Tuesday, July 11, 2006

that Man is unfit to be bills father that man is a sinner

The Thing?

Dragoon (or Cochise), Arizona

"Mystery of the Desert!" the billboards cry as you rocket along I-10 between Tucson and El Paso. In this wasteland of brown scenery and nonexistent FM radio, The Thing?'s appeal seems magnified, maybe even justified. It is an appropriate spot for America's most purposefully mysterious tourist attraction.

From outside, The Thing? looks like any other interstate gas station with a large gift shop. But this is just a front; The Thing? resides out back, and you'll have to pay a couple bucks for the privilege of finding out what, exactly it is.

Enter The Thing?'s domain and you'll find yourself in a small courtyard surrounded by three prefab corrugated steel sheds. The first is filled with jaunty, piped-in Muzak and several old cars. "1932 Buick," reads one sign. "This antique car was really THE THING." "1937 Rolls Royce," reads another. "This antique car was believed to have been used by Adolf Hitler...THE THING is, we can't prove it." The final exhibit is a large, metal cage filled with life-size wood carvings of people being tortured -- the work of someone named Ralph Gallagher, who signs each piece, "Ralph Gallagher, artist," just so you know. "This display is worth many thousands of dollars," a sign announces.

The Muzak in the second shed is less jaunty, preparing you mentally for what you already know is in shed #3. But #2 has its own charm, displaying items such as a 1654 Matchlock rifle ("It is beyond price. Take a good look."), a "Piece Of Mammoth's Front Leg" and two framed lithographs labeled, simply, "French 1800".

Now it's onto shed #3. The big moment. And there it is, real as life, right as you walk through the doorway. "THE THING -- What is it?" reads a sign over its container. In the container, well . . . Sorry, we're not telling.

Next to The Thing? is the top half of a clothing store mannequin, enclosed in a glass box. "1759," reads this sign. "This statue, showing a man being tortured, was located in Italy." A few more exhibits and then you're back out in the gift shop.

Several questions come to mind (aside from the obvious, "That was it?") How many tens of thousands of people have visited The Thing?? Given the puny admission price, the owners must be making their profit on volume, and Rolls Royces and Matchlock rifles don't come cheap. They now sell souvenirs that at least mention The Thing? -- bumper stickers, T-shirts, shot glasses -- but you have to ask where they are to find them. Are they afraid someone will figure out the "Mystery of the Desert?" Why? WHY???

(The Thing?: 2631 N Johnson Rd, Dragoon, AZ [Show Map] Directions: At the Dairy Queen on I-10 and Johnson Road. Exit 318 Johnson Interchange Admission: Adults $1, 6-18 $.75, Under 6 - free. Phone: 520-586-2581)



Blogger Mike Begnal said...

It's clobberin' time!

10:33 PM  

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