Michael's Reviews > Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets

Weird U.S. by Mark Moran
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's review
Feb 19, 2009

it was amazing
Read in February, 2009

Before reading this, I assumed – per a South Park episode – that Al Gore was the only person who believed in the notorious Man-Bear-Pig chimera. Now I know otherwise. Reveling in a collage of myths and neurosis, this tome is chock-full of supposed oddities that have somehow escaped the lens of a camera (in a society where seemingly every post-1987 infant pratfall or freaking dog chasing a squirrel is filmed and aired on my damn TV each Sunday!). This is the underbelly of Americana…and I love this crap!

As a compilation of weirdness, this book includes the surreal-real (Rodia’s Towers, Lizzy Borden) and the surreal-gotta-be-fake (96.9% of the rest of the content). In format, the authors non-critically expose the innumerable overlaps of stories, sightings, and BS across the nation. Crybaby bridges and “Melon-heads” are seemingly in every county. It makes me think there’s some sort of return-postage, story-spinning template mailed to everyone who lives more than 40 miles from a video rental store. It’s the equivalent of a Mr. Potato Head doll where you just plug in pre-scripted elements to make a freakish thing. I wanna play:

“So me and some buds were driving along route 34 in North Carolina. It was a hazy evening so we decided to turn off on Devils Foot Road. Down the road there used to be an asylum where a disenfranchised Rumanian chemist was turning orphans into Melon Heads in either the early 1800s or 1973. The fearless leader of the Melon Heads incited an uprising and burned the stone building down with the deranged scientist trapped inside the attic with his collection of Peruvian voodoo dolls. The lead Melon Head also happened to be a woman, and had a couple babies. She/it was seeking the love of a non-Melon Head man from a higher station in life. Assuming the man would only court her/it if she/it didn’t have babies, she threw her babies off of Crybaby Bridge right there on Devil’s Elbow Road in Broken Whistle, Oklahoma. Nonetheless, the man still screened her phone calls so the scorned lady/thing can now be seen, dressed like a bunny, wandering in a perfect 120 mile radius within South Jersey. She hits one Wawa store in each Township at alarmingly regular intervals. Nowadays, if you listen close enough you can hear the tossed Melon children singing along to frightening Neil Diamond songs as gaseous red balls dance around near the removed Union Pacific tracks down by the river bed. These multi-colored balls seem to emanate from a tree whose roots resemble a skull and/or the cloven hooves of the Devil himself! According to early colonists in Northern California, the Native Americans of the region used to call it the “cracker tree,” and as you’re straining to look for it (as well as the blood-red water), your car will suddenly defy gravity and roll up hill (did I mention the wooden bridge slopes?). If you put baby powder on the hood, little melon-brat handprints will appear on the bumper! The melon kid apparitions are pulling your car up towards the hilltop where Creole-Hessian Jackson Whites have built an albino midget village – complete with a 2-liter soda bottle Stonehenge – dedicated to the New Testament! Freaked out, we started the engine and drove off, picking up some non-Melon Head hitch-hiking chick in a hoop skirt on the way. Charming at first, she became noticeably frigid as the conversation turned towards March Madness. Then she suddenly disappeared from the back seat as we passed the pet cemetery. Definitely the creepiest place in central Florida – don’t drink the water.” M. Grogan

My favorite quote from one of the authors was:

“…is it possible that there really is a strange subhuman beast lurking in the backwoods of Arkansas?”

Having lived there for a while, I’ll withhold commentary.
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