Into the breach, meatbags.
Previously, we took a tour through the first part of southern Wisconsin's The House on the Rock. Here we continue to descend into the oddities and creepiness with the second part of the tour, which I like to call "The Dark Carnival."
By the pricking of my thumbs ...
... something wicked this way comes. -The Second Witch, Macbeth. As a kid, I grew up reading dog-eared copies of my father's Ray Bradbury books. One of my favorite was "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which portrays a young protagonist's struggle, alongside his father, against Mr. Dark's evil traveling carnival. Were the House on the Rock to tour the country, I imagine someone very like Mr. Dark would be the one to run the show. Bradbury's earlier stories contain elements that are fleshed out in greater detail in this novel but that share the same theme - that the line between happy and creepy is razor thin at the carnival. I happen to think he's right. Look no further than The Day of the Dead for your proof. Celebration and macabre are joined here in more honest fashion than in any other cultural event of which I know.
But back to the tour. After the wandering through the "house" portion of the House on the Rock, one comes to the streets of yesterday (photographs of which can be seen on the post linked above) and finally arrives to find a single rose inside a small ticketbooth at the outside of and old-time movie theater. The music from the rooms beyond rattles down the hallways and out the doors behind the marquee in uneasy, broken cadence. You have the distinct feeling that what lies beyond is whimsical and subtly menacing. This is precisely how I imagine the ticektbooth from "Something Wicked ..." to look.
For my money, the second tour of the house is the best of the three. It is, effectually, room after room of derelict, mechanized and out-of-tune instruments playing loudly in stuffy air. When you enter the tour and pay your fee, you're given a set of tokens "for the machines." First-time visitors are likely baffled by this, as though they were headed to some arcade; and if not confused, certainly unable to imagine what strange machines await their little golden tokens. The instruments themselves are arranged within ornate rooms meant to complement the music and amplify its effect.
The experience reaches it's crescendo after the last of these musical rooms and a few other oddities (including an ode to maritime exploits and case after case of bed-pans and ash-trays and cigarette rollers) when one finds himself walking down a long corridor to the steady and deafening beat of a timpani drum to find The Carousel. Here is the gateway to Gaiman's Gods, the only way out into the mind of the diety or through the maw on the left and into the third tour.