There are places and things that exist in the real world that if you were to stumble across in a video game, would make you call shenanigans on the programmer. Some of these things are spooky, some hilarious, some rather awe-inspiring—and all seem to exist solely to reward the “player” for looking in just the right spot with something way out of the ordinary. So here are some places around the world where the coders decided to stick in a little something special, just for you.
15The Grave of Jesus
There is a legend of very mysterious origin in the small Japanese village of Shingo which revolves around the region’s only tourist attraction—a large cross, with a plaque explaining that it is the burial place of Christ. Jesus Christ, that is, who is supposed to have died in a place very far from Japan under circumstances quite different from those described on the plaque.
According to the legend, which began when alleged Hebrew-language documents known as the Takenouchi documents were discovered by a local by that name in 1935, Jesus did in fact NOT die on the cross—his brother took his place and died in Calvary, while Jesus escaped to Japan to lay low, become a rice farmer, and had several children, eventually dying of natural causes at the ripe old age of 106.
The Sawaguchi Family of Shingo are supposed to be directly descended from Christ, though they are Buddhists and appear to take the whole thing with a grain of salt. Also, the purported documents went missing, have never been found, and supposedly also went into detail about ancient aliens and Atlantis, so there’s that. None of this stops hundreds of tourists and journalists each year from being curious enough to seek out the grave of Japanese Jesus.
14Ängelholm UFO Memorial
In an otherwise deserted park in a suburb of Ängelholm, Sweden, lies what at first glance appears might be a lonely piece of playground equipment. It is not. It’s a memorial. To a UFO landing that took place at that very spot on May 18, 1946, and was witnessed by Gösta Carlsson, the founder of Swedish pharmaceutical corporation Cernelle.
It is supposedly a model of the actual UFO that landed at the site, and the concrete tracks circumnavigating it aren’t just cosmetic. They’re the landing traces. Not only was Carlsson supposedly the sole witness to this, but he claims to have received recipes from the aliens for remedies and medicines, which made him healthy and which he used to found his company.
As awesome as this story is and despite the memorial, it’s largely disbelieved even by UFO enthusiasts. Even Clas Svahn, the co-author with Carlsson of a book about the event, admits there is no compelling evidence that it ever happened.
13Devil’s Swimming Pool
Images like those above are usually taken to be hoaxes by those not familiar with this odd feature of Victoria Falls, on Zambia’s border with Zimbabwe. During the dry season when water levels are at their lowest, a naturally formed rock wall creates an eddying pool along one section of the falls, a section that’s safe to swim in—literally right up to the edge of a 328-foot abyss.
Visitors must follow a certain route across rocks and shallow pools to reach the area safely. Of course, there’s another way to reach it—to jump in, and allow oneself to be carried downriver toward the falls at dizzying speeds, where it appears for all the world that certain death is waiting, pointing and laughing. But as one approaches the pool the current evaporates, and guests are able to actually peek right over the edge—as seen in the pictures—completely safely.
12Neptune Memorial Reef
The waters off of Key Biscayne, Florida, are a popular spot for scuba divers. Three miles out, on a certain half acre of land 40 feet below the surface, divers can stumble across the biggest Easter egg of them all—and it’s just getting started.
Neptune Memorial Reef is already the world’s largest man-made reef, and plans call for it to be far, far larger by the time of its completion. The stunning underwater features include statues, columns and arches weighing several tons, underwater roads leading to a main confluence—and some of these features put the “memorial” in the name of the place.
You see, Neptune is variously advertised as an underwater cemetery or mausoleum. Mixed with the features’ cement are the cremated remains of the dearly departed, some of whom paid thousands of dollars for the privilege, with memorial plaques accompanying their features. When completed, the Reef is expected to cover SIXTEEN acres of undersea real estate, and be capable of accommodating 125,000 remains.
11The Clown Motel
Located in the middle of a giant desert off a lonely highway, the tiny former mining town of Tonopah, Nevada, is pretty much exactly where you would expect to find a creepy motel. It’s the sort of motel you’d be reluctant to stay in for fear of a terminal case of the willies, at the very least. But Tonopah’s aptly named Clown Motel is the sort of creepy place that would make a certain type of person—the type who can’t even look at the picture accompanying this entry—floor the gas pedal and speed off screaming into the night.
Yes, this sleepy town of 2,500 is home to the world’s only (we hope) Clown Motel, and it’s not just a name. Each room is clown-themed, featuring clown dolls and portraits of famous clowns.
But that’s not all—the lobby is filled with clown dolls, too. Hundreds and hundreds of them. As if this isn’t enough, Tonopah is home to an old prospectors’ cemetery that was established in 1901.
