From a spaceship to a pickle barrel, these architectural wonders have just one thing in common: they’re very strange homes.
Explore eight of the weirdest homes in the U.S. and learn how they came to be.
1. Haines Shoe House (York, Pennsylvania)
It’s literally a house that looks like a massive shoe — you can’t really get a home that’s stranger than this one. Haines Shoe House was built by a shoe salesman in 1948 and was supposed to look like a work boot. This house has five stories and is situated on Shoe House Road. The living room is in the toe, the bedrooms are in the ankle, the kitchen is in the heel, and there’s an ice cream shop open to the public in the instep. You can also take a tour of the shoe.
2. Mary’s Gone Wild (Supply, North Carolina)
In 1998 Mary Paulsen had a vision that she should build a house, despite not having any carpentry skills. She created a small village that consisted of a chapel, a little red schoolhouse, a soda pop shop, a train depot, a library, a general store and a fountain. She requested that neighbors bring their unwanted goods to her house instead of trashing them, and she used these to create her village. Her house, known as Mary’s Gone Wild, is covered with recycled bottles, and her garden has survived hurricanes, with winds of up to 150 miles per hour. Visitors are welcome daily.
3. One-Log House (Garberville, California)
This strange home was hewn from a single, 1,900-year-old giant redwood. One-Log House is still on its original 1947 trailer and wheels, but the log home was moved in 1999 to its current home, which adjoins Richardson Grove State Park. That was just one move of many, including a full tour within the United States by its creator. It wasn’t easy to build a home out of a single log. It took two men eight months to hollow out the massive trunk using tools including hatchets, chisels, hammers, wedges and foot adzes, says Ian Habenicht, the new owner of One-Log House. It was created from a redwood tree, and the section of the tree weighed 42 tons. The home has a distinct kitchen, bedroom and living areas. The home doesn’t feel too cramped, because the rooms are seven feet high and total 32 feet long. It currently serves as a tourist destination.
4. Coral Castle (Homestead, Florida)
Just like the mysterious Stonehenge in England, which was built by hand despite its weight, the Coral Castle was created by Edward Leedskalnin — alone. The story goes that Leedskalnin was engaged to Agnes Scuffs, but she canceled the wedding the day before the ceremony. Heartbroken, Leedskalnin decided to spend the rest of his life making a monument dedicated to her. With no assistance or machinery, he built Coral Castle by sculpting more than 1,100 tons of coral rock as a testimony of his love to Scuffs. Leedskalnin was only about five feet and weighed 100 pounds. But incredibly he moved those rocks on his own using an old Republic truck and two rails. He worked from 1923 to 1951 on the castle. Today it’s open to the public.
5. The Tennessee Spaceship House (Signal Mountain, Tennessee)
When your son likes UFOs and spaceships, naturally you build him a spaceship house. That’s what Curtis King did for his son in 1973. The spaceship, which is made of steel and cement, is one story off the ground, so two cars can be parked under it. The spaceship has a retractable staircase so you can pull it up after you, and it really is a home inside. It has an open layout with a kitchen, dining room, living room, three kitchens and two bathrooms. The spaceship even has a patio in back. It cost $250,000 to build but was last sold at auction for $119,000 in 2008. Turns out, not many people want to live in a spaceship. But you can rent it and try out spaceship living for yourself. It’s occasionally listed on VRBO for a little over $2,000 per month.
6. House on the Rock (Spring Green, Wisconsin)
Alex Jordan loved to have picnics on top of a chimney of rock at Deer Shelter Rock. He also loved camping there. But one night his tent got blown away, and he decided he wanted to build something more stable. That’s when his idea for House on the Rock was born. Jordan started by renting the rock and a little land around it from a local farmer. He began by building a small studio with a fireplace. Then, with the help of his parents, Jordan bought the 240-acre property so he could build as he pleased. Jordan built almost all of the original house himself, carrying the materials up the 75-foot-high rock. There was a lot of curiosity about the House on the Rock, so Jordan opened the home to the public, putting all the money raised back into the house.
7. Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
If you believe your home is haunted, you might go to any extreme to get rid of those ghosts and spirits. The legend goes that Winchester Rifle Company heiress Sarah Winchester certainly did just this. Sarah was married to William Wirt Winchester, president of Winchester Rifle Company. The couple had a daughter, but she died as an infant from a rare disease called marasmus. Shortly after the baby’s death, William died of tuberculosis. Seeking solace from the other side, Sarah consulted a medium. Apparently, the medium told her to ease her guilt for the deaths not only of her own family but also those who died at the hands of her husband’s rifles. To do this, she had to build a house for the spirits, says Jake Williams, marketing coordinator for the home. Legend says she was also told she’d have to continue renovating her home forever, filling it with winding staircases and twisting rooms to confuse those spirits. And so she did. Winchester worked on her home for 38 years, 24 hours a day, and today there are 160 rooms, which include 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, more than 10,000 windowpanes, at least 17 chimneys, two basements and three elevators. The strange home is more than 24,000 square feet. Spirits might very well be confused by the staircases to the ceiling, doors leading to nowhere and other oddities. The Winchester Mystery House, which inspired the film Winchester starring Helen Mirren, is open to the public, billed as a haunted house. You can take a Friday the 13th flashlight tour or a special candlelight tour on Halloween.
8. Pickle Barrel House Museum (Grand Marais, Michigan)
It seems fitting that the Chicago Tribune’s Teenie Weenie cartoon strip author, William Donahey, was the first owner of the Pickle Barrel House in 1926. He frequently created advertisements for Reid-Merduck & Co. pickle peddlers, who sold their pickles right out of barrels that looked like miniature versions of the strange home built for him as a summer residence. Inside this barrel, there’s a bedroom, kitchen, living room and pantry. It was turned into an ice cream stand in 1937, but the Grand Marais Historical Society bought the building in 2003 and restored it to its original condition. This strange home is now open to the public for tours.