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It’s always interesting to see the inside of someone else’s home, but when a house is weird, wacky, or out-of-the-ordinary, a home tour becomes an adventure in and of itself. Featuring underground tunnels, secret passageways, and a dungeon or two, here are 15 of the most eccentric homes in the U.S. — and they’re open to visitors!
Casa Neverlandia (Austin, Texas)
Situated in the eclectic Bouldin Creek neighborhood of Austin, Casa Neverlandia is the life’s work of artist James Talbot. Talbot bought the single-story bungalow in 1979 for $13,000 and began pouring his creative vision into his home. Since then, Casa Neverlandia has been converted into a fanciful, three-story A-frame. To complete the transformation, Talbot incorporated physical elements from his extensive world travels, while also adding unique features, such as a truss bridge, a ship-inspired balcony, and a fire pole that leads to a bathroom.
Keeping conservation at the forefront of his renovations, Talbot used salvaged materials, added solar panels, and installed a rainwater collection system. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces evoke a sense of whimsy, from the tropical ping-pong room to the trees covered in tile mosaics. To visit, 30-minute tours of the home are available for a fee; advanced reservations are necessary.
Randyland (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
What began as a way for a folk artist to recycle garbage turned into Randyland, a Pittsburgh landmark and the home of Randy Gilson. Decades ago, when Gilson began repurposing old items from the dump, his intention was to create homemade gifts for his family members. Over time, the project inspired him to turn his home into “Randyland,” a joyous outdoor art museum.
By salvaging items found in the trash, he transformed his backyard into a playful space filled with colorful pop art murals, offbeat sculptures, and eccentric topiary designs. Today, the space is open to the public free of charge, offering a positive place for anyone to enjoy.
Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
Shrouded in strange secrets and mysterious circumstances, the Winchester Mystery House continues to confound visitors today. In 1884, the wife of firearms magnate William Winchester, Sarah Winchester, had recently inherited millions of dollars from the Winchester family fortune. After embarking on a trip around the world, the widow moved to the Bay Area and used her inheritance money to buy an eight-room farmhouse. What began as a typical family home turned into a sprawling 24,000-square-foot mansion, featuring 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, 47 stairways, 13 bathrooms, and six kitchens.
Unfortunately, it was grief that spawned these bizarre additions — after the death of her daughter, Sarah poured herself into the home renovation for 36 years. Rumor had it that a psychic urged the matriarch to build extra rooms for all of the spirits who died as a result of the Winchester family business. Replete with staircases leading to nowhere and plenty of secret passageways, the Winchester Mystery House (which inspired the 2018 horror film Winchester) also has its share of paranormal activity, making it a popular home to tour.
Gillette Castle (East Haddam, Connecticut)
If a sprawling stone castle located in the quiet countryside of Connecticut wasn’t strange enough, the interior of Gillette Castle will reveal several more eccentricities. The imposing castle is the former home of William Gillette, the stage actor who once played Sherlock Holmes. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into Gillette’s unconventional mind, with a dungeon, secret room, strategically placed mirrors, and several hidden doors.
Built to Gillette’s exact specifications, the castle’s construction and interior features took over five years to complete, from 1914 until 1919. Since Gillette was an avid cat lover, the castle was even home to as many as 17 cats at one point, in addition to many feline-inspired toys. Now an established state park, Gillette Castle is a major draw for tourists in Connecticut, with self-guided tours available daily.
The Paper House (Rockport, Massachusetts)
Aptly named the Paper House, this incredible seaside abode is made of — you guessed it — paper. Located near the Atlantic coast in Rockport, Massachusetts, the home was built by Elis F. Stenman in 1922. As a mechanical engineer who designed the machine that produced paper clips, Stenman was no stranger to paper, and he set out to build a summer cottage made of the ubiquitous material.
Once the walls were constructed with layer upon layer of newspaper, Stenman refused to stop — he went on to paper the home’s interior, with furniture made of paper and a piano covered in paper. Although the home’s main materials are newspaper and varnish, it does contain a working fireplace made of brick and is wired with electricity. It’s also open for tours from the spring until the fall, with a small admission to guests.
Munster Mansion (Waxahachie, Texas)
There was the Addams Family, and there was also the Munsters — an eccentric, Transylvanian-American family and the subject of a beloved 1960s sitcom. In fact, the Munsters were so dear to Charles and Sandra McKee that the couple built a replica of the television family’s home. Located in the small town of Waxahachie, the Munster Mansion has been recreated to mimic the fictional home occupied by the Munsters, often employing original pieces from the show’s set.
With no blueprints to reference, the home was remodeled using footage from the television show, making it a painstakingly difficult endeavor. In addition to mansion tours of the macabre house, which features skulls, a cobwebbed piano, and a coffin-shaped phone booth, the McKees also host murder mystery parties for groups of 10 or more.
Thunderbird Lodge (Lake Tahoe, California)
When millionaire George Whittell Jr. bought acres of shorefront property on Lake Tahoe in the 1930s, he did so with the intention of developing a profitable resort and casino. But after building Thunderbird Lodge, he decided he liked the privacy and kept the place to himself.
Whittell designed the sprawling stone estate to suit his habits and needs — with a barn for his pet elephant, a card house for hosting debaucherous games, and a boathouse that connected to the main house via an underground tunnel. Whittell also had the home outfitted with a dungeon, plus separate houses for the cook, butler, and caretaker. Visitors may choose to see the lodge by land or by sea — not only is the estate open for walking tours, but guests can also cruise by Thunderbird Lodge on a boat.
