If you’re looking for a weird adventure, there is an endless supply of strange Wisconsin places worthy of exploration. Here are three of our favorite bizarre, sometimes unbelievable Wisconsin destinations.
1. House on the Rock
Whimsical, weird, and wonderful, the House on the Rock is a fever dream manifested atop a 200-foot tall column of rock jutting up through the lush green forest below. The house began as a weekend getaway for reclusive Madison eccentric Alex Jordan Jr., as he hauled materials up the rock himself to build on land he was only leasing at the time.
Eventually, Jordan amassed a team of engineers and artisans to bring his every whim to life, whether that be traveling the world to acquire rare antique oddities, or to construct 200 fully furnished and decorated dollhouses just because Jordan liked them. Among them was artist Tom Every, better known as Dr. Evermor, who went on to construct the Forevertron after he and Jordan had a falling out.
Today, the dark, twisting passages of House on the Rock ferry visitors along a bizarre journey that feels more like a Tim Burton film than the Wisconsin countryside, with rooms filled with massive music machines, royal jewels, suits of armor, miniature circuses, the world’s largest indoor carousel, and a 200-foot-tall whale.
2. Crypt of Fr. Oschwald in St. Nazianz
Father Ambrose Oschwald’s story began in the Black Forest of Germany, where he was removed from his duties for “mystical and heretical works.” He and a group of followers came to America seeking religious freedom, and settled on Wisconsin land which they were lead to by a “divine white heifer.” There, they formed a commune they called The Association, which eventually became the small town of St. Nazianz we know today.
But Oschwald’s strange story did not end with his death.
Oschwald was viewed three times after his death, the final one being 53 years after his death when he was moved to the crypt where he now lies. Each time, those present were taken aback by the fact that he had not decomposed. In Catholic tradition, that is called “incorrupt,” and is sometimes one of the criteria used to determine sainthood.
Some think Oschwald cursed St. Nazianz on his death bed, and whether or not that’s true, the grounds occupied by his crypt and his decrepit old church certainly have a haunting aura. The imposing Salvatorian Seminary, known in its final days before it closed as JFK Prep, has a long and terrifying history of ghostly encounters, as well.
Legends of a “Catholic mystic cult” with “secret practices,” and even Satanic rituals being carried out in the basement of JFK Prep, persist to this day.
3. Ripley’s Wisconsin Dells
Sure, there are a lot of strange things in Wisconsin Dells. And you go into Ripley’s Believe It or Not! expecting to see odd things. But the actual, real mummified head of Peter Kurten, a German serial killer who was one of the most sadistic human beings to have ever lived? Yeah, that’s not exactly what you expect to find in Wisconsin’s top family vacation destination.
Kurten was known as the Dusseldorf Vampire due to his proclivity to drink the blood oozing from his victims’ wounds.
Executed by beheading in 1931, Kurten’s head was preserved, dissected, and studied in hopes of discovering some anatomical abnormality that would explain his devious behavior. Perhaps more horrifying than finding something was the fact that there was nothing unusual about his brain. He was just a normal person that became a monster.
And now he’s a monster you can come face to face with after an exhilarating day at the waterpark.
There are other spooky things to do in the Dells, as well, but for shear shock and horror, Ripley’s comes out number one.
Looking for more weird adventures? Grab our Wisconsin Travel Guide right here.