Its residents include a bunch of townspeople who died in a mysterious, turn-of-the-century plague and 14 miners who died in a horrific mine fire. With its rusted metal fence and dilapidated old graves, it looks like a nightmare come to life with the history to back it up. And where is the cemetery located?
Why, it’s right next to the Clown Motel.
10The Seven Noses Of Soho
Strolling through the streets of London’s Soho neighborhood, one might notice that several of the buildings have some rather unique features. Neither architectural nor decorative features, no, we actually mean human features. Noses, to be specific. There are seven of them cast in metal and affixed to random buildings throughout the area.
The honkers are the work of artist Rick Buckley, who in 1996 created the seven sculptures from a cast of his own proboscis. Somehow, the legend spread that anyone who is able to find all seven will gain infinite wealth, which sounds like a video game side quest if we have ever heard of one.
While some of the noses are as plain as the nose on the side of a building (sorry, we couldn’t resist), others are quite difficult to find, which is to be expected if infinite wealth is the prize. Local tour groups have organized walking tours of the seven noses, a combination of words we never expect to see again, let alone type.
9World’s Largest Ghost Town
The historically politically tumultuous country of Myanmar (aka Burma) has one of the largest capital cities in the world. Unveiled to the world in 2005, Naypyidaw is six times the size of New York City, and estimates of its construction cost run upward of $4 billion.
The city has all of the most modern amenities—malls, hotels, brand-new restaurants with free Wi-Fi, and a 20-lane superhighway running right through the middle. The only thing it doesn’t have is residents.
Although the military regime that undertook the city’s construction was ousted from power in 2011, the current government insists that its capital city is a bustling metropolis of over one million residents, an assertion whose absurdity is apparent simply by looking around.
Road maintenance and construction workers are often the only signs of life on the city’s wide, clean, empty streets (yes, construction is still ongoing), and traffic is such that the BBC television show Top Gear was able to stage a drag race down its main road during its alleged rush hour.
While the motivation for moving the country’s capital to the middle of nowhere where no residents will ever venture remains unclear, rumors are that the country’s officials were wary of an amphibious US invasion because the old capital of Rangoon was close to the sea. If this seems a little paranoid, it may help to know that Myanmar is one of the only countries on Earth that is friendly with North Korea.
8Coolest Elevator in New York
In Long Island City, New York, there’s a plain, old office building that was once a Macy’s warehouse. Back then, the store catered to some pretty unique clientele—one that apparently had a strong appreciation for surreal, avant-garde artwork, which used to adorn the lobby and hallways, and an example of which is still hidden in quite an unexpected place.
This freight elevator appears to be just like any other, until the plain white doors open onto a swirling, garish wonderland of trippy colors and little mechanical creatures poking their heads through holes in the facade.
While the rest of the building was long ago redecorated to a slightly more conventional mode of decor, this startling remnant of the building’s past has remained in place for decades, as an homage to this bygone era. Potential seekers of office space in this otherwise unassuming building could be forgiven for thinking they’ve wandered into a Charlie Kaufman screenplay.
One other remaining installation, in a basement lobby, appears to be a forever-melting schoolbus; as bizarre and out-of-place as it also is, we imagine it doesn’t sneak up on you quite like the elevator.
A few klicks south of Baraboo, Wisconsin, off a lonely patch of State Highway 12, is an unlikely spot for a Forevertron. What is a Forevertron, you ask? Well, it’s… you tell us. Look at it. Is it a theme park? A museum? An actual spaceship? According to its creator, it is any and all of these things. Then again, one may want to take with a grain of salt the words of a grown man who calls himself “Dr. Evermor.”
The alter-ego of Tom Every, a veteran of the industrial wrecking industry, Dr. Evermor began constructing this monolithic monument to … something in 1983. The current structure weighs over 300 tons, is over 15 meters (50 ft) high, and contains lots and lots of remnants from different phases of the industrial age. Neon signs, theater speakers, even a pair of dynamos constructed by Thomas Edison live alongside spiral staircases and ornate walkways. Practically any kind of industrial equipment from the last century can be found contributing to the overall aesthetic of the Doctor’s design, which he never committed to any blueprint—he just builds, builds and then builds some more.
Perhaps the most unlikely addition to the sculpture? Parts of the decontamination chamber from the Apollo moon mission, including autoclaves once used to treat actual moon rocks. Perhaps these will come in handy if the Forevertron is ever able to actually achieve liftoff—we can’t say it would surprise us.
6Center Of The World
Do you where is center of our lonely world? Well, the answer is Braceville township, Ohio. According to that sign, the center of the world is in Ohio.
