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Exhibits at the Abita Mystery House

The Bassigator
Buford the Bassigator was originally built as a Mardi Gras parade prop. John Preble often participates in Mardi Gras -- having won several costume and float design contests. A motive of building Buford was that Preble wanted something to exhibit at the museum that would have a "jack-a-lope" feeling.
How was the Bassigator built? After getting the idea for the Bassigator, John Preble enlisted the help of local artist Dave Kelsey to help construct Buford. Since it was going to be in a parade, they decided to mount the Bassigator on an old boat trailer. First the boat trailer was measured to figure how long the finished Bassigator would be. Kelsey then carefully measured a real alligator head and bass so he could figure a scale (ratio) to work from.

Three thick plywood triangles were first attached to the old boat trailer. These triangles were then braced by a horizontal 2"x4" back bone. Next, plywood "donuts" were carefully measured and cut. The donuts were then attached to the triangles. Wooden lath strips are nailed to the edges of the plywood donuts. On top of the lath we nailed chicken wire and then we covered the chicken wire with large sheets of thin fabric. The fins and tail are made from plywood. The snout is first made from thin plywood. Window screen was attached to the snout and then pressed and modeled into the shape of a nose and jowls. Craft paper was shaped around the beach ball eyes. To created textured skin, we used commercial spray-foam insulation over the fabric. The teeth are made of foam rubber.

The Creole Cottage.
The Cottage was moved to the museum grounds from a location on Hwy 59 where it would probably have been torn down to make way for "progress." The building is currently used by the Northshore Art Academy for classes and also as reception room for private museum parties. When school groups tour the museum, the cottage is used to give a hands-on workshop for the school children. When the building was moved the roof was lowered. During that process, it was discovered that the original roof was made of cedar shingles. The shingles were removed and then later used on the building that houses Claire Veaux, the museum's fortuneteller and bait shop manager.

The House of Shards
This main section of the house was built to be a barn in the 1920's. It is constructed with barge wood. Barge wood is wood that was originally used on barges that floated down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. The barges were then disassembled and sold as building materials. The barn originally had a dirt floor. After a second room was added along with a small bathroom. The exterior bargeboards were later covered with metal lath and concrete stucco. This stucco is the foundation for the mosaic.

The main room is used to exhibit vintage bicycles. This is a popular exhibit because the Abita Mystery House is located on the Tammany Trace, a very popular "rails-to-trails" bike path. The House of Shards is connected to the museum's exhibit hall via a ramp and walkway. Visitors are allowed to walk around the house to see and or photograph the various mosaic patterns. On the exterior wall one will see pieces of ceramic plates, tiles, colored glass, and mirrors. Over 15,000 pieces of mosaic were applied the stucco using a bonding mortar -- the cracks between the pieces were then filled with a brick mortar.

The Exhibit Hall
Inside the exhibit hall is an assorted exhibit of unusual collections and my mini towns. The first thing that you notice when step into the exhibit hall is the shrine to Elvis. The hall's main exhibit is next: River Town is a miniature scene that is about thirty feet long. On the walls are large collections of paint-by-number paintings, Southern memorabilia, several collections of roadside postcards, a display of pocket combs, antique old radios, barbed wire, and arcade machines. Everyone enjoys the Macaroni Marble Machine -- shoot the ball up and watch it roll down an incredible mountain of Popsicle sticks. The Marble Machine sits inside an old movie theater's neon lit ticket booth. There's two other miniature scenes you will see, one is titled "New Orleans Jazz Funeral" and another is called "Tragedy on Dog Pound Road." At the end of the exhibit hall is the chapel room that has an antique hand crank organ. You can play this organ if you can find someone to crank up the bellows for you.

River Road
The museum's main attraction - a 30' long miniature town called "River Road." The first two words of most visitors is "Oh my." River Road is a humorous miniature town inspired by the river communities between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

First stop on River Road is Pinky's What All Store. Inside this general store you'll see Mr. Pinky among his crab traps, laundry soap, yard tools, stuffed fish and other shop items.

