Saturday, November 25, 2006

Probing the Mystery Hole

For about a year, my wife worked for a publishing company in Roanoke. There were numerous problems with her job, including massive disorganization, an editor-in-chief who was a raging alcoholic, and various people who were perched on the narrow edge between insanity and homicidal insanity. However, there were also good points.

One of my favorite things about her job was the access it gave us to various weird tourist attractions. As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of home-town tourism, and the people at my wife's work had made a living out of finding strange and unique places to visit. One day, my wife burst through the door, yelling that she'd found a place we just had to visit.

"What is it?" I asked.

Her smile widened. "The Mystery Hole."

After I determined that she wasn't coming on to me (she can be a little oblique sometimes), we immediately made plans to go. On Saturday, we woke up at the crack of 10, gassed up the car, got some bottled water, and pointed ourselves toward West Virginia. It was a beautiful day, and we relaxed into the drive. It's about an hour and a half from our house to Anstead, West Virginia, where the Mystery Hole is, and much of the drive follows the path of the New River, which is, oddly enough, the second oldest river in the world.

As we passed into West Virginia, the mountains became sharper and more defined. It was absolutely gorgeous. However, as much as we enjoyed the twisty highway and beautiful scenery, we were happy when we finally got to the Hole. The roads in West Virginia are very steep, and my old Mustang wasn't really enjoying the extra exertion. Added to this, my wife suffers from about a billion different allergies and, as much as she enjoyed driving with the top down, she was starting to have a hard time breathing.

Even before we took our tour into the unknown, the Mystery Hole was worth the trip. It was encased in an old quonset hut with a broken VW bug poking out of the side. A row of American flags decorated the top of the hut, and the walls were painted with flashy slogans and various flourishes. It looked like both sides of the sixties--the hawks and the doves--had staked their claim to the building.

The audience was almost as exciting. It was a mix of kids and adults, locals and out-of-towners. John Deere caps mingled with dreadlocks; maybe it was the garish painting and the carnival air but, for a moment, everyone looked like a freak. We went inside to catch our breath, buy our tickets, and look through the gift shop.

The tickets were a couple of bucks each, but the store was out of T-shirts, which was a real bummer, as I really wanted a shirt that said "I've been inside the Mystery Hole!" or something similarly tasteless. It would have been really cool if I could have gotten it in prison orange. Anyway, we bought our tickets and waited with a growing crowd of kids in the parking lot for the next tour into the hole itself. This gave us time to peruse the signs warning people with heart problems from taking the tour. In spite of ourselves, we started to get a little excited.

Finally, it was our turn. As we walked down a long flight of stairs, the tourguide kept up his patter, a story about the "discovery" of the Mystery Hole that seemed to owe equal parts to oral storytellers and circus sideshow barkers. As we went deeper into the hole, we passed the little scares and visual jokes that are part and parcel of any good house of horrors. Yes, brothers and sisters, there was a blacklight room and wood carvings. There were mannequins and skeletons. And, yes, it looked like a 16-year old's room, circa 1978. Suffice to say, it was a total blast.

In time, we found ourselves in the Mystery Hole itself. And, as much as I'd like to be a smartass and tell you that it was all cheesy and ridiculous, there were times when I had to stare at a fixed point because my sense of balance started to get out of whack and my heart sped up. I saw water flow uphill and a chair, with a woman in it, balance on a wall. I saw plumb bobs stick out of the wall at me. And, although I knew how it was done, it still freaked me out a little.

When it was all over, we were pretty hungry, so we went to Tudor Biscuit World, a chain restaurant that sells fast-food Southern Cafe cooking. It had real ham biscuits and proper southern string beans, overcooked to perfection. My wife got the pot roast and I seem to remember pie for dessert. I decided, then and there, that fast-food Southern cooking was a brilliant idea, and that I was glad I didn't live within sixty miles of a Tudor Biscuit World, as I'm not sure my waistline could take the punishment.

So there you have it. If you ever find yourself in Anstead, West Virginia, be sure to drop into the Mystery Hole. Hopefully they'll have T-shirts in stock when you come by. Even if they don't, you still won't regret the trip.

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  • I know where I'm going on my next vacation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 1:32 PM  

  • hmmmm, what's a plumb bob?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 2:27 PM  

  • Yes, what is it? I read that sentence twice in case I had misread it.

    You sure do know how to show a lady a good time.

    Oh, this is too good. My verification letters are jdhvpork.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 26, 2006 at 3:16 PM  

  • I like the little yellow sign that says "WOW!" I guess that's in case you're not quite sure which emotion should be brought into play.

    By Blogger slaghammer, At November 26, 2006 at 3:54 PM  

  • yeah, that is one thing that I deeply appreciate about the hills here in the South. There's a huge inclination to state the obvious, and I feel a deep kinship to that.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At November 26, 2006 at 4:35 PM  

  • Finally, a place where I can help! A plumb bob is a weight on a string used in carpentry. The string is attached to something and the weight hangs straight down, utilizing gravity. The bottom of the plumb bob is usually a point, and is used to mark where the true perpendicular lies, thus creating a true 90 degree angle. Thankyouverymuch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 6:33 PM  

  • magic mystery just sounds wrong!! hehehe

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 9:16 PM  

  • Hmmm, now I know where to bring the kids for our next Family vacation. yee-haw! West Virgia, here we come!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 9:40 PM  

  • D-
    Be sure to drop in on Miniature Graceland. It's on the way!

    As CEO pointed out, it's a lot less fun than it sounds.

    You're one letter off from "Jehova Pork." It's like a freaky, religiously sexual message.

    There aren't words for the relevant emotions. Even "Wow" doesn't quite cut it.

    Thank you! My answer would have been embarassingly vague! Um...a thing...on a

    You understand my need to take a pilgrimage there, don't you!

    Be sure to stop in at Tudor Biscuit world!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 26, 2006 at 10:22 PM  

  • hell ya!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 26, 2006 at 10:30 PM  

  • Id feckin love a tshirt from that place - I wonder if anyone on ebay has it for sale? Its so double entendrous! Over in ireland another word for ass is hole, for example 'ask me hole' is more or less telling someone that their outrageous request is rejected, 'shut yer hole' means please refrain from talking, and my favorite -'pain in me hole' - a chore or someone is being very irritating or monotonous. Of course I have supreme command of the english language and am exemplifying the common base use of it here.. In other words I can talk proper me! :P

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 27, 2006 at 4:53 AM  

  • Judith-
    I loved the analysis of the word "hole." The hole truth, if you will.

    If I ever go back, I'm definitely taking T-shirt orders. I'll let you know, of course.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 27, 2006 at 4:39 PM  

  • Biscuit World? Sounds like the poop deck of the Armada – and you know what happened to that…

    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At November 28, 2006 at 11:00 AM  

  • Puss-
    Damn you! I can't believe your comment is funnier than my whole post!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 28, 2006 at 12:50 PM  

  • Ta, it's a gift.

    Shame I missed out the word Tudor...



    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At November 29, 2006 at 2:01 PM  

  • Crankster, when you visited me I didn't know you well enough to be familiar with your love of the hometown tourist attraction. I could have brought you to the local magnetic hotspot called The Mystery Spot in the Santa Cruz mountains.

    There's another one in California up north in the Redwoods. I think that is the Trees of Mystery.

    By Anonymous Jinja, At December 1, 2006 at 6:35 PM  

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