Sometimes you’re out on the open road, and something catches your eye. You’re not sure what it is, but it’s piqued your curiosity, and you need a break anyway. This is how a lot of roadside attractions are born. Predominantly wacky or niche, roadside attractions, particularly in the U.S., have become a huge part of the road-tripping experience. However, sometimes they’re just downright creepy. So here are our top 10 creepiest roadside attractions in the U.S.
Grab your map, find a decent road-tripping buddy, and let’s dive in!
10 The Fremont Troll—Seattle, Washington
In so many old folktales and fairytales, we hear of mysterious, troublesome, or mischievous trolls who live under bridges. Often asking for a toll or price for passage, they cause a nuisance and, in some cases, can be quite frightening and creepy.
Well, luckily, they’re a work of fiction. That is unless you’re wandering through underpasses in the Fremont area of Seattle. Here you’ll find a huge stone troll holding up the underpass on their broad shoulders. If you’re not expecting it or are walking in bad lighting, it’s a creepy and surprising sight to behold.
The result of a local art competition in 1989 to revamp the area that had become an unsafe and dirty place, the Fremont Troll towers 18 feet (5.5 meters) and even has a shining metal eye that glints in the light. It’s not uncommon to see a horde of tourists standing around and even climbing up onto the troll’s shoulders for the perfect photo op. Keep an eye out for the Volkswagen Beetle that’s been crunched up in the troll’s hand…
9 Oregon Vortex—Gold Hill, Oregon
If you’ve ever visited a fairground with a hall of mirrors or a funhouse, you know how easy it is for you to lose perspective and see things in an altogether eerier way. Well, how about out in the wild? If you happen to visit Gold Hill, Oregon, you might find yourself questioning what you actually see.
The so-called Oregon Vortex is home to a series of paranormal buildings and a few gravity hill illusions that can leave visitors enchanted, confused, or perplexed. The story goes that the Old Grey Eagle Mining Company used this Native American land to build their outpost in 1904—something that the local tribespeople had forbidden. Consequently, the house slid off its foundations at a precarious angle.
So the legend was born that a large magnetic field had control over this area, causing weird and wonderful things to happen. Visitors come from all around to put this theory to the test and see if they can come up with a logical conclusion—so far, the mystery of the Oregon Vortex remains.
8 Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo—Hot Springs, Arkansas
Are you into all things reptilian? Well, if you’re heading through Arkansas, stop off in Hot Springs with a visit to the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo. What’s so creepy about a petting zoo? Well, some of the alligators are more alive than others. There’s also a series of exhibits, including the skeletal remains of a merman and more intriguing and weird oddities.
Founded in 1902 as an alternative tourist attraction for those visiting the town’s titular hot springs, the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo welcomes visitors from all over to get up close and personal with these prehistoric and native creatures. Feed baby alligators, watch the pros interact with the animals, or head to the museum-style exhibits full of history and biological mysteries. Chances are you’ll leave the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo with more questions than answers, but that’s all part of the fun.
7 Oddporium—Arden, Delaware
Sometimes you just want to wander around somewhere downright weird with a friend or loved one, pointing out old dolls, vintage medical equipment, or pig remains in a jar, cringing back and laughing. Whether you get grossed out easily or have a dark sense of humor when it comes to curios, consider checking out the Oddiporium on your next trip through Arden, Delaware.
If you’re traveling through in the evening, the Oddporium also screens horror films in the outdoor portion of the venue. Especially if you’re checking out the place around Halloween, you can expect plenty of spooky goings on. The perfect creepy combo: nighttime horror films and weird paranormal things in jars!
6 Goldwell Open Air Museum—Beatty, Nevada
When you’re on the road for a while, especially in the desert landscape of Nevada, your eyes can play tricks on you. Suddenly, you see white figures floating in the distance. No, it’s not your eyes misleading you. You’re journeying toward the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Beatty, Nevada. Bring your curiosity and your artistic temperament when you visit!
Characterized by its lead attraction—a series of ghoulish white cloaked figures set up in the position of the Last Supper—the Goldwell Open Air Museum is home to a ton of interesting and thought-provoking sculptures out in the middle of Death Valley. Many of them aren’t creepy at all; however, the sight of the cloaked Last Supper against the empty landscape of the desert will send chills up and down your spine.
5 Winchester Mystery House—San Jose, California
With a name like the Winchester Mystery House, you know you’re in for an interesting and bizarre visit. Built for the Winchester Repeating Arms heiress Sarah Pardee Winchester, the Winchester Mystery House started construction in 1884 with a whole host of weird and creepy features. Doors to nowhere, stairwells with no end, and much more. It’s definitely not your average design and is part of the Winchester Mystery House’s unique and quirky charm.
It’s rumored that Sarah went mad with guilt over all those killed by Winchester guns and ammunition over the years, leading to the peculiar design. Are you a fan of all things paranormal and a little bit spooky? Some say that the spirit of Sarah still haunts the Winchester Mystery House that opened to the public just a year after her death in 1922, when construction finally halted.
4 Mystery Hole—Fayetteville, West Virginia
Nothing quite piques interest quite like the phrase “mystery hole.” Located in Fayetteville, West Virginia, it is a roadside attraction that doesn’t have a whole lot of information detailing the ins and outs of it. That’s what adds to the mystery of it all. You can’t even catch a glimpse without a ticket and passing through the initial building.
Behind the blocked-off entry building lies a gravity-reflipping mystery hole, turning everything on its head and making visitors question everything. Some people wander off in the completely wrong direction. Some people get confused. Some people return again and again, trying to solve the mystery of this particular hole. It’ll keep you guessing the whole time.
3 The World’s Largest Elk Horn Arch—Afton, Wyoming
Depending on your beliefs about hunting, this next roadside attraction is either going to be super impressive or super creepy. Either way, it’s still a little bit morbid. Spanning all four lanes of the highway, The World’s Largest Elk Horn Arch is an imposing sight as you cruise down Route 89 into Afton, Wyoming.
How many elk horns does it take to form the supposed world’s largest elk horn arch? According to official figures, 3,011 intertwined horns come together to form this unique structure. Pull over for a photo opportunity, get up close and personal to see how the arch is put together, or drive underneath it, slightly baffled at how 15 tons of elk horns stay sturdy enough for the archway while still being predominantly in the air.
2 Doll’s Head Trail—Atlanta, Georgia
If there’s one thing we can agree is super creepy, it’s a doll’s head. So it’s no wonder Atlanta, GA’s Doll’s Head Trail is on this list. Yes, if one or two doll heads aren’t enough for you, you can spend your time wandering around the Constitution Lakes area looking out for these highly creepy trail markers.
Take some time to stretch your legs after a long road trip, and tick off an extra creepy roadside attraction while you’re at it. Even better, don’t tell your travel companion about the bizarre oddities littered along the trail. Then watch as they realize in abject horror the sheer creepiness of this particular Georgia tourist attraction.
1 Jimmy Carter Peanut—Plains, Georgia
Sticking with the great state of Georgia, we’re skewing presidential with our final roadside attraction. Since he grew up on a peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, as a part of his presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter’s backing in Indiana decided to build a 13-foot (4-meter) tall statue to drive excitement and get people to the polls. The statue itself? A giant peanut with a toothy grin that could be seen from miles around.
It’s since been relocated from Indiana to outside President Carter’s hometown, complete with a refurbishment after a driver crashed into it in 2000. Stop by for a photo op before grabbing some peanuts for the road in the town of Plains itself. They make for great road trip snacks!