While some people may love checking out the next “it” brunch spot, visiting the most popular museums or being where all the hustle and bustle is, there are some people who enjoy unearthing hidden unusual attractions, with oddities and obscurities that pique our curiosity and make us believe that anything is possible. If you are looking for unusual and peculiar locations throughout the Prairie State, then take a peek at these 11 strange spots that will be sure to tickle your fancy and leave your eccentric heart singing.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Historic Museum of Torture Devices, Alton
When you think of Illinois, you probably don’t think too much of Middle Ages torture devices (at least we hope not!). However, every Saturday and Sunday the Historic Museum of Torture Devices, which is owned by Mineral Springs Haunted Tours, comes to life with over 40 disturbing displays featuring everything from tools for humiliation to cringe-worthy execution apparatuses (weekday visits by appointment only). With names like “The Head Crusher” and “The Saw,” you’ll think that getting grounded by your parents really wasn’t such a terrible punishment after all.
2. Goat Tower of Baaa, Windsor
No, this isn’t some baaa-d joke. Standing at 31 feet tall, made from 5,000 bricks, and containing about 276 spiraling steps, this tower is home to some pretty happy goats near Windsor, IL. In fact, this goat tower is supposedly one of only three in the world. Since the tower is on private property we highly recommend grabbing some binoculars if you want to check out these tower-dwelling goats.
3. World’s Largest Wind Chimes, Casey
Standing at over 55 feet high and boasting over eight tons, you'd better like the sound of wind chimes if you are headed over to southeast part of Illinois. Pull the rope and listen to these beauties ring! Enjoy other larger-than-life attractions like the world’s largest knitting needles, golf tee and now a rocking chair (sorry, all you rocking chair lovers. You won’t be able to sit in this one!), while taking a break to refuel at their cozy little café.
4. Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities, Chicago
When you open the door to this unassuming little Andersonville store, you have now entered a world of curiosity and profound wonders. Taxidermy, anatomy contained in glass jars, antique medical tools and funerary items are only some of the products that surround you. One of the more recent items Woolly Mammoth boasts is a 19th century wax death mask of a female dwarf (we couldn’t make this stuff up even if we tried!) and even a painting made by the notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy! Everything is for purchase, so if you’ve just moved into a new place, it might be time to head to Woolly Mammoth for some new decorative items.
5. The Piasa Bird, Alton
The disturbing local legend got its name from our very own Illini tribe. Piasa means a bird that devours men (Yikes!). Legend has it that while this birdlike creature with horns like a deer, the face of a man and red eyes could carry away large animals for its meals, it had a disturbing preference for making humans its snack. Centuries ago local town records described a winged creature flying 50 feet above the water where a painting of it now rests on the bluffs of Alton. It was removed for a time but has since been returned to its rightful home for all to see near the Great River Road.
6. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Niles
If you’ve been curious to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa but you just can’t justify the expense, did you know that you can see a smaller replica of this Italian landmark not too far from the O’Hare International Airport? Created in 1934, this leaning structure was created as a utility tower for storing water filtration tanks. Of course, if you read the base of the Leaning Tower you’ll also see that this tower is in honor of Galileo, the Italian scientist who tested his theories on gravity by dropping differently weighted objects off the top of the Pisa tower (we don’t recommend trying this while at this Illinois attraction, however).
7. Rockmen Guardians, Rockford
Did you know that Rockford is protected by a group of towering, 12-foot-tall men made entirely from boulders? Each formidable guardian is striking a pose that lets you know that they are ready to defend or do battle, should the chance ever arise. While we are pretty sure this Illinois town won’t fall under an attack by another tribe of stone men, it really doesn’t surprise us too much that Rockford would be protected by none other than men made from actual rocks.
8. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Staunton
If you are taking a trip along historic Route 66, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is a quirky little must-see. When you pull up to this ranch that looks more like a vintage gas station (sorry, you can’t actually fill up here!) you can tell right away that the owner Rich is passionate about rescuing two things: real rabbits and VW rabbits. Rich is a friendly, humorous character ready to tell you stories of how his rabbit ranch came to be (along with other fun historic tidbits). He’ll even show off his rabbits and their fun-loving tricks - an amusing little photo op for that long drive through Illinois.
9. Santa Anna’s Leg, Springfield
When you think about leaving behind something you may think about a credit card or even your cell phone, but certainly not your prosthetic leg! But I guess if you were escaping as quickly as Alamo antihero Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, then you might. While fleeing the 1847 US war with Mexico, Santa Anna forgot something kind of important: a carriage full of loot and his false leg. Illinois infantrymen found the leather, cork and wooden prosthetic and made a small profit off people who wanted to take a peek at the famous Santa Anna’s leg before it found its permanent home at The Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.
10. Dungeons and Dragons Park, Carbondale
If nothing sounds better than a Friday night spent around the table drinking Dragon’s Milk and playing a whimsical game of Dungeons and Dragons, then it’s time to put down the gamemaster’s guide and step into this enchanted Illinois wonderland. Covering over 3.5 acres in Carbondale is a Tolkien-esque world full of dragons, gnomes, unicorns and other incredible creatures. While this little park may tempt adults to go there in the hopes of creating their very own real-life role-playing world, keep in mind that there are some park rules you’ll need to follow. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little inspiration from this place before hosting your next D&D game.
11. Community Solar System, Peoria
Sprawling over 6,000 square miles in Central Illinois was once the world’s largest-scale solar system model, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, but is still happy to be called the 2nd largest complete solar system model (a model in Maine has taken over the first spot). With dwarf planets found in other cities in Illinois such as Bloomington and Macomb, this model even goes as far as to have asteroids scattered all over the US in places like the South Pole Station in Alaska.
There are a lot of bizarre places to visit in Illinois that certainly deviate from the norm. Are there other great off-kilter locations that you just love to visit in the Land of Lincoln? Leave a comment telling us all about them!