Weird. Wacky. Eccentric. Wonderful. Junky. All of these words have been used to describe the Abita Mystery House (aka the UCM Museum) in the Louisiana North Shore community of Abita Springs. After spending some time there I can assure you that all of them are 100% accurate. Prior to our arrival in the area we heard musings about this roadside attraction that is self-described as “Louisiana’s Most Eccentric Atttraction” but we absolutely weren’t prepared for what awaited us behind it’s bright red door…
Louisiana has always been home to the slightly weird and wonderful. I’m not sure if it’s the oppressive heat, bayou living, or all those cajun spices, but you can always be sure to stumble across something odd while visiting the state. It’s only appropriate then, that Louisiana would be home to an attraction as eccentric as the Abita Mystery House. The founder of the Mystery House is local community fixture, artist, and musician John Preble. When he and his partners originally conceived the UCM Museum they set out to recreate all the feelings of a classic roadside attraction. From the second I arrived on the property, I would say they succeeded.
The outside of the building alone was enough to capture my attention and leave me begging for more. Then I saw the promise of a 32-foot alligator on the door and my heart went into a pitter patter as I was hit with a flood of questions. Could this really be as wonderful as I hoped? Could someone have actually captured the essence of every kitchky roadside attraction I have ever seen and rolled it all into one? Could it possible be good? Well lets find out…
Your journey into the Abita Mystery House begins in the gift shop, but that truly should be left for the end of the experience. After paying your $3.00 admission fee (even the price is like a step back in time) you are allowed to begin your tour of the property… if you dare. As you step through the door to the first exhibition hall you are pummeled with bright colors, outrageous signs, and what could appear to some as piles of junk.
The word eccentric hardly does it justice.
If you could imagine Liberace as a back-country hoarder you might come close to envisioning what’s waiting for you behind those doors.
As you spend more time there though, you really start to appreciate what you are looking at. This is so much more than a random collection of discarded items. You start to appreciate that everything you are looking at has a certain patina to it. A certain look that is hard to describe but easy to feel. Every object represents something to someone. There’s satire, social commentary, and nostalgia all rolled into one.
There are also quite a few dioramas that were designed and built by Mr. Preble himself. I could easily spend an hour looking at each of them and still miss all the details. Describing them as divine, wouldn’t do them justice.
After making our way through the first building, it was time to explore the outside of the property and other galleries. Each was filled with more items to surprise you with curiosity and wonder. Perhaps even too much wonder to photograph. :-)
After drifting through the galleries, you are ultimately led back to the gift shop. Of course this isn’t like any gift shop you’d ever expect. Try to imagine a gift shop that was a museum in itself, except everything on the walls had a price tag. That’s what this gift shop is like…
Taking a trip to the Abita Mystey House was a more profound experience than I could have ever imagined. To me it exceeded every expectation I had before I even entered and left me with more questions than answers. It’s easily on the list of my top roadside attractions and also has a place high on my list of favorite museums. If the purpose of art is to challenge you to open your mind and think differently, then the Abita Mystery House has succeeded in it’s mission. If you are anywhere in the area, a trip to the Mystery House is definitely in order.
What about the 32-foot gator? Well I can’t tell you about that… some things have to be left to mystery don’t they?
Details for the Abita Mystery House – UCM Museum
22275 Hwy 36
Abita Springs, LA 70420