Revisiting The House on the Rock

“Why? Why would you ever go back there? What’s wrong with you?!” Nicki was incredulous. “We ran out of there because we couldn’t take any more, and now you’re going back in?”

It’s true. I was going back to House on the Rock, this time with Jason. I figured that if he could handle the House and all its contents without running away screaming that maybe, just maybe, he was ready to take my dainty hoof in marriage.

The House on the Rock, as always, defies explanation. In my post about the last time I visited, I told you the story about how it became The House that Spite Built, but the new owners are refuting that popular legend, saying that not only do the timelines not match, but the person with whom the tale originated actually won the “World’s Champion Liar” title in 1976 (who knew that was a thing, and how do I qualify for this Olympic sport?), so the story was intended to turn Alex Jordan Jr. into another PT Barnum. I will admit it, I’m a sucker for a lurid story, especially one that paints a notable person as sort of a jerk, so I didn’t question the original story at all. Since I try not to pass along misinformation, let it henceforth be known that Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t lay an epic diss on Alex Jordan Jr., and that The House on the Rock was not The House that Spite Built, but instead was always intended to be a tourist destination. I’m not going to edit the original post because the legend has value of its own.

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My favorite collection in The House on the Rock is all of the medical memorabilia in The Streets of Yesterday; I love all of the artwork and outlandish claims on the tinctures and tonics–these days, you can’t just claim that an ointment takes care of felons and expect people to believe you, especially when you have to follow it up with the FDA mandated “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease” which means you’ll essentially be rubbing oil on your nipples for fun–not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

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Let’s be honest: I’m not exactly the most gifted of photographers, but even so, The House on the Rock is lighted in such a way as to resist being captured. When you’re inside, it feels like the House is actively fighting your desire to catalog its contents, and you’re forced to either use the flash and blow your subjects out and get bright glass reflections or to get underexposed, blurry photos that look like something the guys on Ghost Adventures would cry over. And sometimes, the rooms are so cavernous that neither option works–like The Heritage of the Sea room. You know, the one containing the world’s largest sea battle. Or the room with the world’s largest cannon. It’s so large, and there’s so much around it, with pathways winding up and down around the room that you never really get to see or appreciate its size, and you certainly can’t fit it in a photo–or even a series of photos.

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The carousel is a wonder, worth the price of admission on its own, and it makes sense that both tours 2 and 3 end there: what good is a marvel if people don’t see it? I took a video so you can get a sense of its size–it’s so large, it takes over a full minute for one rotation. My apologies for the sound quality, the sheer volume in that room (in all of the rooms, actually) overwhelmed my camera.

 

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house-on-the-rock-wtfDo I even want to know what’s going on here?

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Just like during my previous visit, at a certain point during tour 3, I began to get overwhelmed by the sheer masses of stuff in the House. Multiple doll carousels. An entire room full of dollhouses. Another room full of tiny circuses. Multiple rooms full of guns. Rooms of asian art. Rooms of replicas of the crown jewels of England. Rooms of musical instruments, rooms of cars, rooms of planes, rooms of mechanical doodads, rooms of lighters and Titanic memorabilia and ivory and furniture and over all of it, a cacophony of sound, blinking lights, and oppressive heat. It’s like you’re visiting the world’s largest garage sale in Hell.

There’s someone out there who can handle the entire House on the Rock, inspect every last item, and not feel on the verge of a panic attack, but that person is not me.  This isn’t to say it’s bad: House on the Rock is one of the greatest roadside attractions, built on a lie, and filled with several lifetime’s worth of items. But maybe visiting once is enough.

 

 

2 Comments Revisiting The House on the Rock

  1. g33kgrrl June 10, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Oh man, we literally shut the place down – employees were walking behind us shutting lights off. I found it really helped to stop and eat pizza at the little restaurant halfway through. I think that was our key to enjoying it thoroughly and not losing it. And even then at one point Will found nee staring hypnotized at the carousel, kind of dizzy.

    1. Mellzah June 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      You’re on to something! Jason and I were just saying that with a break we may have been better equipped to handle tour three…pizza could have been just the boost we needed.

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