Pinky's neighbor is Lil Dubs BBQ and gas station. Lil Dubs' motto is "Eat Here Get Gas." Around the barbecue stand are picnic tables, the barbecue pit and a Cajun library (outhouse.) Push the button nearby and watch the door to the outhouse swing open. Notice how the flowers always grow so well next the outhouse.

Above Lil Dubs BBQ is Big Dubs BBQ Heaven. There you see a bunch of good old boys around a BBQ grill. The sign in heaven reads: Bid Dubs BBQ Heaven, Where Pork Skins Are A Vegetable

Vic's Big Wheel Car Repair is the next stop. There's a big station wagon getting serviced today. Push the button nearby and see what's under that station wagon. The signs on Vic's shop tell us he that he repairs all makes: Chevy's, Ford's, Willy's, etc.

Next to the car repair shop is a big juke joint called Rudy's Rainbow Lounge. The band on the bandstand is Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts -- the place is jumping and jiving. Push a button and what as the dances go through their moves. Upstairs from the Rendezvous is Rudy's Over The Rainbow Hotel. See the staircase that leads up to the hotel room and all of the "fine furnishings." Outside is an open window on the second floor with a comical character climbing out on to a ladder (or is he sneaking in.) There's always lot of activity "somewhere over the Rainbow.

A roadside Motel sits next to Rudy's. The lighted sign on the roof says No Vacancy. Look in the motel window and push the nearby button. The sign on the motel room says "no jumping on beds" put as the button is held down, a little baby bounces on the bed. He seems to be laughing as he jumps up to the ceiling. To check in at the motel you need to go to Wild Will's Catfish Barn and Buffet next door. Wild Will's motto is: If You Can See It, You Can Eat It. The signs on the Catfish Barn proudly states their specialties: Blackened Hush Puppies and Cajun Creole Kosher Catfish. Another sign says that Wild Bill's is listed in the Chef Buster's "Let Eat Cheap Guide."

Now it's time for some sightseeing at Authur Jones' Reptile Jungle. See the cages with wild rabbits and giant rats (locally found nutrias.) Seems like some of the snakes have escaped. Oops. Push a button and see the Swamp Monster up in the tower waving hello.

For the sportsmen on the tour, Mister Andrews Golfarium is next door. This mini golf is also titled "Putt Among The Ruins," because it is located among the old rusted columns of a burnt down plantation. Every roadside attraction needs miniature golf and here at the Abita Mystery House we got it. Of course this is "real" miniature golf with a windmill, a dinosaur and a Mummy's Tomb. Push the button and see the windmill paddles spin.

To play a game of golf you need to check in at the mobile home next door -- it's also the home of the River Road Tourist Information Center. You'll recognize it as the well-maintained trailer with a religious statue as a lawn ornament. Mister Andrew, the fellow that lives in the trailer, is also the caretaker of Masion de Petrolina that sits on the other side of the trailer. This large partially renovated plantation is the jewel in purse of River Road. Notice all of the cats sitting around; locals also call this the cat house. Some of the interesting signs on the plantation are: Book Your Next Wedding Here; Candlelight Dinners For You Or Your Spouse; and Daughters of the Confederacy Meet The Second Tuesday.

Finally our tour of River Road ends with the Toxico Oil Refinery that is fabricated right next to the Plantation. That's the way we do it in Louisiana. There's a sign on the chain link fence surrounding the refinery that states: "Chemicals For A New Tomorrow." Outside the fence in front of the refinery is "Donna's Refinery Vegetables." She's got watermelons, Creole tomatoes, pecans, pole beans, and squash for sale. You'll be glowing after stopping at her roadside stand.

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Abita Mystery House 22275 Hwy 36
Abita Springs
Louisiana 70420

Telephone: 985-892-2624
©1999 John Preble