Where the Weird Things Are: Arkansas Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments
Arkansas’ reputation is, to say the least, a little rough-and-tumble. It’s safe to say we’re one of the nation’s favorite states to poke, prod and pester. (Yes, we wear shoes to school — and to most other institutions and events — and, no, we — the majority of us, at least — don’t scoop up roadkill for supper.) Maybe one of the reasons we’re so fun to tease is that we’re pretty good sports about it. And we name our towns head-scratching, gag-worthy things like Toad Suck, Bald Knob, Possum Grape, Greasy Corner and Weiner. We’ve got a festival where people throw bricks and one where they throw turkeys — out of airplanes. We have convinced much of the world’s population that Sasquatch resides in Fouke, Ark., probably because we just wanted to hear everyone mispronounce the town’s name. Arkansas is a little … odd.
That being said, we’re never boring. We’ve found plenty of ways to keep our visitors — and ourselves — entertained. However, we don’t lay all of our cards on the table at once; by that I mean that we’ve hidden some of our queerest eccentricities in remote places — because we want you to spend a little while longer with us, if you can. 11 Reasons Arkansas Is Weirder Than You Think It Is:
The Glory Hole (Fallsville): Be sure to switch on your browser’s “safe search” option before scouring the Internet for Glory Hole pics. Despite its unfortunate innuendo of a name, this little-known waterfall is stupefying to see after a storm. At the base of a remote trail, witness where the creek bores a perfect hole through a cave ceiling, sending a cascade of light and water to the rocks below. It’s truly glorious to behold.
Christ of the Ozarks (Eureka Springs): Since Arkansas is smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, it’s fitting to think of this 7-story-tall, blanched Jesus statue as the enviable buckle. He watches over Eureka Springs and its “Sacred Projects”—the now-inoperative Great Passion Play stage, Bible Museum, Sacred Arts Center and New Holy Land—with open arms, a square jaw and an unimpressed look on his face.
Dinosaur World (Beaver): There’s no telling what all — besides hill people and moonshine, obviously — lies hidden in the Ozark Mountains. Rumor has it there’s even dinosaurs in those hills — rumor and a great big billboard that reads “Dinosaur World” under a conspicuous arrow. Feel free to drive up to the gates of this 1960s Jurassic theme park, but the place is extinct. You’ll find the entrance barred, but if you peek over the fence, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a weathered dinosaur head or the 40-foot-tall King Kong wielding a distressed Fay Wray.
Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum (Hot Springs): Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum (almost) shares a surname with Madame Marie Tussauds’ world-famous museum chain; my former Josephine-as-Marie’s-evil-twin theory was (sort of) debunked by the Arkansas museum’s website, which claims that Josephine is Marie’s great granddaughter (though the “s” at the end of Tussauds is mysteriously absent from Josephine’s last name). Whatever the case, don’t expect Marie-quality works at this Hot Springs parody. Do expect a slapdash assortment of celebrities, politicians, cartoon characters and even a surprisingly gruesome medieval torture chamber full of wax casualties.
Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari (Gentry): Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh my! That’s only the start of it. This 180-acre safari boasts the most ferocious beasts, including a rhinoceros, a hippopotamus, gray wolves, alligators, boa constrictors and … “Easter bunnies”?
Mammoth Orange Café (Redfield): Roadside diners and dairy bars are not uncommon in the South. But diners shaped like giant oranges? Now there’s something to see — and taste. This spherical tangerine of an eat shop has been luring road trippers since the 1960s. The food gets mixed reviews, but the milkshakes are a crowd pleaser. Everyone can agree that this place has unbeatable ambiance.
Popeye Statue (Alma): The self-proclaimed “Spinach Capital of the World” stands behind the burly physique of Popeye the Sailor Man; and if you pick on its Popeye statue, Alma will make you sorry you did. That’s what happened in 2007, when the original, papier-mâché, faintly Popeye-esque statue received a little too much ridicule and was replaced by a bronze upgrade that brandishes its bulging muscles at would-be bullies.
The Merman (Hot Springs): Submerged in sideshow history, the “Fiji Merman” lurks in the hibernation barn of Arkansas Alligator Farm with his creepy, crawly brethren. This shriveled-up, leathery, gasping man-fish hybrid undoubtedly scares the living daylights out of young visitors, but he’s mostly just laughable. Nevertheless, if he were to inexplicably materialize in a dark corner of my apartment, I’d shriek and smash him to bits with a hammer.
Snake World (Berryville): Dale Ertel really likes snakes … like, really likes snakes. He’s got more than 70 of them, which he merrily displays to passers-by on his property off US 62. Follow the innocuous, hand-painted sign to meet Ertel and his scaly brood, and be prepared for an educational tour of the serpent kingdom.
Tiny Town (Hot Springs): When it comes to weirdness, size doesn’t matter. Tiny Town has been doing it small in Hot Springs for more than 50 years. This museum of handmade miniatures and model railroads features scenes from all over America and a collection of tiny celebrities, including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Michael Jackson. Tiny Town even has a tiny Christ of the Ozarks, complete with a tiny grimace.
Booger Hollow Double Decker Outhouse (Doven): Try to say “Booger Hollow Double Decker Outhouse” out loud without gagging. What’s even weirder than the existence of a double decker outhouse (gag) is that its sole purpose is to serve as a photo op for tourists. So go ahead. Strike a pose and say “cheese.” Because everyone is doing it … in front of a giant outhouse.