Roadside attractions: totally useless objects that capture our imagination and inspire us to detour from our trip just to witness their weird wonder.

It’s not hard to find lists of roadside attractions on the internet - most of these are filled with things like ‘The world’s biggest {insert object here} statue’. And that’s fine, I guess. But the real beauty of these roadside oddities lies not in how large they are, but how mind-blowingly bizarre they can be. They’re in no short supply either. The amount of objects and attractions you can come across in the U.S. that will have you crying, “Why? Just… why?” is staggering. I’ve managed to whittle down the colorful menagerie to just 10, so that you can marvel at the wonders we showcase and create for no very good reason at all - and maybe you’ll even be inspired to see a few of them for yourself.
 
 
World's largest paintball
 
1. Huge paintball (Alexandria, Indiana)
 
We’re starting off pretty tame here, just so you don’t get too weirded out all at once. Yes, this does fall into the ‘biggest thing’ category as it is technically the world’s biggest ball of paint, but what’s amazing about this roadside attraction is not the size but the fact that people have painted what was once a baseball more than 24,350 times. That’s a lot of time watching paint dry. This creation began its life in the 70’s and the owner says he has no intention of stopping the paintball's growth. It’s becoming so large now that the building housing it will need to be expanded, or the floor dug out to accommodate the behemoth.
 
 
Jimmy Carter peanut statue
 
2. Jimmy Carter peanut statue (Plains, Georgia)
 
No, it’s not the world’s largest peanut statue but it is arguably the most bizarre public tribute to an American president. Built by the Indiana Democratic Party during the presidential campaign of ‘76 to honour Jimmy Carter (who had an early career as a peanut farmer), it has stood eerily grinning at passers by ever since, minus a little time for refurbishment after someone drove into it. I’m not sure if the damage was deliberate, but stare at that toothy smile for too long and even the strongest of minds might start to get some funny ideas…
 
 
Gum wall, Seattle
 
3. Gum wall (Seattle, Washington)
 
The premise is pretty simple. It’s a big, long wall where countless people have spat out the gum they’ve been chewing on and joined it to the colorful melange. I’m not going to lie, I think it’s pretty gross. But to be fair it is visually spectacular - the diverse hues and rich textures puts one in mind a Jackson Pollack painting. So, you know, it’s probably art. Apparently it has to be scraped every once in a while because the gum starts extending too far. No word on whether they issue biohazard suits to the poor scrapers.
 
 
The world’s largest pig hairball
 
4. The world’s largest pig hairball (St. Benedict, Oregon)
 
Firstly, I had no idea that pigs made hairballs. Secondly, why would anyone keep something like this? To make this attraction just a little bit more bizarre, it’s not housed in some tacky roadside shack but at Mount Angel Abbey. That’s right, a real abbey with Benedictine monks and everything. The hairball is about the size of an NFL football and has been in the abbey’s possession since the 1940’s. As to why they keep it around, one of the brothers has been quoted as saying, “If a hairball brings people to God, let’s keep the hairball.” Indeed.
 
 
UFO landing port
 
5. UFO landing port (Poland, Wisconsin)
 
If the little green men ever deem us worthy of a visit, Poland, Wisconsin is ready. Local man Bob Tohak has erected a special landing port for them from a 42 foot high fuel tank topped by a custom built landing platform. The structure is made to support the weight of a helicopter (or presumably a UFO, although blueprints for these are difficult to get hold of). There’s a spiral staircase inside the tank that leads to the top - it’s a little claustrophobic but that’s okay because aliens are pretty thin, right? 
 
 
Fossil Cabin
 
6. Fossil Cabin (Medicine Bow, Wyoming)
 
One day you’re stomping around as the most powerful creature on earth and then 65 million years later you find that you’re now a house. This crazy cabin is constructed entirely from dinosaur bones - the original owner collected the bones for years with the intention of reassembling them as a complete skeleton but got a little daunted when he realized that most of the bones didn’t come from the same animal or even the same species. So naturally he decided to build a cabin out of them. He even printed postcards, advertising the ‘Como Bluff Dinosaurium’. The cabin has now stood for more than 80 years - a long time for a cabin, but barely a blip for those bones.
 
 
Mammy’s Cupboard
 
7. Mammy’s Cupboard (Natchez, Mississippi)
 
In spite of a judicious paint job during the Civil Rights revolution of the 60’s to give her a lighter skin tone, this is still one restaurant where you really have to check your politically correct sensibilities at the door. Originally built in the 1940’s, this 28 foot tall smiling, tray-holding woman was modeled after the “mammy” archetype - the distillation of an African American nanny. Visitors who enter her skirt will discover a dining room and a gift shop, although why you’d want solid proof that you’d been here is beyond me.
 
 
Mike the Headless Chicken statue
 
8. Mike the Headless Chicken statue (Fruita, Colorado)
 
This is one roadside attraction where its backstory is odder than the attraction itself. The statue is a little strange, purely because it’s of a headless chicken, but all in all it’s actually pretty tasteful. What’s really weird is the story behind the statue. Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado went out one evening to kill a chicken for dinner. While he succeeding in chopping the chicken’s head off, Mike (as he would later be known) just didn’t die. Thanks to an intact brainstem and a strategically placed blood clot, Mike went on to live for another two years, garnering both fame and considerable fortune for his owners before choking to death in a roadside motel. He’s still remembered fondly by people of Fruita almost 70 years after his delayed demise.
 
 
Area 51 Alien Center and Brothel
 
9. Area 51 Alien Center and Brothel (Armagosa Valley, Nevada)
 
Yes, unfortunately you did read that correctly. Subtlety wasn’t a strong point for the creators of the Alien Center - the pink and lime green paint job has a good chance of being spotted from orbit. The Center is really just a gas and convenience store, nothing special outside of the horrendous decor, but it’s around the back of the Alien Center where things start to get a little strange. The ‘Alien Cathouse’ bills itself as America’s only themed brothel; I can’t imagine why the concept hasn’t caught on… They even offer free tours to the brave and foolhardy. And before you ask, the answer is yes: they do have an Alien Probe Room. 
 
 
Nicolas Cage’s tomb
 
10. Nicolas Cage’s tomb (New Orleans, Louisiana)
 
I guess there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead. Even if that means buying a pyramid tomb in a famous New Orleans graveyard when you’re barely over 50. Actor and producer Nicolas Cage is leaving nothing to chance with a 9 foot tall stone pyramid waiting for him when he passes on. Many New Orleans locals are pretty annoyed that the star managed to get a plot at the city’s beloved St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, with some claiming that centuries old graves were destroyed to make room for Cage’s monolithic mausoleum. You have to admit though, it does have a garish Hollywood grandeur to it. It even boasts a cryptic Latin inscription, ‘Omnia Ab Uno’ which translates as ‘Everything From One’. Very National Treasure. 
 
 
Can you outweird us with even more bizarre roadside attractions? Let me know about the strange things you’ve spotted on your road trip in the comments below and your attraction could make it into Part 2! 
 
 
 
 

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