Grey Towers (Milford, Pennsylvania)
This formidable castle in the Poconos Mountains was the home of James W. Pinchot, the founder of the U.S. Forest Service. In 1884, the forester, politician, and businessman decided he wanted to build Grey Towers as a summer residence in his hometown of Milford, Pennsylvania. The home was built as a striking French château, complete with a pair of matching medieval towers for which the home was named.
After the estate was passed down to Pinchot’s son, renovations continued, with the addition of a moat, fortress wall, and swimming pool. The younger Pinchot also added the home’s most famous feature, the “Finger Bowl.” The raised pool was used to accommodate dinner guests, with floating wooden bowls used as table settings. Today, self-guided tours of the National Historic Site are available year-round, seven days a week.
The Roxy Suite (New York, New York)
Visiting the secret apartment in Radio City Music Hall truly feels like stepping back in time — the remarkable space has remained unchanged since 1936. The two-story apartment was fashioned for Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the man responsible for infusing the entertainment venue with its trademark glamour. During Rothafel’s residency, the lavish apartment was used to entertain the biggest and brightest stars in the entertainment industry, such as Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney.
Featuring 20-foot-tall ceilings inlaid with gold leaf, Art Deco-style décor, and custom furniture, the apartment is a throwback to the glitzy days of showbusiness. After Rothafel died in 1936, the apartment was left undisturbed for decades. Since being rediscovered, the “Roxy Suite” has become a reserved VIP space for celebrities; non-A-listers can also see it by signing up for the Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour.
Castello di Amorosa (Calistoga, California)
When you first lay eyes on Castello di Amorosa, you might feel transported to medieval Europe, instead of the rolling hills of Napa Valley, California. The 121,000-square-foot castle was built with over 1 million antique bricks imported from Europe and completed with 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled stone. The result is a stunning achievement of medieval architecture, with towers, ramparts, a moat and drawbridge, courtyards, and even a torture chamber.
The astounding castle was the realized dream of fourth-generation winemaker Dario Sattui, who wanted to combine his love of ancient architecture with the family business. Today, the sprawling castle doubles as a world-class winery, with labyrinthine wine cellars featuring dramatic vaulted ceilings. Tours of the castle are available by reservation, complete with wine tastings of the vineyard’s finest offerings.
Alden B. Dow Home and Studio (Midland, Michigan)
As an innovative architect and a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Alden B. Dow maintained a singular motto when it came to his work: “Gardens never end and buildings never begin.” Nowhere is this credence more evident than at his personal home and studio in the small town of Midland, Michigan. When it was completed in 1941, the space became an ode to his trademark design style.
While the mid-century home’s exterior features a sloping copper roof and contemporary geometric siding, the interior was designed to reflect the home’s natural environment. With large windows and sunroofs, vaulted ceilings, and a sunken living room at eye level with a pond, each room maintains an organic quality in tandem with the landscaping. To experience the home in person, reserving a tour 24 hours in advance is recommended.
Earthship Biotecture (Taos, New Mexico)
The first earthship was created by Michael Reynolds, who developed the concept after moving to Taos, New Mexico, in 1969. A recent graduate of architecture school, Reynolds was frustrated by the area’s lack of affordable housing and its abundance of garbage. Killing two birds with one stone, he built his own home out of recycled tin cans.
Today, an “earthship” is considered to be a home that is built using recycled materials, such as earth-packed tires, while also taking advantage of its natural environment. It must also use sustainable technology, such as solar and wind power, and cannot be a drain on any of Earth’s resources. Decades after Reynolds built the first earthship, a community has been formed around this type of eco-friendly architecture. The community is open to the public, with tours of a fully functioning earthship available at the Visitor Center.
The Glass House (New Canaan, Connecticut)
The Glass House was designed by leading 20th-century architect, Philip Johnson, who resided in the home from 1949 until he died in 2005. Set amidst 49 acres in the Connecticut countryside, the see-through home was built to be integrated with the surrounding pastoral landscape. Despite its lack of interior walls, the Glass House is somewhat conventional, featuring a kitchen, living room, bedroom, fireplace, and bathroom.
With its glass exterior, thoughtful interior design, and open floor plan, the glass home is also considered to be an architectural masterpiece. The architect’s property also includes the Brick House, where guests once slept, and the Studio, where Johnson worked. Built in 1980, the Studio resembles a piece of sculptural art on the grassy landscape, while the inside contains an impressive library. All three spaces are open for public tours on a weekly basis.
The House on the Rock (Spring Green, Wisconsin)
The concept behind the House on the Rock began in 1945, when Alex Jordan decided to build a home atop Deer Shelter Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. After the home’s construction was completed, Jordan began filling the rooms with lights, mannequins, and other oddities. When word spread about the unique house, visitors started to stop by unexpectedly, and Jordan began charging for tours.
Decades later, the House on the Rock has expanded into a huge attraction featuring multiple galleries, although the original house remains intact and open to visitors. Containing the world’s largest indoor carousel, a death-defying infinity room, and a 200-foot-long sea creature, this tourist attraction is mind-boggling in its scope and size. The Ultimate Experience Tour takes visitors through the original house and onto the Rock’s sprawling additions but requires at least three hours of continuous walking.
Glensheen Mansion (Duluth, Minnesota)
On its own, Glensheen Mansion is worth a visit. The 39-room home, which stands above Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, was built by Chester and Clara Congdon in the early 1900s. Since the Congdons resided in the home for 69 years, Glensheen is a time capsule of life in the 20th century, with the family’s original clothes, linens, and furnishings all on display.
But this well-preserved historic home draws visitors for an additional reason — in 1977, it was the site of a gruesome double murder. The entire ordeal was straight out of a detective novel, including the impending trial, which put the victim’s adopted daughter (who stood to inherit the family fortune) on the defense stand. Since the home has been donated to the University of Minnesota, tours of the home and grounds remain open to visitors.