For the Tea’s Weird Week podcast this week, I met up with and interviewed Jenny Sanchez, a travel writer and creator of the Long Days Travel website. She’s been all over the world to check out cool and unusual places and it got me to thinking about the strangest places I’ve been to. There’s a lot, but I picked out what I think are the top 5. Please note that “strange” doesn’t necessarily mean awesome and good or creepy and bad… just strange.
(1.) The Outpost (undisclosed location in Pahrump, Nevada)
My book American Madness follows the life of Richard McCaslin aka the Phantom Patriot, a costumed, conspiracy believing commando. After serving prison time and parole, Richard eventually settled down and bought a home in Pahrump, Nevada. As I describe in a chapter of American Madness titled “Where the Heck is Pahrump?” the small desert town is sort of a magnet for odd characters– Art Bell, original host of Coast-to-Coast AM, lived there, as well as other famous eccentrics.
Richard found a good deal on a house, with one of the selling points being the large Quonset hut on the property, which he visualized as a low budget superhero headquarters/ training facility/ filming set/ Phantom Patriot museum that he named “the Outpost.” I visited the Outpost twice– I traveled to Pahrump in 2015, where we filmed an episode of his webshow, Phantom Patriot Retro Cinema (ep 02, “Assault on Area 51”) and I spent the weekend at his house in his guest bedroom. We also made a day trip to film near Area 51 and the Li’l Ale’ E’ Inn. That was the last time I saw Richard alive.
After Richard died, I returned to the Outpost in November 2019 to join a few of Richard’s friends and neighbors who gathered there to have a memorial and spread his ashes on the property. Just thinking about the whole story– meeting Richard, befriending him, visiting Pahrump and having a stressful filming day out in the desert, learning of his death– all of it is the strangest story I’ve experienced, mainly because I was a part of the story, too. It’s something I’ll never forget.
(2.) International Cryptozoology Museum (Portland, Maine)
My second book was titled Monster Hunters and it took me to all sorts of strange places– Bobby Mackey’s Music World (a haunted honky tonk), the Skunk Ape Research Center in Florida, the International UFO Congress conference in Arizona, Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, a Bigfoot expedition in Michigan, and more– so it’s hard to pick the best one for this list, but one of my strange and favorite visits was to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine in 2013, I visited on my birthday that year. The museum is curated by Loren Coleman, prolific author and one of the world’s leading and most well-known cryptozoologists. The museum is such a great collection of Sasquatch footprint casts, models of cryptids, rare documents, art, and other interesting items related to the study of unknown creatures. Since my visit, the museum has moved to a new location– time to make a trip to Maine sometime soon!
(3.) The House on the Rock (Spring Green, Wisconsin)
I was reminded of just how strange this place is over the 4th of July weekend. I met my family in Spring Green, where they were having a holiday weekend, to take a trip through the wild fever dream that is the House on the Rock. I can’t really think of anything that compares to this– it is just one huge room after another filled with mind-boggling sights– a giant whale fighting a squid, the world’s largest carousel, which is going just a little too fast and has an automatic band with thumping bass drums adding to the mania– collections of weird guns and circus miniatures and so much more. When I interviewed Jenny Sanchez, it was also the first place she brought up for unusual destinations, she called the House, “the Disneyland of the unusual.”
I’ve been especially wanting to return since reading/ seeing it in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I wrote about the House on the Rock in brief in the “Legendary Places” chapter of my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore.
(4.) Survival Condos (undisclosed location in Kansas)
While working on my book Apocalypse Any Day Now, I arranged a tour of the Survival Condos, a state of the art underground bunker built in an old Atlas missile silo. Me and my friend Paul drove out there and spent about 3 hours checking the place out with building developer Larry Hall. The condos not only include the living units but a swimming pool, recreation areas, school, gym, a small grocery store, and a movie theater 14 floors underground. I wrote a chapter about the experience titled “Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous” and did a column/podcast episode revisiting that experience, which you can check out here: Tea’s Weird Week: Doomsday Bunkers of the Rich and Famous (Revisited) | (teakrulos.com)
(5.) Wasteland City (Mojave Desert)
Another experience I had while working on Apocalypse Any Day Now was attending Wasteland Weekend, which is a sort of Mad Max-Burning Man of the Damned-post-Apocalyptic festival. “Wasteland City” assembles in the Mojave Desert outside of California City for the week and the junk city includes its own FM radio station, post office, a Thunderdome for cage fighting, marketplace, casino, night clubs, and much more. It is a place that only appears for the duration of the 4-5 days of Wasteland Weekend, which takes place in late September. There are hundreds of Mad Max style cars and thousands dressed in post-Apocalyptic style garb. I even found work there writing short articles for the daily newsletter, The Wastelander, under my Wasteland name, Krulos the Terrible. I had such a fun time getting drinks at the Atomic Cafe and then wandering around Wasteland at night and checking stuff out. I definitely want to return– it’s not likely I will this year, but I’d like to make it a 2022 goal.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep08, Long Days and Weird Weeks: I meet up with Jenny Sanchez, a travel writer who seeks out unique and unusual places to visit, which she documents on her site, Long Days Travel. We talked about strange destinations, bucket list, and travel tips.
In the news segment, me and Heidi talk about another appearance by the Moorish Sovereign Citizens, the 2014 Slenderman case, the three UFO capitals of Wisconsin, and more. Plus trivia with Miss Information and we bring it all back home by closing with a tribute to Milwaukee, “Good Land,” by The MilBillies.