Here's more press clippings about the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs, Louisiana.

The following is an article that appeared in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana newspaper, The Morning Advocate on Friday, Feburary 23, 2001.

UCM Museum
a zany spot near trace in Abita Springs

Travel editor

Hundreds of old bottle caps decorate the doors and walls of the UCM Museum in Abita Springs. It's a zany place that puts smiles on everyone who walks into the door. To start with, the place is pronounced, "you-see-em-mu-se-um."

The offbeat museum and gift shop is the creation of owner and artist John Preble who said he wanted a place that reminded people of the old-time roadside attractions.

"My family and I went to Albuquerque about five years ago and found Tinkertown. It's what I call an art environment. My sons, who were 5 and 10 years old at the time, were so excited about the place because there were buttons to push. I decided it would be a challenge to do a Southern version."

Using more than 50,000 used and discarded objects, he has succeeded beyond imagination. Walking into the entrance/gift shop, the visual attraction explodes with color and fanciful patterns. The ceiling is layered with bottle caps, computer chip panels and parts of old radio
transmitters. Hand-crafted birdhouses and small, airplanes crafted from old Coke cans are suspended from the ceiling.

Starting with the entrance, a salvaged vintage gas station, the museum is a series of buildings, including a 90-year-old Louisiana Creole cottage, exhibition hall and colorful house of shards, decorated with thousands
of pieces of broken pottery and fine porcelain (You might even spy your grandmother's china pattern stuck into a wall.)

It takes a few moments for your eyes to get accustomed to the darkened exhibition "hall." Here, Preble has created a series of tableaux. The whimsical handmade scenes of Southern life in Louisiana include a Mardi
Gras Parade, a New Orleans jazz funeral, a rhythm-and-blues dance hall, a haunted Southern plantation and more. The scenes are animated, and when
visitors punch the buttons, the small figures, constructed from hobby clay, jump, dance and often appear in jack-in-the-box surprises. Watch for the little signs in the scenes that carry time-honored Southern slogans or

"What I do is take a theme like Mardi Gras and then bring it to the next level," said Preble. One of his favorite scenes is titled "Tragedy on Dog Pound Road."

The former PTA president of the Abita Springs Middle School, Preble plans to keep the museum a family attraction. He wants youngsters, as well as their parents, to understand that art can be fun.

Touring the museum with her 8-year-old son Mike, Nancy Berulis of Slidell said, "We just came in after finishing a Boy Scout rally on the Tammany Trace. I happened to see the museum on the Web. The front of the building is so deceptive. I had no idea of what he had done in the back.

"It's whimsical. It's wonderful," she said. "There's something here for everybody. Mr. John must have a wonderful sense of humor. To be able to go through other people's trash and make art out of it is wonderful."

The UCM Museum, 22275 La. 36, is one block east of the only traffic light in Abita Springs. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Mardi Gras and Christmas. Call 504-892-2624 or 892-8097. The Web site is


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