‘THE THING,’ AT LAST, DRAGOON, AZ
Traveling the southwest in any direction on Interstate 10, it’s impossible to miss the impressive parade of billboards promoting “The Thing.”
What is it, is the very reason to stop at this iconic American roadside attraction, celebrating 65 years (50 at this location), exhibited in an old shed 60-ish miles east of Tucson.
I’d never been there until recently, road-tripping from Texas to California. If nothing else, it’s a chance to stretch your legs and satisfy your curiosity. So, that’s exactly what I did.
The first surprise is that it costs just one dollar to see whatever it is you’re going to see. Having no idea of what to expect, I eagerly dropped a dollar and opened the door to this time-honored curiosity.
Beyond the door, hand-painted XL footprints lead you through a trio of weathered, but colorful, tin sheds, each housing an eclectic (to put it mildly) collection of antiquities, artifacts, oddities and yes, ‘The Thing.’ All of which seem to have been untouched, since they were originally placed in this display fifty years ago.
There are so many things to love about this attraction. First of all, the monster mash-meets-ratfink font. If you are a vintage folk art fan (and who isn’t), they’ve got plenty of that. A few vintage vehicles too, including a spellbinding 1937 Rolls Royce, they claim once belonged to Hitler, and the best low-mileage, original covered wagon I’ve ever seen. To keep it weird, they have a seemingly ancient torture chamber, complete with almost life-sized, hand-carved figurines being tortured (YIKES), a taxidermified tarantula and various other random, delightful, dusty relics, gathered from far and wide.
And then you get to the legendary star of the show. Entombed in a rock-solid, mint green, cinderblock, coffin-ish container with a glass top, there it is. What is it? I’ll never tell!
Hokey as it all may seem, it really isn’t. Behind all the billboards, the dollar and the door, the very definition of a classic roadside attraction awaits you.
‘The Thing’ is a landmark car-cultural experience of the highest order.
This is Americana!
Cheers to ‘The Thing’ and you!