#writers, what #writinginspiration can be found in your #homestate? In #Wisconsin, one #setting to spark your #storytelling is #theHouseontheRock.

We drive, kid-free, through the silent Wisconsin countryside. Clouds hang silver and heavy over the corn and soy fields. The occasional tractor turns earth, the sporadic cow chews cud, the episodic cyclist scowls.

Yeah, sorry about my use of the thesaurus here, but I couldn’t help myself, not when I saw “odd” is a synonym for “occasional.” For amongst the normal, humdrum sights in rural Wisconsin, Bo and I are going to a truly odd place. One of the oddest in all the States, in fact.

Bo finds just the right music for our mission.

“What I want to know,” Bo ponders as we park, “is why no Bond villain ever stationed himself here.”

I nod. Christopher Lee’s funhouse set-up in The Man with the Golden Gun has nothing on this house.

No, the house.

The House on the Rock.

Like Dylan Thuras (in the above video), I also grew up hearing the tale that world-famous architect–and Wisconsin’s own!–Frank Lloyd Wright had spurned Alex Jordan’s own architectural designs, motivating son Alex Jordan Jr. to build The House atop a natural tower called Deer Shelter Rock…an area less than ten miles away from Taliesin. The tale is likely a crock, and yet…you know, why else would you build so flippin’ close to each other?

I’d only visited The House on the Rock once in my teen years. It’s the sort of place that sticks with you no matter who you are or where you’re from; one visit affected Neil Gaiman so deeply he set a piece of American Gods at The House on the Rock–and yes, they even filmed an episode of the television series there.

Sadly, my phone’s camera cannot do this place justice at ALL, but I do have a few snaps I can share mixed among the far better photos on the Internet.

House on the Rock’s exterior (from milwaukeemag.com)
Japanese garden set outside the Original House
Just one of the many clusters of self-playing instruments. There used to be one that played The Benny Hill theme, but they moved it. 😦
The House on the Rock is FULL of stained glass pieces. (from pinterest)
Sure, why not pack a cathedral’s worth of bells into one side of The House? Makes total sense. (Yes, there are more bells outside the photo.)
Kitchen/dining area from Original House. (from wikimedia.org)
The Lounge in the Original House (from tripadvisor.com)

One of the major architectural highlights is the Infinity Room.

It ain’t exactly a place you want to walk in when lots of people are there–it heats quickly, and, um, wobbles a bit. Still, I managed to get a shot with Bo while the natural light was good.

I didn’t say it was a good picture.
The Infinity Room exterior/interior (from pinterest)

Once you exit the Original House and Gate House, things start to get really weird.

Entry into “Heritage of the Sea” exhibit (from reddit)

Ah, the vicious Lake Superior Squid duals with the tempestuous Duluth Whale of Doom.

(Them’s the jokes, folks. For legit humor writing, talk to Bo.)

Yes, you walk a good three flights up and around this whale. (from tripadvisor.com)

Would it surprise you to know that tiny children sobbed as their parents dragged them by the whale’s teeth? I sure couldn’t blame’em–I was freaked out when I first saw all this, and I was old enough to drive a car. Bo, bless him, humors me as I grip his arm tight enough to leave a mark as we descend…yes, we not only have to climb up and around this mouth–we have to do it aaaaall again to get out.

The Streets of Yesterday’s a touch more tame. It reminds me of the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit at the Public Museum–a quiet, created thoroughfare.

The Streets of Yesterday (from cultofweird.com)

With dolls. Lots of dolls.

Soooooo creepy….

Oh, I’ll get to the dolls. Just you wait.

Anyway, here we transition with a big ol’ organ into room, after room, after room, of these giant orchestral mechanics.

One of the many giant engines and organ wagons on the Streets of Yesterday (from Cloudfront.net)

Mechanical orchestrics.

Soooo many rooms are filled with these giant self-playing orchestras. This one plays an excerpt from The Mikado. (from wikimedia.org)
Sorry my pictures aren’t better. 😦

You get me.

