The 5 Most Impressive Things Built by One Obsessive Person
Where would the world be without the efforts of lone, obsessed people with lots of time on their hands? Well, we'd be without most of the world's great inventions, books, political movements and religions, for one thing.
But we'd also be without some of the most gigantic, mind-boggling works of art the planet has ever known. Is any of the stuff on this list particularly useful? Nope. Is it all impressive? Absolutely.
Madrid's Cathedral of Trash
What could motivate a man to spend 50 years building his own cathedral out of garbage? Is there any reasonable answer to that? And we're talking life-size here.
It's the work of Spanish monk Justo Gallego Martinez, who had a personal crisis in 1961, when he contracted tuberculosis and then got kicked out of the monastery. So he started building. What Don Justo lacked in blueprints, engineering knowledge, building permits and forethought, he made up for in enthusiasm. Thanks to local donations and daily visits to brick factory yards, Don Justo accumulated enough materials to build a church standing 131 feet tall.
It doesn't even need God to smite sinners. Just a stiff breeze.
The church features cupolas made of plastic food tubs, columns made of oil drums and towers that are nothing more than stacked paint buckets. Don Justo works without a crane or crew, and no one wants to even know what's going on with the foundation or bracing of the building (he'll legally never be able to allow worshipers inside, for fear of creating an extremely tragic headline the next day). So far, the city council -- and gravity -- have decided to turn a blind eye, both out of respect for his convictions and because of the tourists he attracts.
This is God trying to bring it down with white hot religion lasers. He was unsuccessful.
Now age 87, Don Justo realizes that he may never live to see his project completed. But he has no regrets. Other than inadvertently building what might possibly be a gigantic death trap, we suppose.
When most folks say that they live in a castle, they're either saying that they have a big house or they're being sarcastic about how many hours they work at White Castle. But when Howard Solomon says that he lives in a castle, he means that he lives in the actual castle he built himself in the middle of a Florida swamp. Because where else would you put one?
Solomon started out as a junk artist -- someone who creates projects out of recycled materials. But he had a hard time selling his works made out of maxi-pad wrappers and old answering machines, so all his art started to pile up. Most of us would have just built a shed or a teepee or whatever; Solomon started building a castle. And he kept building until decades passed and his glorified storage closet clocked in at three stories and over 12,000 square feet. By the time he was done, Solomon's castle featured a dungeon:
"Folks don't often get to see this part without a burlap bag over their face."
This is where he keeps his women captive.
... and a Spanish galleon in the moat:
Well, obviously. That's where you keep your Spanish galleons, right?
Not to mention 60 custom-built stained-glass windows:
"This is what I like to call 'The Jimmy Buffett Room.'"
And the castle itself is as shiny as a knight's ass, thanks to hundreds of aluminum printing plates that make up the exterior.
The rainbow is made out of recycled pixie farts.
And the best news of all is that the whole shebang can be yours for $2.5 million!
Roden Crater Observatory
When most of us see a giant old crater in the ground, we only think, "Man, whoever was within a hundred miles of whatever made this got fucked up."
But others see the potential for something great. So in 1979, James Turrell bought a 400,000-year-old crater (left over from an extinct volcano) measuring 3 miles wide so he could turn it into art. Turrell has been digging and pouring concrete in his crater for 30 years. The result is a surreal, 2001: A Space Odyssey-ian network of viewing galleries for visitors to gaze up at the sky.
Although to be perfectly honest, the sky kind of pales in comparison to the actual complex.
Eventually it will have over a thousand feet of tunnels connecting seven underground chambers. Eventually. There are frequent pauses, often lasting years, as Turrell finishes other projects and finds donors to support the massive undertaking. Several completion dates have come and gone, so, much like Half-Life 3, Roden Crater will open "whenever it's done."
That's not two photos slapped together, by the way. That's a single room designed to look that way.
And until then, the only people allowed at the site are Turrell, his workers and a handful of friends and top donors. So short of doing flyovers in your personal helicopter, you may have to wait a while to see this one.
And no, he probably doesn't realize that it looks like a giant's toilet seat.
The Enchanted Highway
Gary Greff knew that his little town of Regent, North Dakota, had a problem. It had nothing. No industries, no historical sites, no shopping centers, no lakes, forests, mountains or statistics making it the murder capital of the Canadian border. In other words, it had no reason for anyone to visit. What it needed, he decided, were giant monster grasshoppers to terrify passing motorists.
That's right. Where some people would just shrug their shoulders and enjoy the solitude, Greff believed that there was only one way to draw people to his neck of North Dakota -- with giant whimsical folk art. So in 1991, the self-taught teacher got to work. First up -- "The Tin Family":
They're called "The Tin Family" because they're made from the corpses of entire families.
It's a perfectly wholesome, natural family enjoying their farm. King Junior is licking a face-size lollipop, while Farmer Woody surveys his crop and picks at his butt. But the tin clan were just the beginning. Greff followed up with "Theodore Roosevelt Rides Again," a sculpture so audacious, some say Teddy actually inhabits the horse's left hoof -- the one that's highest in the air.
That is actually how they passed laws back in Teddy's day.
Since then, he's completed several more projects, like "Pheasants on the Prairie":
"Geese in Flight":
... and of course, "A Fisherman's Dream":
We're just thankful that it wasn't a wet dream.
Or post-apocalyptic nightmare, depending on your feelings about enormous land-dwelling fish.
For his next project, Greff hopes to install a giant metal spider web, because apparently the world isn't terrifying enough. He also wants to open a restaurant, an arena and a water park to go with his sculptures. You might think that if the goal was to draw tourists, the water park maybe should come before the giant spider, or even that they should have just done the water park instead. But would we have featured a simple water park in an article like this? Hell no! It took a giant metal grasshopper to get our attention. The man knows what he's doing.
The Orange Show Monument
Houston postal worker Jeff McKissack freakin' loved oranges. He loved oranges to the point that after retiring he spent the next 23 years creating his tribute to "nature's perfect food." And like everything on this list, his tribute defies any easy explanation or description.
Using cinder blocks, pieces of tile, fencing, tractor wheels and whatever else was lying around the neighborhood, McKissack cobbled together a winding maze of rooms, hallways, stairs and balconies wrapped around a central amphitheater in the 1960s and '70s. He then stuffed the complex with anything that had even the most tenuous connection to the orange, from farming implements to a bridal gown to an old steam engine.
If you know what this has to do with oranges, please tell us, then seek psychiatric help.
"That feeling of rising unease is just the zesty tang of citrus!"
And then there are the signs, with messages like "Be Smart, Drink Fresh Orange Juice," "Go Orange, Be Strong" and this one:
That worn part at the bottom says, "Please help me. I am unfixably fucking crazy."
All these displays, as stimulating as they are, would only have been the warmup for the main amphitheater show, which was supposed to involve robotic animals and a model steamboat.
"I shall call him 'Ricky the Dragon.'"
McKissack expected that tourists would flock to the attraction from across the country, and that it would draw more visitors than Disneyland. Obviously that didn't happen, and he sadly died a few months after it opened.
"Did I mention that I was catastrophically crazy? Because I totally am."
After his death, his creation began to fall into disrepair. But in 1982, admirers and members of the outsider art community rallied around it, forming the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, which also maintains the Beer Can House, holds an annual art car parade and uses the Orange Show for indie band concerts and wild parties. But mostly it just marvels at the life of a man who really REALLY LOVED ORANGES.
"ORANGES MAKE ALL OF YOU LOOK LIKE SHIT."
For more impressive yet depressing feats, check out The 8 Least Impressive Guinness World Records and 6 People With Amazing Abilities (That Are Totally Useless).