1Indiana Roads Might Be Legendary…
But they’re also known for the weird, wild and downright unusual attractions alongside the asphalt.
An entire book could easily be written on the wackiest finds alongside Hoosier highways, but here’s a curated selection of the 10 most interesting Indiana attractions, from the marvelous to the macabre. Hoosiers don’t put as much stock in the taste and tact of roadside attractions, and that’s a good thing: they’re just supposed to be fun!
Almost every Hoosier appreciates the freedom of the open road, but sometimes it’s worth pulling over to the side and checking things out on foot…Even if it’s completely ridiculous.
No, technically he’s not Paul Bunyan, although almost everyone calls him that. Once a mascot for a local lumber outlet, this 43-foot statue welcomes patrons to Timbers Bar in Muncie, Indiana.
3The World’s Largest Ball of Paint
It started as a baseball in 1977, and has grown to nearly five-feet in diameter, weighing five thousand (!!!) pounds. It receives at least a single coat of latex paint every day, although sometimes helpful visitors add an extra coat or two. Interested motorists can stop by, paint a coat, pick up a paint chip or two and receive a certificate with their name, date…and the coat number they painted. This “Wet Paint” wonder has a home in Alexandria, Indiana.
4“Old Ben”, The World’s Largest Steer
Known as Old Ben, this Indiana steer was famous at birth, being the largest calf anyone had ever seen. His fate bypassed the butcher block and by the time of his death at the age of seven, he stood six-and-a-half feet tall, was fourteen feet long and weighed just shy of 5,000 pounds. Now stuffed for posterity and poses, Old Ben shares a barn with the World’s Largest Sycamore Stump in Kokomo, Indiana.
5The Blue Flash: A Backyard Rollercoaster
Some people enjoy woodworking for a hobby. Some people paint watercolors. In 2001, John Ivers amassed a collection of old farming equipment and car parts and built himself The Blue Flash, a working roller coaster, right in his own backyard. With no training in engineering but a mechanic’s instinct, Ivers built this one-man roller coaster through patient trial-and-error, even installing a corkscrew loop.
Those interested in visiting The Blue Flash in Bruceville, Indiana, (or the newer, slightly less jarring, Blue Too) should call ahead on a warm-weather weekend to make an appointment, whether you want to talk homemade roller coasters, ride one…or are thinking of building one yourself.
6Virgil I. Gus Grissom Memorial Museum
The loss of astronaut Gus Grissom (America’s second man in space) during a routine check of the Apollo I Command Module remains one of the greatest tragedies in NASA history. Luckily, Gus Grissom’s legacy lives on in this small museum in his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana. Visitors can see his actual Mercury spacesuit, the capsule from Gemini 3…and even an infamous corned beef sandwich.
The museum is located in Spring Mill State Park, so tourists can make a day of appreciating Grissom’s heroism and legacy…and then enjoy the Indiana outdoors.
Have to keep the lights on, folks!
8The Giant Lady Leg Sundial
For adult’s only, because this particular attraction is located just outside a regionally famous (or infamous) nudist camp, The Sun Aura Nudist Resort, in Roselawn, Indiana. This massive sundial is 63-feet in length and is positioned to tell visitors and nudists (who MIGHT not be carrying a watch. Or pockets. Or anything at all) the time. Clothing is optional at the Sun Aura, so visitors need not get undressed…just be prepared to get an eyeful while you check out this twist on ancient time-telling technology.
9The Longcliff Museum
Psychiatric treatment a century ago was both barbaric…and the best that we could do. This appointment-only museum in Logansport, Indiana, exhibits some of the vintage techniques and treatments used to treat those with mental illness a century ago.
The museum is still a working administrative center, so “walk-ins” are discouraged, but discovering the futile and frightening methods, including the early days of electroshock treatment, once used makes us appreciate today’s health advances even more.
10The Shrine of Christ’s Passion
Like much religious iconography, you don’t have to belong to that religion to appreciate the art and effort put forth into making it, and the Shrine of Christ’s Passion is one of those works. In only a few years, a once-empty field in St. John, Indiana, was transformed into a walk through the New Testament. There is no charge for admittance.
Intricately-detailed statues illustrate the Stations of the Cross, with the picturesque stone path starting at the attraction’s gift shop and winding up along the Prayer Trail to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Catholic or not, Christian or not, it doesn’t matter. This is worth seeing.
11Cairo’s Russian Bomber Watchtower
A relic of the Cold War, one of the few remaining civilian watchtowers, which once dotted northern and western Indiana, this tower (often called the Cairo Skywatch Tower, located in Cairo, Indiana) is a memorial to those who sacrificed their time and many cold, lonely nights scanning the skies for the approach of Russian bombers.
Before the days of an effective national radar system, these watchtowers and volunteers served to keep American families safe and secure with a direct line to nearby air bases in case of attack. Luckily they were never utilized in a combat capacity: given their purpose, that combat capacity would have only come once.
The tower is unsafe to climb!
12Grave in the Middle of the Road
Framed on either side by County Road 400 South, the grave of Nancy Kerlin Barnett remained undisturbed for almost 200 years, even when the Indiana Department of Transportation decided to put a busy country road at the gravesite. Instead of disturbing the ground, INDOT built the highway around it, making an interesting commute for tens of thousands of Hoosiers in and around Franklin, Indiana, for many years.
In 2016, the grave was unearthed and while the research team expected to find a set of dusty humans remains, they actually found the remains of seven bodies. After a period of study, the remains were then moved to nearby Sugar Creek, and researchers left behind a small marker at the original gravesite.