One of the many rooms of nightmare fuel: a mannequin orchestra with self-playing instruments (from tripadvisor.com)

This place just goes on….and on…and on…you move from room to room, warehouse to warehouse. You walk on yet another street of yesterday dedicated to cars, hot air balloons, airplanes. You pass hundreds of trinkets and trunkets of store displays, guns, circuses, dollhouses, DOOOOOOLLS, pipes, ivory carvings, costume jewelry, armor. Battle scenes complete with armored elephants and dogs.

Did I mention the dolls? Like the giant carousel FILLED with dolls?

I swear, this thing had to be at least two stories high. Of course, you gotta walk aaaall the way around it. (from pinterest)
Bo faces them down. I spot one (off camera, sorry) that’s tipped off its horse. Drunk riding, I guess?

And then there’s the room with the world’s largest indoor carousel.

Over two hundred animals, none of them horses. (from pinterest)
See what I mean? (from tripadvisor.com)
Just one of several walls filled with carousel horses (from tripadvisor.com)

In case you’re wondering what’s hanging from the ceiling, those are mannequin angels. Dozens, upon dozens, of mannequin angels.

Why?

Probably to fend off Satan from eating people.

Yup, the Devi’s mouth (and moving eyes!) is right smackin’ next to the carousel. Watch out Bo!

I walked down Satan’s gullet, stumped.

“What’s wrong?” Bo asks as we step out onto Inspiration point.

The sudden exit from hours among electric candelabras and mannequins makes my head hurt a little, but the foliage and peace of the forest around us more than make up for it. We’re at Inspiration Point, or Deer Shelter Rock. You can just see the Infinity Room behind the trees.

We must have missed something, I say, staring at a lone red barn on the far hillside (that I failed to get a picture of–sorry!). Wonder what that farmer thought, watching AJ Jr. haul materials and build his crazy concocted collection year after year after year. Did that farmer pay to take a tour like so many others in the 60s? Or did he just wave it off as so many ol’ Wisconsinites do and get back to the plow?

“How?” Bo takes a swig of apple juice as we sit on a bench. It’s our first break in three hours of walking, as our bodies are quick to tell us. “There’s only one way through this whole thing. The staff haven’t let us go off-course. What could we have missed?”

I grimace at the glass wall behind us. “We didn’t see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Bo rolls his eyes. He doesn’t remember the Horsemen from his childhood visits, and has been skeptical of their existence. “Well we’re not done yet.”

But how much left can there be? I ask for my curiosity…and my legs.

“We gotta double-back for another level and…yeah, the map here shows we’ve got a whole ‘nother room yet.”

Oh goody.

But I promptly told my leg cramps to shut up once we got there.

Organ room (and brewery room? Drum room? Steam boat engine room?) from Fangirlquest.com

This is, by far, my favoritist place at The House on the Rock.

See? Drums! Oodles of them! (from weburbanist.com)
And organs! Chords of them! (from weburbanist.com)
The one shot of mine that turned out in this room.
Gah, too dark!

Pillars–no, trees of drums and lights with delicate, narrow stairwells that wound and wound like vines. It was an other-worldly realm, a land of machine and music bathed in softly lit scarlet. It was a sort of room where you knew, you knew, magic awakens when the right song is played.

But alas, we had to move on. There was but one more pathway to the exit out, a pathway that went around the top of the carousel…

…and there they were.

Ladies and Gentlement, may I introduce Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War. (from staticflickr.com)

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah that walkway is so close to these guys Bo could literally reach out and touched Death–

–not that he does, thank goodness.

At last, we find ourselves back by the Japanese Garden and the exit from this one-of-a-kind place.

Outside courtyard, from tripadvisor.com

If Life’s Road ever brings you into Wisconsin, you must find a detour, any kind of detour to bring you to this place. It’s a day you’ll not soon forget, I promise you.

Want more information on this peculiar place? Check out the book The House on the Rock by Alex Jordan.

Fangirl Quest and Web Urbanist have amazing photo collections on The House on the Rock I only partly pillaged for this post. Check them out!

