Earliest memories of visiting an Atlas obscura esque site?


#1

Hi fellow Atlas afficionados ,

A couple of questions , I’d like to ask just out of curiosity.

What was your first/earliest experience of visiting a site either specifically mentioned in the Atlas or that was Atlas obscuraesque ?

Also, was the experience a formative experience in some way ? did it somehow set the tone for future for trips and exploring later in life ?

Would love to hear a few stories from everyone


#2

I grew up in NJ where we have a local publication called Weird NJ. While I probably went to some Atlas Obscura-esque sites before my introduction to Weird NJ, I don’t think I had the context for them and so never thought about them as being unusual in any way. For example, I went to the S.S. Atlantus wreck a lot when I was a kid because we would spend summers at the shore, but I didn’t go out of my way to find it and was too young to recognize it as something special. Weird NJ really got me into the whole thing… I think I even mentioned it in the interview for my job at Atlas!

The most formative memory I have of this sort of stuff was when my friends and I went to Shades of Death Road the summer before senior year of high school. It’s honestly just a suburban street with a really weird name, but the ghost stories and legends are good enough to make it seem like a real adventure. I remember walking in the woods just off the road with my friends and we were all trying to creep each other out—it was great. :smiling_imp: Honestly, Weird NJ and trips like that are probably a big part of the reason I loved the Atlas website, long before I was hired.


#3

Growing up in Salt Lake City, I always heard stories of a headstone called, Emo’s Grave. Supposedly it had a mirror embedded in it, and if you looked into it you could see a GHOOOOOOST! Well that was one version of it anyway. Eventually I reached an age where I could actually seek out Emo’s Grave to see it for myself (I had a car, and teenage hours to waste). In reality, it was simply a gated mausoleum with a broken urn inside. It wasn’t as spooky as I’d maybe envisioned, but it was one of the first times that I felt like I was really exploring my city and its secrets!


#4

Thanks for sharing Eric. I vividly remember the explorations of my teenage years too and also being underwhelmed by some places in urban legends , but I guess no exploration is wasted time.

A couple of questions , why was it called “Emo’s” ? I take it that it had nothing to do with the subculture or music genre , right? I am imagining some demonic Emo kid glaring with one eye (the other covered by the fringe) out of a mirror haha


#5

I’m grew up in Western MA. When I was very young, probably 4 or 5, my aunt was visiting from Rhode Island for a weekend. We took a day trip to this spectacular garden that was centered around a building that I found to be totally mysterious and wonderful; it was a place built for happiness.

Due to the impressionistic way kids place their memories, I know that for many years after I thought this place was near where my aunt lived, in far distant Rhode Island. It was only after a hike up a local mountain, when my Dad was pointing out the Pioneer Valley landmarks that were visible from the mountain summit, that I realized that place was The New England Peace Pagoda–not an hour north of my house!

The strength of my impression of the place is a testament, I think, to how important it is to bring unfamiliar architecture (and the underlying philosophy) into foreign contexts. I had no context for what Buddhism was–I doubt I even had an idea of what the world looked like beyond the rural suburb where I grew up–I was actually primed to be overwhelmed by the different colors, shapes, and harmonies of the Peace Pagoda.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/new-england-peace-pagoda


#6

Haha, the legend definitely predates My Chemical Romance, but I’m not really sure where exactly the name comes from.


#7

Thanks for the reply Lexberko and apologies for my late reply.

Judging by pictures the S.S. Atlantus seems to look haunting and it seems pretty sad that a boat with such history ended up wrecked. But then again the ecologist in me sort of loves that it is now under the waves because the ruins will now be the home/habitat of loads of weird and wonderful sea creatures.

That’s a very sinister name for a road , are there any historically sound theories for why it is called this ?

I find it fascinating where the entymology for where the names of roads or places comes from , sometimes they can lead in quite unexpected directions and reveal something darker in local history which otherwise would have been lost to history.

  • By the way , I just checked out Weird NJ via a google search and it seems that its still going strong but in digital format.

#8

Great discussion! One of my earliest memories, period, is of a green roadside dinosaur in South Dakota. Not 100% sure—I was maybe two or three at the time and it was the late 70’s—but I’m pretty sure it was this:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/depression-era-dinosaur-park

One the subject of Pre-Atlas Obscura books like Weird NJ, I can’t recommend enough Idaho for the Curious by Cort Conley. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) and I, spent an amazing couple days driving around Idaho and checking off every weird, wonderful, and historic site in the guide. Mr. Conley is a superb story-teller.


#9

The one that completely captured me, and I still rattle on and on about to this day is The House on the Rock which I believe is the greatest outsider art installation in the US. World’s largest carousel, a whale fighting a squid the size of the statue of liberty, mechanical orchestras that spring to life when you drop in 50 cents. It’s a magical wonderland.


