Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Created by: Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. (1888-1963)
What is it: A small sculpture park created by Mr. Child in his spare time. He was an amateur sculptor and a devout Mormon. He was also, by his own account, a bit of a nut. The statues in Gilgal Sculpture Garden (named after the location in the Bible where the Israelites were told to place twelve stones) are certainly unique and unconventional, and most have to do with the Mormon faith. They include a sphinx, pictured above, with the head of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
Location: Sunset Hills, Missouri
Created by: Henry and Matilda Laumeier
What is it: Laumeier Sculpture Park opened in 1975 as a gift to the city of St. Louis from the Laumeier estate. The 105-acre space is considered one of the first sculpture parks in the United States and now holds 60 works of art by a wide variety of eclectic artists. One of the most famous is “The Way” constructed by Alexander Liberman out of 18 oil tanks and bright red paint.
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
Created by: Winston Bronnum (1929-1991)
What is it: A 30-year obsession by woodworker-turned-brutalist-sculptor Winston Bronnum, who created this zoo as a tourist attraction. Mr. Bronnum produced a wide variety of creepy animals, including a giant emaciated horse (called Blowhard the Race Horse), fighting grizzly bears, giant lobsters, and whales. Animaland was open to the public from the 1960s to the early 1990s when Mr. Bronnum died. The park is now abandoned, and the sculptures are decaying and covered in moss. The freakiness of the whole place still attracts tourists seeking something offbeat.
Location: Oslo, Norway
Created by: Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943)
What is it: The world’s largest sculpture park created by a single artist. Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor, donated all his sculptures, drawings, and models to the city of Oslo in exchange for a place to live. For 20 years, he created 212 statues including a giant crying naked child called Angry Boy. But his freakiest and most impressive achievement is the Monolith, pictured above, which contains 121 human figures and took 14 years to create.
Location: Sumpter, Wisconsin
Created by: “Dr. Evermore” (aka, Tom Every)
What is it: Tom Every was an industrial demolition expert until his retirement in the 1980s. That’s when he decided to unleash his inner artist and create fantastical sculptures from discarded scrap metal. To add to the allure, he pretended they were made by a fictional scientist, Dr. Evermore, born in Victorian England. The strangest is called the “Forevertron,” which incorporates bits of scrap from Apollo 11, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, lightning rods, and various other pieces of discarded machinery from years past. The Forevertron is also the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture at 50 ft. high, 120 ft. long and weighing 300 tons.
Location: Roundwood, Ireland
Created by: Victor Langheld (b. 1940)
What is it: A private sculpture park created by Mr. Langheld, who studied with religious orders in Thailand, Japan, and Sri Lanka. He then settled in Ireland to create the 27 bronze and granite sculptures that live there. The entrance to the park is through a giant vagina dentata (with teeth), and from there it only gets freakier. There’s a fasting Buddha with a cell phone tucked in his pocket as well as a statue of Ganesha with a pint of Guinness. According to Mr. Langheld, the park is meant for adults over 28 to contemplate life.
Location: Chandigarh, India
Created by: Nek Chand Sani (1924-2015)
What it is: Nek Chand Sani was a roads inspector for the Indian government, but also secretly an artist. He collected discarded materials like rags, tiles, pottery, and even human hair, and turned them into strangely beautiful human and animal statues. He placed these creatures in a protected gorge and kept his work secret for 18 years as it was technically illegal to build anything on this land. When it was discovered by authorities in 1986 it was almost demolished; however, he was able to sway public opinion in his favor. The government ended up keeping the statues as well as giving Chand Sani 50 laborers to produce more work. The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is now the second most visited site in India after the Taj Mahal.
Location: Parikkala, Finland
Created by: Veijo Rönkkönen (1944-2010)
What is it: Veijo Rönkkönen was a paper mill worker. In his spare time, he began creating weird statues of himself in various yoga positions and placing them in front of his house, which was in the middle of a forest. He also made statues of other people, grinning with teeth made from human dentures. Over his lifetime, he created nearly 500 statues, many embedded with speakers that disseminate strange sound effects. Mr. Rönkkönen was a hermit and never agreed to show his work outside of his home, but travelers still come from near and far to gaze at them.
Location: Ashford Hollow, New York
Created by: Larry W. Griffis Jr. (1924-2000)
What is it: Larry Griffis was touring Italy with his family and saw how his children enjoyed playing amongst the ruins. That’s when he decided he would create an interactive sculpture park. In 1966, Larry’s mother, Ruth, gave him 125 acres of farmland in upstate New York and he began populating it with his metal artworks. Over the years, the park grew to include over 100 other artists and unique sculptures of giant insects, towering structures, and weird naked people.