collection of antique gnomes. If you’re up for it, you can even pose for pictures with the interesting lawn ornaments, using the provided gnome hats and fishing rods that are provided for free to help you blend in and not “embarrass the gnomes.”
The Market Theater Gum Wall was named the second “germiest” tourist attraction in the world by TripAdvisor – it’s been collecting germs, and gum, for more than two decades. This local landmark in downtown Seattle in Post Alley under Pike Place Market was started when theatergoers waiting in line at the Market Theater box office started sticking their gum on the wall – some even molding their discarded, chewed product into sculptures. It was constantly cleaned, but the gum kept coming back so eventually, the gum on the wall was embraced, and even celebrated by turning it into an official attraction.
Also in the Emerald City, underneath the Aurora Bridge in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, lurks a giant, 18-foot one-eyed troll clutching a Volkswagen Bug. Some say that trolls have been sighted here since around 1932, but this particular two-ton sculpture was created in 1990 by a team of local artists, Steve Badanes, Ross Whitehead, Will Martin, and Donna Walter, as part of a competition promoting urban renewal. While the judging committee dismissed the hideous fiend, locals loved it. The troll won the popular vote and the right to haunt the space under the bridge for all eternity. The community pays tribute to the troll every Halloween with a mobile “Troll-o-ween” party that starts under the bridge and wanders to other funky art sites and events throughout the neighborhood.
The “Queen of Quirky,” as they call it, the Cockroach Hall of Fame was opened by pest control specialist Michael Bodhan who decided he wanted to put an interesting twist on the creepy, crawly creatures, making people smile instead of scream when they saw a cockroach. The museum features cockroach corpses donning costumes, posed inside tiny elaborate sets like the “Liberoachi,” in which one of the critters plays the piano, “David Letteroach,” “The Combates Motel,” and “Marilyn Monroach.” You’ll even find dried roach-larvae barbecue-flavored snacks if you happen to get hungry while you’re here.
If you’re fascinated with the Cold War, this formerly secret government bunker is a place where people pay good money to experience terror from the era. You’ll have to sign a waiver acknowledging that you’re okay with physical and/or psychological punishments in case you decide to be disobedient. Once done, you’ll also have to give up your cell phone and any connections to the present as you head inside the bunker. After you’ve been converted into a Soviet citizen, circa 1984, you’ll be subjected to interrogation by KGB officers, portrayed by actors, complete with dogs, who serve as police canines in real life. You’ll wear a gas mask and learn the USSR national anthem. During the intense reenactment scenes and interrogations, it’s not uncommon for visitors to pass out.
In this very offbeat underground tour, you’ll get to explore the 19th century Paris sewers to experience the underside of the city from ancient times through the era of Belgrand, the engineer who designed the sewer system in its current form. While strolling through the underground tunnels, you’ll learn about the water cycle and all the work of the French capital’s sewer workers. While history buffs are likely to be fascinated, everyone else is probably going to be at least a little weirded out. You may need to hold your nose too, as expected, the smell isn’t exactly like French perfume.
Of course, this monument has nothing to do with the druids or ancient people. And, there really is no mystery surrounding it. We know who built Carhenge, it was artist Jim Reinders and his family who put together this quirky attraction in a farm field north of Alliance, Nebraska under the supervision of a farmer and engineer as a memorial to his dad. This Stonehenge replica is made up of 39 classic cars which were painted gray and arranged in the same proportions as the original. Dedicated on the summer solstice in 1987, since that time, a number of other car artworks have been added in an adjacent “Car Art Reserve,” including “The Ford Seasons”, inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and “The Carnastoga Wagon”.
Gruselkabinett, which even offers to host your next birthday party, is the only permanently opened World War II-era air-raid shelter in Berlin. This bizarre place has actually tripled the terror by transforming the bunker into three levels of frights. On the ground floor, you’ll find creepy mannequins that reenact the amputations and barbaric medical treatments performed during the war, while the top floor features a haunted house with a bunker maze and costumed actors popping out from dark corners at unsuspecting visitors. The basement is pretty tame, filled with historical exhibitions that reveal what it was like here during combat. This attraction is one that you’re unlikely to ever forget, just beware that if you subject your kids to this while on vacation, they may need years of expensive therapy in the future.
The only museum of its kind in Europe, the Medieval Crime Museum is housed in a structure that was originally built in 1395 for the Order of the Johanniter. The current building was redone in the baroque style in 1718 and features some rather gruesome exhibits. Its four floors offer an insight into the life, laws and punishments back in medieval times. You’ll see torture instruments, including a cage devised for bakers who baked bread to smell, a shame flute for bad musicians, chastity belts and execution instruments, like a wheel that was used to crush the convicted to death as well as “penalties of honor,” including a mask of shame.
Be wary of this one, although it’s definitely fascinating, if you’re prone to nightmares, being trapped inside catacombs is probably not something you want to ever dream about. Back in the late 16th century, Capachuin monastery monks found that a body of one of their own which was put to rest in the catacombs had become naturally mummified. After the discovery, the catacombs became the trendy spot for dead bodies. They were dressed in some of their finest attire and placed in poses in the catacombs. Today there are some 8,000 very well-preserved mummies that line the walls. Sorry to disappoint, but you can’t pose with a corpse and take a selfie as there are iron bars in front of them to prevent contact.
The Mindfield is the life work of Brownsville, Tennessee artist Billy Trip. Using salvaged metal he constructed what’s known today as the largest outdoor sculpture in the state. The tangle of steel trellises and girders spread across more than an acre and reach 125 into the sky at the tallest point. His work begins in 1989, and it’s said to represent his emotions, personal growth and his significant life events. One of the largest additions to the sculpture is a water tower that was added after the death of his father in 2002. He says he’ll keep on adding to it until he dies – and then, he wishes to be buried within it.