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That’s Weird: Roadside attractions that make you go “hmm”

Updated on March 28, 2007

As a somewhat unusual guy myself, I appreciate the strange or bizarre. On vacation, I'm more likely to stop by the world's largest ball of twine than visit a generic Six Flags. So, I've seen my share of odd stuff along the road, from the upscale McDonald's shaped like a Happy Meal to the stray dinosaur grazing a pasture in South Dakota.

There are a few things that have really stood out as, well, weird. Roadside "attractions" that seem either really out of place, or stand out as unsolved mysteries. Below are my favorites; let me know if you think you have seen something even stranger.

The Marfa Prada Store

Where do I even begin? Over 150 miles southeast of El Paso, Texas--about as far away as you can get from anything--stands the Marfa Prada store. It sits alone along an empty stretch of lonely west Texas highway, peddling its high-end fashion wares to, well, nobody.

The weird aspects of the Marfa Prada store abound:

  • It is a tiny shop containing just 20 high-heeled shoes--not pairs of shoes, just 20 left-foot shoes--and 6 expensive purses, all of the high-end Prada brand.
  • It is located in the middle of nowhere, in a pasture where the few human residents wear cowboy boots and Wranglers, not high fashion handbags.
  • None of the items are for sale, anyway. The door is permanently locked.
  • Though the storefront proclaims it to be the "Marfa" Prada, it is not in or even near the small town of Marfa, Texas. Not that Marfa would have a Prada store, anyway.
  • The nearest town is actually named Valentine.

A placard nearby proclaims the store to be a "site specific, permanent land art project". I guess just about anything can be considered "art" these days. In which case, I would like to nominate:


The Shoe Tree

Staying with the shoe theme, we travel to the "Loneliest Highway in America", U.S. 50 in Nevada. On this remote highway, a few miles east of the odd-in-its-own-right Sand Mountain, stands a large tree that is covered with shoes. Hundreds of shoes. Thousands of shoes. All hanging by their shoestrings from the tree's branches.

There is no explanation that I know of for the presence of the shoes. Sure, people have thrown them up in the tree, but why? Someone must have thrown a pair up in the tree, and then the next person who came along (remember, this is the Loneliest Highway, so there are relatively few people to drive by) decided it looked like a really good idea to add his or her footwear as well. And this was repeated thousands of times, until the tree could hardly hold them all.

Billions of trees on the planet, and that one looked like it needed some shoes.

Maybe it was just part of God's grand plan for things.

Speaking of God:

The Hand of...God?

That is my nickname for the 40-some-foot-tall hand growing out of the ground near Stratford, Oklahoma.

It is a rusty metal sculpture of some sort, and probably the weirdest thing about it is that it is not a roadside attraction at all. If it was designed to draw visitors, then the giant hand might make sense. Instead, it is just parked next to a machine shed, in a fenced-off lot next to the road. There is no sign announcing or explaining it, and no good place to pull off the road to take photos of it.

On top of the run-down but still unfinished hand, perched on a giant finger, is a giant butterfly, large enough for dozens of birds to perch on its metal-frame wings. Which is exactly what the birds do, marking the first and only time I have seen birds on a butterfly.

Red Oak II

Plenty of ghost towns exist--the remnants of burgs that just didn't make it, and were left empty (or mostly empty) of human life.

Only one town I know of, though, has ever been built as a ghost town, from the remains of other old ghost towns.

That town is Red Oak II, the sequel designation coming from the fact that there was an original Red Oak, which no longer exists.

Red Oak II is located in Missoura, near the town of Carthage. Most people refer to the state as "Missouri", but this town's name is officially Red Oak II, "Missoura".

The ghost town was built by "shade-tree artist" Lowell Davis, who grew up in Red Oak I, and was sad to see his hometown disappear. He started collecting old buildings, from Red Oak I and other ghost towns, and moving them to his pasture along a gravel road in southwest "Missoura". The collection of 1920's-era buildings eventually included a church, one-room school, town hall, gas station, jail, diner, store, and a handful of houses. To these, Mr. Davis added his own collection of junk art.

If you've ever had a hankerin' to own your very own 1920's-era ghost town, Red Oak II is for sale. That's right: you can buy the whole town, for the right price. It has been for sale at least since the first time I visited, 5 years ago. It is hard to find any takers, mostly because of the question: what do you do with a ghost town in the middle of nowhere?

How to find these odd attractions:

The Marfa Prada store is located just north of Valentine, TX, along US 90.

The shoe tree is on US 50, and is not near anything. It is on the north side of the road somewhere east of Sand Mountain, which is about 25 miles east of Fallon, NV.

The Hand is on the west side of US 177 south of Stratford, OK.

Red Oak II is about 2 miles east of Carthage, MO off of highway 96. Directions and a map are located here.


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    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      6 years ago from USA

      Interesting with the tree. Hmmnnn.... Now I wonder whose shoes are those? ^-^'

    • profile image

      Nick Nelson 

      7 years ago

      Check the Montana Vortex, 13 miles west of Glacier National Park right on Highway 2. Shrink and grow in a circle, see your own aura, see if you're a particle or a wave. You'll be scratching your head for weeks afterward.

    • PaperNotes profile image


      7 years ago

      Weird indeed, especially that marfa prada store. Maybe it serves for some other purposes unknown to the public.

    • profile image

      W Vinca 

      7 years ago

      The shoe tree was chopped down.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      These are truly some weird attractions in unexpected locations!

    • KKalmes profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hello KM, absolutely the most interesting hub I have read, bookmarked and linked to my latest hub. I loved this...

      thumbs up and awesome because we don't have an excellent rating.

      fan mail on its way... take care

    • MaritimeGem profile image


      8 years ago from Gaspe Quebec Canada

      Weird, but very enjoyable, great hub!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I enjoy having nyloned feet in loose mules. When walking this gives the lovely feeling that I almost lose a mule with every step I take. Of course, every now and then a mule slips off and it is sooo exciting to walk on, at least twelve paces in one mule! Especially with some nice guys around seeing me lose one of my mules. I did this already as a schoolgirl, so I promptly got the nickname Cinderella

    • futonfraggle profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub, Kevin. I just wrote a hub about Canada's weirdest roadside attractions. I linked it to your hub. Weird stuff!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from California

      Lots of fun in this hub - truth is stranger than fiction, that sort of thing. Who would believe there's a tiny clothing store in the middle of nowhere. This is truly Stephen King material! Please read my hubs.


    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from California

      Lots of fun in this hub - truth is stranger than fiction, that sort of thing. Who would believe there's a tiny clothing store in the middle of nowhere. This is truly Stephen King material! Please read my hubs.


    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes Avery 

      10 years ago from New England

      Soooo.... I take it the owner of the Marfa Prada store is an amputee? Or perhaps there's a second Marfa Prada store in a parallel world that has only right shoes... heh heh, that was a fun hub.

    • dc64 profile image


      11 years ago

      Hey, this is a great page! Interesting articles and great pics!


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