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The House on the Rock Is Fake!

James Johonnott

Pretty sure those trees are real.
Pretty sure those trees are real.

Wisconsin's House on the Rock has been deemed everything from Wisconsin's most bizarre building to the greatest roadside attraction in all of America. A trip through its halls is a mind-bending dive into a surrealist cartoon. International fantasy/horror author Neil Gaiman, who described the place in his novel American Gods, said, "It's a monument to kitsch and wonder and madness and uncertainty...I had to tone down my description of it and leave things out in the book in order to make it believable." So it should come as no surprise that it's also almost entirely fake.

In a manner of speaking.

My childhood just died.
If you could hear them playing, you'd hear my childhood dying.

In this video from Atlas Obscura (the purveyors of all things roadside and attractiony) Dylan Thuras makes light of the unlikeliness of the building's legendary origin story and its insane, anachronistic, and mostly replica "collections." For me, the worst was learning that the robot orchestra doesn't actually play its instruments (they're aided by a speaker system).

But as Thuras says, none of this ruins the experience of the House on the Rock. It actually might make the experience a little better. Because I can assure you – the fantastically bizarre (if sometimes unsettling) feelings you feel there are entirely real.


"The greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American tourist public is in rural Wisconsin ... and it's wonderful."
– Dylan Thuras, Atlas Obscura