I think every land’s got to have a place like this–not something like The House on the Rock per say, but that unique oddity, that portal where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are frayed, and you can feel magic hum in the air you breathe. What would you say is your land’s portal to an Other-Where? Let’s chat in the comments below!

~STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK!~

The House on the Rock isn’t the only place to inspire a story. I utilized a bit of history from the Mississippi River Valley to help me write my upcoming release, the novella Night’s Tooth. You can read about it here, and pre-order it for just 99 cents here! The novella officially launches next Thursday the 29th, when I share my study of Charlaine Harris’ own fantasy western, An Easy Death. Don’t miss it!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

47 thoughts on “#writers, what #writinginspiration can be found in your #homestate? In #Wisconsin, one #setting to spark your #storytelling is #theHouseontheRock.

  1. What a place. It looks so 50/60s as if it’s the inner workings of the Tardis or the Nautilus. I love these places which just assault your senses. Plus it looks like a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The place you can get up and play with things. I’m so pleased you two had a great trip out together. In Yorkshire we have the big tourist venue Rhubard World. I suppose ours are the old roman and Viking sites. They take you to Tolkien or Game of Thrones worlds. Sadly I made up Rhubard world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, it’s great to hear he’s writing! Yes, do tell him. Also tell him how freaky it is when some idiot decides to do a few jumping jacks, too, or how the stomach churns when looking through the glass plate in the floor near the tip of Infinity πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you! Yes, I’ve been wanting to go there for a while, but we knew our kids wouldn’t have the stamina to handle what was, just for Bo and me, a 4hr trek. When Mom offered to take the kids for a weekend, we saw our opportunity and took it!
      Honestly, though, I had originally planned on scoping out this bizarre place in the far North Woods that may or may not be haunted. Bo wasn’t very keen on driving all that distance in one day, soooo The House on the Rock it was! πŸ™‚

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  2. Wow! I’m (almost) lost for words πŸ˜‰ That’s where the creepy dolls were then. It looks wonderful and sinister in equal measure, but I think all those mannequins would totally creep me out. All the rest: stunning!
    The 29th – in my diary.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! I totally forgot to mention Bo’s suggestion that the staff should put little mechanics inside the armor so that every now and then one armor head will turn to follow someone πŸ˜‰ So excited you’re geared to read my story!

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  3. Wow! Just… wow! That place is just… It’s extraordinary – why isn’t it better known?? I’ve never heard of it before. Thank you so much for sharing – and yes… you will DEFINITELY be making this week’s Sunday Post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so pleased you’ve hosted this virtual guided tour here, I found it hard to believe from reading American Gods that such a place really existed — or even if it did, that Gaiman hadn’t exaggerated it for effect. Well it clearly does and he clearly didn’t! Fantastic. Definitely worth a visit if I ever manage to visit the States again (perhaps not when the orange pumpkin is in charge) and Wisconson is on the itinerary! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Sunday Post – 25th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost | Brainfluff

  6. It looks amazing, Jean. I’ve only one question – who does the dusting? Looks like a nightmare of housekeeping to me!

    Did like the Japanese garden though, and the infinity room – I’d like to walk in one of those. I think my dog would enjoy that, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh that was a joke between Bo and me. “Let’s start your internship off right, Frank. Tomorrow you start work on the whale’s teeth.” “You mean the minature?” “Nope.”
      “Minnie, those reports are terrible. You know what happens when reports are done wrong.” “No, don’t!” “Yes: you must clean the mannequin orchestra. At night. After everyone goes home.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, I had no idea this existed!!! I’ll have to go and see it for myself one day! πŸ™‚

    I can’t think of anything like that here…but the area has a lot of great history concerning the fur trade. And nearby once stood “the World’s Richest Silver Mine” aka Silver Islet (and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once visited Silver Islet specifically to do a seance!) A lot of this stuff is inspiring one of the big projects I’m currently working on for work. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like an excellent mine for creativity–ba dum CH! πŸ˜› Speaking of fur trade, Wisconsin has its own history with fur trade, too. Sounds like I better keep digging . Thanks for reading! xxxxxxxxx

      Like

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