Inside The House On The Rock, America's Weirdest Roadside Attraction

The House on the Rock in Southern Wisconsin is one of the weirdest tourist traps that you’ll ever come across. This massive roadside attraction covers 2.5 miles and takes anywhere from three to five hours to explore. Naturally, there are wild theories and creepy tales about the House on the Rock, and a lot of them have to do with a strange rivalry between the house’s builder, Alex Jordan Jr., and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

It’s hard to know what’s true about the House on the Rock. It may not be as terrifying as an abandoned tourist attraction, but it's certainly collected its share of stories.

  • The House's History Is Primarily Derived From Myth

    The House's History Is Primarily Derived From Myth
    Photo: bogdenstepniak / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    No one seems to agree on the catalyst for building the House on the Rock. Most historians claim Alex Jordan Jr. constructed it in a bid to get back at the world’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the house’s biography, this super weird structure was designed as an act of retribution by Alex Jordan Jr. after his father was insulted by Frank Lloyd Wright sometime in the early 20th century.

    When Jordan Sr. brought Wright the plans for a dorm he had recently built, Wright allegedly told him, “I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable." Because of the insult, Jordan decided to design a building that mocked Wright - who had property nearby - with its sheer audacity. Even if this story isn’t 100% accurate, it’s still entertaining.

  • Alex Jordan Jr. Began Charging For Admission While The House Was Still Under Construction

    If it’s not already apparent, Alex Jordan Jr. was not like most architects. Supposedly, Jordan was taking a walk around the Wyoming Valley and discovered a naturally formed 60-foot-tall rock chimney and decided to build a weekend retreat, but he had no formal architectural or design experience.

    Over many years, he built his house on Deer Shelter Rock without any plans or blueprint. And though it was unintentional, his home became an architectural wonder so bizarre that it inadvertently became a tourist attraction.

    Construction on the House on the Rock began in the mid-1940s, but around 1960, people in the surrounding areas were curious about what Jordan was building. Supposedly, people started coming by the unfinished house to investigate, and Jordan took advantage of it by charging 50 cents for everyone who visited. By the end of the first year of charging admission, the house had reportedly taken in $5,000.

  • The Rooms Have Eye-Popping Collections And Displays

    One of the strangest rooms in the House on Rock is the Carousel Room. This portion of the house has a fully functioning carousel that features 182 chandeliers, holding with 20,000 lights, and 269 animals - none are the traditional horses, and many are mythological creatures Jordan created. And unfortunately, no one is allowed to ride it. 

    The carousel spins nonstop throughout the House on the Rock’s hours of operation and its flanked by a group of unclothed angels made from mannequins. One author, who wrote about Jordan in the book House of Alex, referred to the designer's penchant for adding cherubic naked women to the rooms as a "sandbox of a prepubescent boy."

    Along with the carousel, the House on the Rock features a room exhibiting a 200-foot-tall model of a sea monster fighting an enormous squid.

  • Alex Jordan Jr. Falsified Information In The Museum

    Alex Jordan Jr. Falsified Information In The Museum
    Photo: Ruscoe / Wikimedia / Public Domain

    When Jordan first started loading the House on the Rock full of oddities, he claimed the items in the museum were rare treasures from across the world. But it turns out everything was labeled with false information.

    In the '70s, it became apparent the information was incorrect and the items Jordan claimed to have historical importance were forgeries. He was required to take down all his signage.

  • None Of The Rooms Are Lit

    When you enter the House on the Rock, an oddity that may not be initially noticeable is that in rooms with collections there are no lights except for those on the collections themselves. In one of the rooms, for example, is the “largest carousel in the world,” which boasts a diameter of 80 feet and a height of 35 feet. It's adorned with 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers. The carousel itself completely illuminates the otherwise dark room.

    Many of the hallways and corridors are also unlit, but they are narrow enough for visitors to follow a set path without getting lost.

  • Jordan Continually Made Additions To The House

    Jordan never really finished the House on the Rock. Instead, he continued building additions, many of which made the house increasingly bizarre. One of the most outstanding feats is called the Infinity Room. Built in 1985, it hangs out 218 feet over the Wisconsin Valley and features 3,064 windows.

    Jordan passing in 1989 was likely the only reason he stopped adding onto his house.