After reading American Gods, I had wanted to see this place for awhile, especially since I am an avid fan of roadside attractions. Now that I have been there, I can certainly see how it can be both wonderful and horrible to different people. It has the definite feel of a love it or hate it place, one that evokes a variety of feelings. For me, its diversity of displays brought a sense of wonder but the cave like tunnels twittering with odd music made me feel anxious, overwhelmed. It is probably the closest thing to a dream that I have seen in the real world, in feelings evoking both wonder and fear.
I knew that it would be big, but I was shocked at just how HUGE the place is. Ramshackle warrens meander through the hilly Wisconsin woods, objects d’art scattered everywhere in the interior and exterior. The sheer creativity needed to construct the place was evident in the maze like paths and stairs going up to the House itself (pure kitschy glory) to the exhaustive collections of bizarre antiques, statues, weaponry, dolls, and just about anything else you could think of on display elsewhere in the complex. The marvelous, beautiful, bizarre, and downright creepy crowd for space in cramped corridors as madcap automatic music prances in the background, after families deposit tokens into these elaborate machines to bring them to life. The artifacts are displayed with little rhyme or reason, old Santa promotional items found side by side with antique guns, 19th century scrimshaw, or Asian statues (authentic or reproductions? In this collection, it does not matter).
One thing that I particularly noted was the darkness of the majority of the rooms, even those in the House itself. Little of the sun penetrates into the interior, which both increases it illusory, dreamlike vibe but also makes it feel like it could be deep underground, some kind of underworld as it were. In such an environment, dust and mildew prosper, making the air occasionally unpleasant to breath, especially for those with allergies. Photography can prove particularly difficult.
After wandering the winding maze of rooms, filled with more and more things (I won’t call it junk, because each item among the hundreds of thousands surely has its own history, even the 20th century kitsch statues) my feet began to hurt and I started to lose track of time. How long had I been in there? Was it still even light outside? What WAS that thing on the carousel? Where was the exit? Would I ever escape? Whoa, that’s a lot of dolls. Finally, I made it out and found the sun shining, the tourists thronging around the parking lot like any other day in reality. Inside, though, time stays still, only the bewildered and interested people moving through changing. Of course, new things are planned for the House on the Rock in the next couple years, so in a way things are always changing and each visit would bring new things.
I have to say that this is a very contradictory, strange place. I enjoyed it, though I think I would want some time to pass before I venture inside House on the Rock again (certainly not helped by the exorbitant price to tour it, $28 with no student discount). Despite everything, the main thing that I took out the experience was the power of creativity and wonder; the builder wanted to create something, his dream and he did, and it became a dream world as well as a nightmare for many other people as well.over 3 years ago