Whirligigs, Wizards, and the Devil: Five of the Most Bizarre Destinations in North Carolina

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum in Wilson, NC, one of our five most bizarre, and fascinating, places to visit in North Carolina. (Image via Shutterstock)

By Billy Ball

July 12, 2021

Cardinal & Pine’s guided tour of the most bizarre, and yes fascinating, places to visit in North Carolina.

The word “bizarre” is subjective.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t find common ground on some things. 

Satanic campgrounds? A grand old school frozen in time? More whirligigs than you could possibly want to see? Some things are just bizarre. 

But we love them anyway. 

A place isn’t a place just because everything’s scenic and comfortable and designed for the masses. Some things, some of the best things, are strictly niche. 

And surely you’ll want to go see them if you want to take in all of North Carolina, a big, sprawling, confounding state with equal parts beauty and eccentricity.  

Which is why we’ve taken the liberty at Cardinal & Pine of compiling some of the most bizarre North Carolina destinations. And let’s face it, after a year of lockup, your home’s started to seem very humdrum. 

So go see something weird.

Devil’s Tramping Ground, Bear Creek, NC

Word is that the devil spends evenings pacing this circular patch of bare earth outside of Siler City and plotting humanity’s downfall. Naturally, that explains why plants won’t grow inside it, right?

Probably not, but the devil story is more interesting. 

Locals say this site is no good for plant life or anything living inside the 40-foot diameter circle. Camp here and you’ll hear ghostly noises at night. Your dog won’t go near it, locals say. And leave something in the circle, you’ll return in the morning to find it tossed out of the circle.

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum, Wilson, NC

Image via Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum

The eastern North Carolina town of Wilson is known for agriculture, history, and … whirligigs? 

This Wilson County town has one of the coolest, and most bizarre, museums in the state, showing off the fanciful creations of the late Vollis Simpson, who repaired local farm machinery and made some of the intricate whirligigs you’ll ever see.

A WWII veteran who mastered the physics of whirligigs by moving houses in his youth, Simpson used scrap metal to make some of the state’s most unique art. Some of these whirligigs are more than 50 feet high!

Old Linden School, Linden, NC

If you’re into creepy buildings left standing after decades of abandonment, this one is a doozie. 

The old Linden school in the rural stretches of Cumberland County looks as if all the students and teachers suddenly packed up one day and left, leaving their materials behind. 

An old piano left to rot in the auditorium. A dusty old chalkboard amid scattered schoolbooks. A massive monolith of a building in the middle of a town of about 130 people. 

YouTube gawkers and history buffs love this early 20th century school for its preserved antiquity, and its general sense that you’re walking through the remains of the Titanic above land. 

Land of Oz, Beech Mountain, NC

Image via Library of Congress

I’ll be honest. I’m still frightened of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. And those angry trees? The ones throwing apples? Terrifying.

But this Beech Mountain oddity is a must-see anyway. The Land of Oz opened as a theme park in 1970, complete with a yellow-brick road, witches, Dorothy, and boatloads of fanfare. Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, with her soon-to-be famous daughter Carrie Fisher, cut the ribbon at the amusement park. 

The park fell on hard times and shuttered in 1980. But the lore is still here. Today, it’s a privately-operated site that opens for private tours, weekends, and an annual autumn festival. 

Futuro House, Frisco, NC

An Outer Banks UFO? A discarded 1970s fad? A collector’s item? 

The Futuro house off of Highway 12 on the Outer Banks is all of these. Futuro homes had a moment in the sun several decades ago when a Finnish architect began marketing them as a portable, stylish saucer home, but they soon fell out of fashion.

This North Carolina Futuro house, including the airplane hatch entrance, has survived on the Outer Banks even if it has seen better days. It’s one of a few dozen still existing today. 

The pod-like home has moved around a few times on the Outer Banks, but these days it’s in the unincorporated area of Frisco on Hatteras Island.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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