The Dying Drunkard

On Sunday, August 25th Christina and I embarked on an expedition to the sanctuary of the surreal: the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

House on the Rock is home to extravagant and often unnerving collections of bizarre and obscure objects filling spaces alternating between cavernous and claustrophobic. However, it is the small, simple wooden cabinets in between that tend to hold the most intrigue.

On display throughout the dark, twisting labyrinth is a collection of macabre coin-op arcade machines that used to mystify crowds in Victorian-era British railway stations.

The first of these mechanical boxes we encountered on our decent into the strange depths was The Dying Drunkard, dated 1870.

The scene depicts a haggard old man lying in bed. When you drop a gold House on the Rock token into the coin slot, the sound of whirring gears inside the box casts the harrowing scene into motion. Skeletons begin popping out from behind the bed and inside the grandfather clock to torment the man as he lies helpless. Then, the closet door opens to reveal a glowing red passage to Hell as the Devil comes for the drunkard’s sorry soul.

Related: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and the House on the Rock

Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Circus World Museum Brings Circus History to Life in Baraboo, WI

Circus history comes alive at Circus World in Baraboo with Big Top performances, sideshow and the world’s largest collection of vintage circus wagons.

Theda Bara

Silent film actress Theda Bara with a skeleton

Silent film actress Theda Bara with a skeleton

Silent film actress Theda Bara with a skeleton

Silent film actress Theda Bara (1885-1955) was one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols, gracing the silver screen in risque costumes as femme fatale characters that earned her the nickname “The Vamp.”

Though photos still exist, most of her films were lost in a fire in 1937 at Fox’s nitrate film storage vaults. Out of the forty films she made between 1914 and 1926, only six remain.

The Knife Thrower’s Girl

The beautiful target for a 19th-century sideshow knife-throwing act

The beautiful assistant for a 19th-century knife-throwing sideshow act.

Mechanical Centipede


Photo of an experimental mechanical centipede vehicle.