Massachusetts is much weirder than you think. Beyond the typical tourist attractions, seafood shanties, beaches and well-known landmarks, there lies a hidden world of bizarre and breathtaking sites. Check out these truly weird places across the state, where normal is definitely not the rule.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, South Hadley
Since 1932, this collection of oddities and eccentric goods has been inspiring wonder. First assembled by the philanthropist Joseph Allen Skinner, this collection includes over 7,000 objects that are connected only by their shared weirdness. The collection includes stuffed birds, antique guns, odd kitchen implements, Native American artifacts, and elaborate model ships. The museum is now maintained by Mount Holyoke College.
2. Dighton Rock, Berkley
This rock has been a mystery since its discovery by Europeans in 1690. Covered in intricate and indecipherable symbols, Dighton Rock has been theorized to be the handiwork of everyone from the ancient Phoenicians to Chinese explorers. More recent speculation holds that the markings are likely Native American. Today, you can visit the rock in a museum at Dighton Rock State park.
3. O'Reilly Spite House, Cambridge
This house was the result of a neighborly dispute taken to extreme lengths. In 1908, Francis O'Reilly tried to sell a his tiny parcel of land to his neighbor. The land wasn't large enough to build on (or so everyone assumed), so the neighbor refused to buy. Angered by this, O'Reilly built a teensy house on the small strip of property just to spite his neighbor. The house is 37 feet long and 8 feet wide. It is currently occupied by an interior design firm.
4. Warren Anatomical Museum, Boston
Warren Anatomical Museum collection includes a set of conjoined fetal skeletons, papier-maché anatomically accurate eyes, the inhaler used in the first ever ether-assisted procedure, and an exploded skull. The museum is also the home of the skull of Phineas Gage, a man who took a 13-pound iron rod through the head, and was an invaluable source of information regarding how the brain works.
5. Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston
This curious cemetery is filled with odd finds and interesting surprises. There is a miniature village of cement houses, a group of trees sporting some dapper finery, and even a gigantic set of xylophones. The tiny houses are actually replicas of the homes that particular people in the Forest Hill Cemetery once lived in.
6. The Museum of Bad Art, Somerville
This one is for all those people who have ever visited an art museum and scoffed, "I could do that." The Museum of Bad Art is the world's only museum dedicated to collecting and showcasing really bad art. Their first piece was acquired from a literal trash can in 1994. Since then, MOBA has expanded into two galleries and features all sorts of truly ugly works of art. Check out the museum in the basement of the Somerville Theater.
7. Rockport Paper House, Rockport
This house is entirely constructed of newspaper. Okay, well almost – the fireplace isn't made of paper, for obvious reasons. Built by Elis F. Stenman in 1922 as a summer home, the structure and its furniture are composed of over 100,000 varnished newspapers. Visitors are welcome to tour the home. It's particularly fun to read the old headlines and advertisements on the ancient periodicals.
8. Mµseum, Somerville
The world's tiniest museum is right here in Massachusetts. It's eight inches deep, only sixteen inches long, and located next to a Subway sandwich shop. For real. Head curator Judith Klausner (no word as to how big the staff is) has included pieces from local artists that express the local flavor and beauty of New England. There's usually no line to get into this museum, and admission is free.
9. The Skinny House, Boston
This is another one of those "spite" houses. Only ten feet across and 30 feet deep, this house was built just after the Civil War. The story goes that a soldier returned from the fighting to find that his brother had built a large house on the property they had jointly inherited from their father. In revenge, the soldier built an incredibly skinny home on the remainder of their land in order to block sunlight to his brother's property. Today, the home is privately owned (and lived in!), but visitors can certainly check out the home from the street.
10. Echo Bridge, Newton
This bridge is unusual for its incredible acoustic qualities. Built in 1877, the bridge extends over Hemlock Gorge and is a great place to experience a very curious phenomenon. Due to the unique architecture of the structure, sounds produced under the bridge can echo up to 25 times. Visitors can try out the Echo Bridge from a platform beneath the bridge, easily reached by a set of stairs.
11. Martini Junction, Needham
I bet you've never seen a railroad quite like this one. Located in the depths of the Needham Forest, this secret model train village features over 120 feet of tracks and truly incredible miniature structures and scenery. It is the creation of Jim Metcalf, a local resident and train enthusiast. If you happen to stumble upon the village while Metcalf is there, he'll probably run the train around the village for you.
12. All Saints Way, Boston
Tucked away in Boston's North End there is a most curious and spiritual alleyway. Local resident Peter Baldassari has decorated the alley between 4 and 8 Battery Street with an incredible assortment of saint-related trinkets and artwork. This outdoor shrine itself is private property, but the illuminated saints and some of the memorabilia can be seen from the street. Baldassari occasionally gives tours of the alley.
Of course, there are plenty more bizarre places in Massachusetts. What are some of your favorites?