New off-beat travel guide highlights ‘Oddball Illinois’

Staff Report

CHICAGO — It’s been 10 years since the first release of the ultimate off-beat travel guide to the Land of Lincoln, Oddball Illinois, and it’s safe to say things have only gotten weirder. Where there was once just a single Popeye statue in downstate Chester, today the town has monuments to Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea, Bluto and the Old Hag. The creepy Piasa Bird petroglyph on a bluff in Alton now has a roadside pullout with picnic tables and, not to worry — the double-decker outhouse in Gays is newly accompanied by a contemplative garden.

With nearly twice as many destinations as its predecessor, this second edition of Oddball Illinois: A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places (Chicago Review press, April 2011) by Jerome Pohlen gives readers all the more reason to ditch the typical tourist attractions and tropical holidays in search of the strange and wonderful in the heartland of America. Disproving the oft-held notion that there’s nothing to see between Chicago and St. Louis but cornfields, Pohlen recommends stunning cultural gems in the Windy City and beyond — including the World’s Largest Sock Monkey, the Birthplace of the Jungle Gym, a truck stop with a marionette show and a coin-operated fire-breathing dragon. Pohlen also brings an oddball perspective to some usual tourist attractions: Did Ziggy the elephant, today a skeleton at the Field Museum, really kill a Marine trombonist in San Diego‘s Balboa Park? Was Abraham Lincoln buried without his brain, and if so, where is the brain today? Oddball explorers have the right to know!

Filled with the answers to all of these questions and more — such as pictures, directions, websites, hours of operation and admission fees — a copy of Oddball Illinois and a camera is all that’s needed to greatly enhance any Illinois road trip experience.

The book is available from Independent Publishers Group. Call (312) 337-0747 or go to

From the April 18-24, 2012, issue

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