The Abita Mystery House

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

If, in the world of outsider art, Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) represents the hip urban neighborhood  where Chihuahuas sip their own six-dollar lattes, Louisiana’s Abita Mystery House is the somewhat sketchy part of town that still draws local creative-types for its cheap rents and lack of pretense.

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

Don’t get me wrong – I love AVAM; it’s a truly unique space in the art museum world that celebrates untrained artists whose work is generally born of very personal and singular obsessions, and a must-see for anyone visiting Baltimore.

But I can’t help saying it: in presentation and form, the Abita Mystery House is better than AVAM.

Abita Mystery House - click for larger image
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

Situated in the hamlet of Abita Springs, a few miles north of Lake Pontchartrain and about a 45-minute ride from New Orleans, the Mystery House is a rough-hewn, meandering compound of buildings that include a century-old Creole cottage and vintage filling station, all packed with (and covered in) the work of local artist John Preble, utilizing recycled ephemera and cultural detritus drawn from just about every facet of modern existence. Road signs. Circuit

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

boards. An Airstream trailer. Here, visitors will also find the likes of a Feejee Mermaid; a two-player piano; a 32-foot alligator; a crashed flying saucer; and sundry animated miniature scenes, including one that depicts a New Orleans jazz funeral. (TIP: Bring quarters for the fortune-telling and souvenir-token machines.)

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

Yet, for all of this strangeness, there is certain sincerity evident in everything on display; nothing feels like it’s trying too hard – not too shiny, not too “forced”. Even Preble himself is not the overtly misanthropic and slightly deranged hermit one might expect to find behind the curtain, but rather a genuine, quite affable fellow as quick to strike up friendly conversation with visitors as hand them a leech (really).

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

And the gift shop is no less engrossing than the museum itself, stocked with everything from very cool screen-printed AMH t-shirts to reasonably priced matted prints of Preble’s incredibly detailed woodcuts depicting various animals (including a nutria); select quotes (“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” – Charles Dickens); and blues legends like Slim Harpo and Bessie Smith.

Abita Mystery House
Abita Mystery House – click for larger image

Indeed, the Abita Mystery House is a lens through which visitors may vicariously view the world as seen by a most unique and talented artist, exemplifying wonderfully bizarre Americana in the tradition of such obsession-built roadside attractions as Rock City and Coral Castle. Like those places, AMH offers visitors an experience that will long outlive any chain restaurant meal or mass-produced trinket.

 

Abita Mystery House / UCM Museum
Address: 22275 Hwy 36, Abita Springs, LA 70420
Phone: 985-892-2624
Hours:  10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 7 days a week
Admission: $3
Website: http://ucmmuseum.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Abita-Mystery-House/181589857694

"Have your next wedding here"
“Have your next wedding here”

Welcome to Next Exit Travel!

Welcome to Next Exit Travel! If this is your first visit, you should know upfront that we are not a comprehensive travel site. Rather, we’re here to share the spots that other travel guides might miss or simple tips we’ve learned after decades of both broke and company-funded travel. We are very much about experiential travel. For example, did you know that you can sleep on a boat in Boston Harbor for about a 1/3 of what other area hotels cost? Or that Portland has a Passport for boozing? Or that some of the best snorkeling spots can be found just off shore? We go out of our way to go out of the way.

After almost 15 years of traveling together and for work, and writing about many of those travels independently, we decided it was time to finally launch this joint effort. You can go to the about page to read more about your travel curators.

For the first installments, we’ll share what we saw and experienced in Louisiana. As with many of the trips we will write about, this one started as a work trip and morphed into a short vacation. We tend to milk our waking hours for all that they are worth and often need a vacation from our vacations.

Thank you for joining us for the trip,

WPT and DGB

Culture, Nature, and the Strange