Curiosities and Wonders.

Tom Jones memorialized the way he was always meant to be–on velvet. Image from the velveteria website:

A longtime interest of mine has been contemplating how people choose to spend their time, whether working, avoiding boredom, or engaging in interesting art projects. Some people spend their time doing relatively normal things, and then there are people like Stephanie “Stevie” G. Pierce who chose to spend her time creating the much beloved and missed 24 Hour Church of Elvis. Growing up outside Portland, Oregon in the 80s and 90s, I got to witness all kinds of weirdness like the Church of Elvis, and these places definitely left their mark on me. Although the Portland of today is far less groovy and seedy (and far less cheap), there are still gems to be found there, like the Velveteria (a museum of velvet paintings) and Stark’s Vacuum Museum (self-explanatory).

While recently browsing our catalog I came across the subject heading Curiosities and Wonders and was rewarded with legions of weirdness. I’ve always been interested in curiosities and roadside attractions (the hokier the better) and I am happy to find that the library owns quite a few items on just this topic, a few of which I am about to share with you. Come with me now, on a journey through time and space…

Weird U.S.: A Freaky Field Trip Through the 50 States

There are lots of great pictures in this book covering everything from creepy creatures, to museums of curiosities, to roads and bridges best not traveled. Also, there are goatmen and jackalopes. (And really, who doesn’t love a good jackalope from time to time?)

Weird U.S. The Oddyssey Continues

The people at Weird U.S. just can’t seem to do any wrong. This is a comprehensive collection of weirdness covering everything from roadside attractions, to strange societies, to far-out festivals. They also give a shout out to Bigfoot and the Oregon Vortex which totally warms my heart.

Roadside Attractions

The folks at NPR take an audio roadtrip to the largest ball of twine, the Seattle space needle, and the World’s Largest Prairie Dog, among other oddities.

Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets

I’ve never been to New Jersey, but after taking a look at this book I feel like maybe I should. I always thought the Pacific Northwest was weird, but New Jersey clearly takes the prize. The best find in this book: Action Park, the

The World’s Most Dangerous Water Slide? From the website:

world’s most dangerous (and now defunct) amusement park (aka Traction Park). This park is something like a 70s slasher film with rollercoasters–it may not appeal to the queasy or easily offended, but will fascinate anyone with a gallows sense of humor.

Superlatives, U.S.A.

Documents everything from the Largest Collection of Peanuts to the Biggest Spinach Can, and everything is indexed state-by-state. Did you know that Pennsylvania has the oldest still-operated drive-in theater outside Allentown, PA?

I recently found out that my own neighborhood in Swissvale, PA houses its own Tourist Trap/Art House called the Trundle Manor. I’ve yet to visit, but want to soon. Check it out here.

All this, of course, makes me wish my impending trip to Oregon was by car rather than plane. I’ll have to settle for some weirdness in my own backyard instead. So how about you, do you have a favorite roadside attraction or weird destination in Pittsburgh?



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9 responses to “Curiosities and Wonders.

  1. My family loves visiting “world’s largests,” and that ball of twine in KS is at the top of our bucket list! We visited Pittsburgh in the early spring of this year on a quest to visit some world’s largests: we found the world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the world’s largest robotics display at the Carnegie Science Center.
    We were also pretty stoked about all the dinosaurs we discovered still remaining from the 2004 DinoMite Days art project!

  2. lizzy

    Not in Pittsburgh but have always loved the Fremont Troll near Seattle:

  3. Maria

    This isn’t really weird but it may be to others who don’t know who he is. On my drives on the Ohio Turnpike back & forth to Michigan, I always see signs for the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. The history nut in me really wants to stop and see it sometime!

  4. Oh my gosh!! I knew we were related….but now you are really freaking me out! I too am an afficianado of the unusual and archaic! AMEN!!
    (one of my favorite places in lebanon for instance was this roadside cave in the side of a mountain… that had a whole nativity scene year round!! People bring candles and oil lanterns to keep the “star burning”)

  5. Linda

    Another interesting book in the same vein is Little Museums: 1000 Small and Not-So-Small American Showplaces by Lynne Arany and Archie Hobson. It includes such gems as the Museum of Bad Art in Massachusetts, The Wyandot Popcorn Museum in Ohio, The Frog Fantasies Museum in Arkansas and Pennsylvania’s own Mr. Ed’s Elephante Museum. It is a fun book to peruse.

  6. lizzy

    FYI that the grave of Harry Thaw is found in Allegheny Cemetary in Lawrenceville…

  7. lizzy

    Oops! Cemetery–sorry for the spelling mishap!

  8. Joelle

    Action Park! My favorite amusement park of all time! Although I did watch my friend flip off the alpine slide as a teenager – he was badly road-rashed.

  9. Tara

    Thanks for the comments, all. Linda those attractions all sound pretty great, and I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for the Little Museums book! I’d love to see a list of hidden (and cheap) strange attractions here in Pittsburgh. And Lizzy, I love the Fremont Troll :)


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