Friday, June 03, 2005


I'd fully planned for my first post after this weekend to discuss my trip to Wiscon, the sci-fi convention I go to in Madison WI; I'd expected to talk about Robin McKinley, and the joys of Madison in the springtime, and the fun of seeing old friends I've missed in my last two years of non-attendence. All memory of this event, however, was completely erased by my post-Wiscon visit to The House on the Rock.

The House may not look like much on its website. Even if you click the "photos" link, you cannot fully conceive of the horror of actually being there; it was positively Lovecraftian. When HPL described things that were "non-Euclidian," "cyclopean," and "unwholesome," he was describing this house. (Yes, I know he died before it was built. No, I don't care.) Before we'd even paid our admission, when all we'd seen were the lobby and the restrooms, Erin and I had devised a code to simplify communication during our visit:
1 = "What the hell IS that?"
2 = "Holy crap!"
3 = "What in God's name were they thinking?"
4 = "What is it FOR?"
We came up with this code after entering the bathroom and being confronted with a large, glassed-in diorama of dolls in a winter/Christmas venue built into the wall of the ladies' loo. Sound nice? It wasn't. Every doll, every carousel animal, every figurine in this place has a vague aura of "evil toy" surrounding it. They could film a Stephen King movie here and not have to buy set dressing. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the light levels are kept intentionally, spookily dim, and the whole place has the quality of a nightmare landscape. Within the first half hour of being there, Jake said quite matter of factly, "We should keep an eye on the clock. Because we do NOT want to be trapped in this place overnight..." Oh god. The first part, the actual house, is just kind of weird--every surface is either raw stone slabs or shag carpet, and instead of rooms, there are sort of nooks and pits and benches covered in carpet (because everything's better with carpet) and open fireplaces in the middle of the floor, and then occasionally something that actually would look like a normal room if it didn't contain a trundle bed full of animatronic teddy bears. Or something. But THEN comes true horror--the other buildings housing the House's collection of collections. Arms and armor. A case full of spitoons. Circus paraphenalia. Any of this would be fine by itself, but it's all crammed together in this massive sensory overload of junk, and still with the dim lighting and the creepy figurines the whole place works together to create a sense of unease. The band organ rooms were the worst; automated instruments occupying empty chairs in a tableau of roccocco furnishings and red velvet, surrounded by statues of saints and apostles, strings of pearls, and a coach pulled by two of the evilest carousel animals I've ever seen. It was like being trapped inside a hideous Christmas ornament. I reached a point where the only thing I could say was "" And Erin and Jake just nodded in agreement.

I won't even talk about the whale. It's beyond description.

Anyway, after escaping The House, we went on to spend a day in the Wisconsin Dells, and everything we did or saw there was tasteful and understated by comparison. I'll write about that and Wiscon later, and maybe have some of Erin's pictures to illustrate the indescribable horror I've just described. In the meantime, I'll be drinking heavily in an attempt to block it out. If you need me, I'll be under the bed.