7 Truly Odd Monuments

(Image credit: Knowledge)

The following article is from the book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Tired of your standard boring, run-of-the-mill monument to some dead president? Then try one of these.


Where You’ll Find It: The coastal city of Nieuwdorp, Holland.

What It Looks Like: A bright orange, blocky building about the length of a football field and 130 feet tall, with scientific formulas -such as “E = MC2”- in huge, bright green letters on its exterior.

Story: It’s a nuclear waste storage site, holding thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste, accumulated from Holland’s two nuclear power plants. It’s also a work of art meant to serve as a monument to radioactive decay, according to William Verstraeten, the artist hired by the Dutch government to design it. The building, officially known as the Habog Facility, was completed in 2005, and it will be the home of the radioactive waste inside it for at least 100 years. And it won’t always be bright orange: every 20 years it will be painted a lighter shade of orange to symbolize the metamorphosis process, as the waste slowly decays and becomes less and less radioactive over time. This, the government says, will help educate the public about the safe management of radioactive waste. (Bonus: You can go inside the building. It has a visitor center and a museum, and it’s a popular tourist destination.)


(Image credit: Flickr user Miguel Castaneda)

Where You’ll Find It: Dublin, Ohio.

What It Looks Like: A field of giant concrete ears of corn, painted white, each over six feet tall, in a roadside field in central Ohio.

Story: This work of art was created as a memorial to Sam Frantz, a local farmer who used the field from the 1930s until the 1960s to develop several strains of hybrid corn. It was commissioned by the City of Dublin Arts Council, and designed by Malcolm Cochran, an arts professor at Ohio State University. There are 109 concrete ears of corn in the field, which covers about two acres. Each of them is about eight feet tall and weighs more than 1,500 pounds. Roadside America, a website that chronicles roadside oddities, says of the site: “Intended by the Arts Council to remind residents of the area’s long-gone agricultural heritage, the Field of Corn instantly became a joke- giant inedible food, paid for with tax dollars, and surrounded by a sprawl of corporate offices, bland businesses, and suburban neighborhoods.” (Bonus: Locals have dubbed the site “Cornhenge.”)


(Image credit: Andrew Bossi)

Where You’ll Find It: Bern, Switzerland.

What It Looks Like: A public fountain in the middle of a square in Bern’s Old City, with a tall column rising from its center, topped by a statue of an ogreish creature biting the head off a naked baby. The ogre has seven more babies -all looking terrified- at his side.

Story: The name of the fountain, Kindlifresserbrunnen, literally means  “Child-Eater Fountain.” It has been there for over 450 years- since 1546, when it was constructed by Swiss sculptor Hans Gieng. Exactly what it was supposed to signify nobody knows. One theory is that the ogre represents Krampus, the mythological figure popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, who is said to punish naughty children around Christmastime. (A more sinister theory: because the ogreish figure is wearing a pointy hat similar to a Judenhut, or “Jewish hat,” which Jewish men were forced to wear in parts of medieval Europe, the sculpture could be a representation of the anti-Semitic “blood libel” slur popular in medieval times, which said that Jewish people murdered the children of Christians and used their blood in religious rituals.)


(Image credit: Flickr user Fred Romero)

Where You’ll Find It: Prague, Czech Republic.

What It Looks Like: A dead horse hanging from a ceiling by ropes from its legs, with its tongue hanging out and with a kingly figure of a man sitting on its belly.

Story: The bronze sculpture, called Kun (Horse), hangs from the ceiling of Prague’s popular Lucerna Palace, an open-air gallery of shops, restaurants, bars, and performance venues. It was created in 1999 by rebel Czech artist David Cerny, whose many controversial sculptures dot the Czech Republic. Kun is a parody of the famous statue of a Saint Wenceslas that overlooks the city’s Wenceslas Square. (Wenceslas, the subject of the famous Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” was a 10th-century Czech king, and has been a national hero for centuries.) The statue is also assumed to have been a dig at Czech leader Vaclav Klaus, a regular target of Cerny’s art.


(Image credit: Americasroof)

Where You’ll Find It: Stillwater, New York.

What It Looks Like: A headstone about five feet tall with the sculpted likeness of a boot on it.

Story: The “Boot Monument” is a memorial to America’s most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold, the general who fought for the Americans during the Revolutionary War, and then switched sides and sold secrets to the British. It was erected in 1887 in recognition of wounds Arnold received to his foot and leg while fighting for the American side -before he turned traitor- in the pivotal Battle of Saratoga in 1777. The memorial, which sits near where Arnold was injured in what is now Saratoga National Historic Park, was donated to the site by Revolutionary War historian and former Civil War general John Watts de Peyster. An inscription on the back of the memorial says it was erected for “the ‘most brilliant soldier’ of the Continental Army, who was desperately wounded on this spot” …but it doesn’t mention Arnold’s name -at all. It’s the only American war monument dedicated to a specific soldier that doesn’t bear that soldier’s name.


(Image credit: Henry Flower)

Where You’ll Find It: Headington, England.

What It Looks Like: A 25-foot fiberglass shark sticking out of the roof of a house in Headington, a suburb of the English city of Oxford.

Story: The giant shark was designed by English sculptor John Buckley, and commissioned by the homeowner, BBC radio presenter Bill Heine. It was installed (to the surprise of Heine’s neighbors) on August 9, 1986, the 41st anniversary of the United States’ nuclear attack on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, as a protest of both nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation,” Heine told reporters. The Oxford City Council tried to have the sculpture removed, but eventually had to give up because the Headington Shark, as it is commonly known, is too popular.


(Image credit: Flickr user Max Stahl)

Where You’ll Find It: Chicago, Illinois.

What It Looks Like: A huge coiled, brown, and glistening turd on a marble stand in front of a building in Chicago.

Story: The giant pile of poop was sculpted by Chicago artist Jerzy S. Kenar, and it sits on a three-foot-high pedestal in front of his studio. Inscribed on the marble stand are the words “S*** Fountain.” (Except there are no asterisks.) Upon the sculpture’s unveiling, at a July 4th party in 2005, Kenar announced that the work was “dedicated to all the dogs in the neighborhood,” but later admitted it was meant more for local dog owners, who regularly failed to clean up after their pets on city sidewalks and in its parks. Want to take a selfie with the giant pile of poop? Kenar’s studio is at 1001 North Wolcott Avenue, in Chicago’s East Village. (Note: If uncoiled, the giant poop -which is made of bronze- would be more than six feet long.)


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader. The 29th volume of the series is chock-full of fascinating stories, facts, and lists, and comes in both the Kindle version and paperback.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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