#10

I grew up in close proximity to Hammond Castle, where my parents would take my sister and I to explore its twisty passageways and strange collections. We often visited old estates, so it took me until later in life to realize what a special little oddity it is.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/hammond-castle-museum

Now that I think about it, Marblehead, my hometown, is sort of an Atlas “place” in its entirety. I loved local folklore as a kid (still do) and spent a lot of time thinking about the the witches and pirates who are rumored to have roamed its shores.
https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/susanna-jayne-headstone

When I was slightly older, I became more enchanted with all the campiness of roadside America (probably because I grew up in an aggressively preserved colonial fishing village). We spent one very weird x-mas eve at South of the Border, and that remains of my my most memorable and magical holidays to date.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/south-of-the-border


#11

Well I guess I should probably mention my earliest memory of visiting an Atlas Obscura esque site.

In my childhood I lived 10 minutes walk away from the St.Leonards Church ossuary or “Hythe crypt” , so my first Atlas Obscura place would be that site. I have some vivid memories of visiting the crypt on quite a few school outings and like all the other kids being fascinated and kind of horrified by all the skulls.

Saltwood castle was also close-by and I have memories of taking walks up there around the castle walls and woodlands. When I’m in the UK I still do go for walks around the area in general which is especially beautiful in early Autumn and Spring.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/saltwood-castle

I think living in such an area most probably did play a part in a fascination for the darker aspects of history and culture and an appreciation for gothic aesthetics.

From my mid to late teenage years up till my mid 20’s , my formative years , I spent in Mexico city so this was another location which I spent a lot of time exploring. When I remember back to that time , it seems like every weekend I would spend exploring a different archeological site whether Aztec or Toltec or Mayan and also lots of National parks , caves , galleries and museums. But as I used to spend a lot of time in and around the historic centre “the zocalo” where I worked at a job , and where I would hang out on weekends with my friends , the site that would most capture that time for me would have to be the old Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/serpents-of-the-great-temple

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/skull-rack-of-the-great-temple


#12

Amazing. Castles and ossuaries. Now THAT is where kids should be playing!


#13

Thats a fantastic experience Luke , I love the fact that it was built by the local community and that it was designed to promote peace , which is an ever elusive thing in our world.

A question , did the visit inspire you to read more about Buddhism or to visit Buddhist temples in Asia ?


#14

Thanks for the reply Dylan. I just checked out “The House on the Rock” and damn … it really reminds me of something from a Hunter S Thompson book or a David Lynch movie ,what a place indeed !

It actually reminded me of this scene from the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”


#15

I was so young, I am not even sure I knew how to read. At the end of the day, I don’t think I am as up on Buddhist philosophy as many of my neighbors in Western MA are. That said, I am hoping to try a retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA in the next couple years, so maybe my home environment did get through to me after all.


#16

I grew up in Charlottesville, VA so I’ve always been surrounded by history. When I was around 7 or 8 years old my family went on a trip to Italy. We were staying in San Gimignano for a few days and while walking down the street I accidentally found the Museo della Tortura, or The Museum of Medieval Torture. Somehow, I ended up convincing my parents to let me go in. I stayed in there for hours and trying to get me to leave was like pulling teeth. I was so enthralled since then on that on every trip I could, I would find some kind of museum or shop similar. I became obsessed with torture and my parents amazingly never worried? As I got older my interest evolved into studying the Black Death and the history of medicine.

Now that I’m 20 years old I’m pursuing medical history! I couldn’t imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t stumbled upon Museo della Tortura.


#17

This is amazing!


#18

The earliest trip I recall was during the summer of 1994, went to Florida and visited some locations mentioned in the Atlas. First was Disney’s Discovery Island, from which we still have pictures and live footage, didn’t know it was abandoned until the mid 2000s. There was also the Devil’s Millhopper, which as a kid confused me cause I did not speak English except a few words here and there, so we really thought in our young minds the devil lived there and were kinda scared. Finally the old schoolhouse in St.Augustine, have visited twice so far, the puppet show is still fresh in my memory.


#19

When I was a kid, my grandfather took me to a bonkers restaurant called the Flying Lady. It seemed enormous at the time. I just Googled it and apparently, it was enormous even if you were an adult.

It had a 1910’s old-timey vibe and the owner was an aviation aficionado. At one point, it was one of the world’s largest restaurants, seating 2000. It had 7 full-sized antique planes hanging from the ceiling, including a Wright flyer replica. And throughout the entire restaurant was a hanging track (repurposed from a dry cleaner, apparently) that had 100 model airplanes flying over your head throughout your meal. On top of that, there was an adjoining museum full of antique planes. And, if I’m not mistaken, they would occasionally host air shows nearby. I have no idea if the food was any good. I didn’t care. I must have been 8 years old and mesmerized.

I found a video. Check it out. YouTube

Now I grew up in California and, as such, Disneyland was a common vacation spot for my family. That actually inspired me more than anything to get out and see the world. When I began to hit the Holden Caufield portion of my life, I realized Disneyland was all fake and I wanted to see the real stuff. The real New Orleans, the real Thunder Mountain Railroad (Grand Canyon), the real castle (Neuschwanstein), the real Tomorrowland (it’s Shanghai…It’s totally Shanghai).