The story goes that a rich Pennsylvanian businessman, Randell Wilmot, rolled into town in the 1840s and built a complex that included a general store, saloon, and stagecoach station. Since the area wasn’t exactly bustling, he slapped the title “Center of the World” onto his new development, hoping to attract traffic fitting of such a name. It didn’t work.
When the development failed to prosper, Mr. Wilmot moved his operation east, to the city of Cortland, renaming it “The End of the World.” (Despite being from Pennsylvania, Wilmot apparently thought that the state of Ohio comprised the entire world.) Appropriately, he soon died there. Though the Braceville township sign has been stolen several times, officials keep replacing it—if they didn’t, we might all completely lose our bearings.
5Easter Egg Island
Ever wanted to find an actual deserted, tropical island that you could have to yourself for a day or two? Near Petit St. Vincent in the Caribbean, there’s a tiny little island where that fantasy can easily come true.
Looking like nothing so much as a deserted island straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Mopion Island is all of 30 meters (100 ft) across and completely unadorned by anything except for a picturesque thatched umbrella. As one might imagine, it’s been photographed six ways from Sunday for all manner of travel brochures, posters, and postcards, and probably painted about as many times. Visitors scrawl their names on the umbrella’s post, which we’re surprised isn’t completely inked over.
4Hidden Solar System
In 1971, sculptor Ivan Kozaric gifted the city of Zagreb, Croatia with his latest work, entitled The Grounded Sun. It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—a 2-meter (6.5 ft) bronze model of the Sun. That is to say, a huge bronze ball that sits on the ground in the middle of the city square. Interesting as that may or may not be, it’s not exactly Easter egg material. No, that would be the installation that artist Davor Preis created in 2004—since the Sun sits in the middle of the city, he envisioned the rest of it as the Solar System, and distributed the planets throughout the city.
Of course, the planets closest to the Sun—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—are all contained within the square, but the outliers are a little more difficult to find and require some hiking. The installation was never advertised to the public, and it wasn’t until their location was revealed by students at Zagreb University that most residents became aware of it at all. The planet sculptures are built to the same scale as Kozaric’s original work, and of course, their distances from the original sculpture are accurate to the same scale. And for the astronomically nostalgic, the installation does include Pluto, whose planetary status was revoked in 2006.
The Desert of Maine has been attracting visitors for almost a century, and it certainly looks and feels like a desert—heat reflected by the sand dunes pushes temperatures up 20 degrees or so from the surrounding areas, and the little region can reach over 32 degrees Celsius (90 °F) during the summer.
The 47-acre geological oddity was created by a one-two punch of natural erosion and sloppy farming: Ice-age glaciers pulverized the rocks in the area into sand, which was buried deep beneath the topsoil. Said topsoil was slowly eroded by a farming family in the 1700s over generations, eventually exposing a small patch of sand that grew and grew. Throughout the 1800s, the family tried to fight the encroaching drifts, but gave up in the early 1900s. They eventually sold it off for $300 to a Mr. Henry Goldrup, who turned it into the tourist attraction it remains today.
If you visit, you can go on tram tours, guided hikes, and play Frisbee golf. Just don’t ride the camel statues—they’ve been there since the ’50s as a replacement for the real camel they used to have.
2Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Located outside the Waitomo Township on New Zealand’s Northern Island is an extensive series of underground caves that have become a local attraction. They were discovered near the turn of the 19th century by a Maori chief and a British surveyor who ventured into the caves by candlelight to map them out—only to quickly realize that the candles weren’t necessary.
The caves are home to an enormous population of Arachnocampa luminosa, which is a species of glowworm native to New Zealand and not a spell that you remember from a Harry Potter novel. As the name implies, the worms are bioluminescent. Hundreds of thousands of them populate the Waitomo caves’ grotto, giving off an otherworldly glow and illuminating the naturally carved limestone formations among the caverns’ many twists and turns.
While visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’ve stumbled upon a portal to outer space, locals have been enjoying the attraction for over 100 years. The caves are currently maintained by the government, with the first guided tours given in 1889 by the same Maori chief who helped to discover them.
1Underwater Pyramids of Wisconsin
At the bottom of Rock Lake, an 80-foot (24 meter) deep fishing hole in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, are several odd structures resembling pyramids.
Although the lake is at least 10,000 years-old, no scientist wanted to seriously consider the possibility that 3,500 years-old ruins could actually exist at the bottom of the lake. Yet, something is definitely resting there. These mounds are thought to have been built by the Mississippian culture and it is speculated that near the lake there was a much larger city in present-day Illinois not far from St. Louis, Missouri.
Nobody knows how they got there or how long they’ve been around, but they’ve been mapped well enough to know that someone built them—either when the water level was much lower.