They run the gamut from cheap and tacky to mildly amusing
to downright peculiar. You don’t usually find them in American Automobile
Association tour books; they’re not rated and they come with no
They’re the offbeat tourist attractions, and Indiana -
like most states - has plenty of them.
Darwin, Minnesota, has the “world’s biggest ball of
twine.” Chicago has a giant built out of plastic barrels, and the Poconos
are home to the Oscar Mayer “Wiener mobile.”
Indiana’s range from a grave in the road to peculiar
Driving through Amity, near Franklin, motorists need to
pay special attention. The grave of Nancy Barnett sits smack in the middle
of Hill’s Camp Road, a country road near a cornfield.
Barnett had been dead more than 65 years when county
officials decided to widen the road in 1901 and move the cemetery that sat
along the banks of Sugar Creek. In protest, Barnett’s grandson, Daniel O.
Doty, sat atop his grandma’s grave with a shotgun. Eventually, they built
the road around Barnett, and she rests there to this day.
The small berg of Milltown, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west
of Louisville, is home to the Shoe Tree. It’s not a closet accessory, but
a real tree adorned with hundreds of pair of shoes.
According to “Oddball Indiana: A Guide to Some Really
Strange Places,” by Jerome Pohlen (Chicago Review Press, $13.95), people
first noticed a pair of shoes hanging from the branches of the tree about 25
years ago. It became popular for folks to tie their laces together and hurl
their footwear into history.
St. Louis may have its arch, and those hankering for an
oddity en route to a traditional Missouri vacation, might want to stop in
Terre Haute for another of Indiana’s curiosities: square doughnuts. The
logic behind the bakers at the city’s three Square Donut shops is that
square doughnuts maximize the number of pastries on a preparation tray.
Oddly enough, the people who bring forth such a revolutionary idea can only
make round doughnut holes.
In Lafayette, the Pizza King franchise has high carpeted
booths, individual coin-operated televisions and tableside phones for
placing orders. A toy train runs along the booths to deliver drinks to the
Books on curious roadside attractions abound. Pohlen has
written a series of his “Oddball” guides for other states (Colorado,
Florida, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin), and there are even other books
about Indiana’s unusual places: Dick Wolfsie’s “Indiana Curiosities:
Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff” and
Phyllis Thomas’ “Indiana: Off the Beaten Path,” both $13.95 from Globe
Web sites devoted to the peculiar, including www.road
sideamerica.com, have message boards, chat rooms and descriptions of locales
that could inspire a few creative destinations.
Of course, one way to find the truly unique is to simply
soak up some local color and ask around. The only problem with this,
according to Wolfsie, is that after years of living near curiosities, people
stop noticing them.
“They see it everyday, so it’s not odd,” he says.