Wisconsin: Strange and Weird
August 6, 2005 9:00 PM   Subscribe

What's the weirdest thing you can tell me about the state of Wisconsin?

And I already know about many of the obvious ones, e.g. Ed Gein, House on the Rock, etc.
posted by iced_borsch to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
For some inexplicable reason, all of my ex-wives moved to Wisconsin after the divorce.
posted by dabradfo at 9:04 PM on August 6, 2005


My dad used to tell me when I was a kid that you were legally required to serve a slice of cheese on pie in Wisconsin. I'm 99% sure he was full of shit, though.

He was from Wisconsin, so I guess the story is a bit weird in and of itself.
posted by selfnoise at 9:06 PM on August 6, 2005


That's Dahmer country, so you got yer serial killer trifecta in the making.
posted by NortonDC at 9:15 PM on August 6, 2005


Best answer: Green Bay Packers are the only publicly-owned football team in the US.

World's Largest Scrap Metal "park" & Circus World Museum & University of Lawsonomy

Dungeons and Dragons was created in Wisconsin and the Tolkien papers are there too.

"The 1993 outbreak of the parasite Cryptosporidium affected almost half a million people and contributed to one hundred deaths in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The outbreak resulted from the failure of the municipal filtration systems to eliminate animal wastes. The water rather suddenly became brownish. Cautious people would have immediately sought out bottled water. "

More at Weird Wisconsin
posted by jessamyn at 9:43 PM on August 6, 2005


The Happy Schnapps Combo, of course.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:40 PM on August 6, 2005


Wisconsinites say "bubbler" instead of drinking fountain and atms are called "Tyme Machines." Plus me, a wisconsinite once put a pickle in my bloody mary and my friend from atlanta thouht that was realy weird, but people in Wisconisn do it all the time.
posted by afu at 11:02 PM on August 6, 2005


Best answer: Why did you have to post this while I was at work.

The city of Milwaukee went to war with its self in the mid-1800s. This is loosely related to why the bridges don't line up.

There's a series of pyramids at the bottom of a lake here that have led some to believe are the remains of atlantis.

Famous musicians tend to die in air accidents in our state. Otis Redding died in Madison. Stevie Ray Vaughn near Elkhorn.

Liberace is from West Milwaukee.

I'll post more if I can think of them.
posted by drezdn at 11:08 PM on August 6, 2005


I can top pickle in the Bloody Mary.

I have gotten meat sticks in my Bloody Marys back in Milwaukee.

Story: I was born and raised in yah hey dere WI. I learned that all the ATMs were 'TYME Machines'; the acronym stands for 'Take Your Money Everywhere'. Thus, I thought all ATMs around the world were called Tyme machines. So, imagine the miscommunication that occured when I had travelled to Connecticut, and was trying to explain to some hapless mall security guard that I needed to get money out of a Tyme machine.

So, yeah - the Tyme Machine is pretty weird.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:57 PM on August 6, 2005


My dad used to tell me when I was a kid that you were legally required to serve a slice of cheese on pie in Wisconsin.

Margarine used to be illegal, too. (That's a link to a PDF, as fair warning.) People would smuggle it in from Illinois.

"Bubbler" is the weirdest, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:03 AM on August 7, 2005


Well, Iced_Borscht (we know who you really are), I daresay that now we know what state Sufjan Steven's next album is going to be about. Don't you have a research team or something? :)
posted by luriete at 12:48 AM on August 7, 2005


Wisconsin is very proud of their cheese, which tastes like dog vomit compared to Tillamook Cheese.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:04 AM on August 7, 2005


Wisconsin is not proud of their cats.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:44 AM on August 7, 2005


drezdn alludes to The Bridge War. Bizarre.
posted by grouse at 3:57 AM on August 7, 2005


It's not (at least it wasn't years ago) unusual to find raw ground beef and onions served as hours dourves.
posted by klarck at 5:55 AM on August 7, 2005


Wisconsin Death Trip
posted by felix betachat at 6:19 AM on August 7, 2005


Interestingly, my credit union (which is not in Wisconsin) has a phone banking service called "TYME Line" (and an online version called "PC TYME"). They say it stands for "Touch Your Money Everyday", though, so I guess it can probably be chalked up to mere coincidence. Either that or we're being infiltrated by cheeseheads.
posted by zztzed at 6:24 AM on August 7, 2005


Best answer: The cheese-on-pie thing is not law, but highly recommended if the cheese is mild cheddar and the pie is apple. Pickles in Bloody Marys, though? If there isn't a law, there ought to be.

The Green Bay phone book has a very high percentage of names beginning with "Van." (VandenHyde, Vandewalle, VanDyke, etc.)

"Chili John" Isaac invented oyster crackers.

The Mustard Museum is in a town guarded by trolls.

There is a delicious chicken stew that is only ever found in the area surrounding DePere: it is called Booyah (in addition to the large Hollander population already mentioned, there is a large Belgian population, that well could be the origin of the word), and is found at church festivals. No recipe is the same, and Great Debates are held (don't you dare put corn in mine).

Oshkosh has the world's busiest airport - for a week.

The Lost Dauphin of France is widely held to have escaped to the Green Bay area, to the point where there is a street in De Pere, and an opera commissioned.

Many Good and Famous actors hail from Wisconsin, and many Wisconsinites will point them out whenever they show up on screen. (Well, ok, only I do that, as far as I know.)

"Bubbler" is not weird, it makes perfect sense, as the water bubbles forth. Also, fewer syllables and easier to say. Speaking of bubblers, there is a public spring tap in Bay View (which is the near-South side of Milwaukee).

Speaking of the near-South side, the Allen-Bradley clock is the world's largest four-sided clock; each face is larger than a baseball diamond. Many, many buildings in downtown Milwaukee have a clock of some sort, to the point where when I worked there, I never bothered wearing a watch. Imagine my dismay when I found this was just a local thing, and I actually had to go buy a watch.

The Gas building in Milwaukee tells you the weather, by the color of the flame:
When the flame is red, it's warm weather ahead!
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold!
When the flame is blue, there's no change in view!
When there's a flickering flame, expect snow or rain!


We drink a lot of brandy. Probably mostly when going out for fish fry on Friday night, or a chicken dinner on Sunday (the Sunday chicken-shack is more of a Brown County thing).

The World's largest muskie is in Hayward, but we have plenty of big animals around here, courtesy of FAST.

Al Capone had many, many hideouts here.

The typewriter was invented in Milwaukee. There is a plaque in the Sentinel-side entrance lobby at the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel.

I once saw a "boom stick" at a bar in Green Bay - a wooden pole with a rubber ball on the end so it bounces, two pie plates bolted on to make a drum, a screen-door spring stretched over the drum to make a scratchy thing, and a bell. Some of the older guys at the bar would play these (with a drumstick) along with whatever happened to be on the jukebox, and they were really good. (If anyone can explain these to me further, please e-mail!)

Fun town names: Euren (pronounced urine, Institute, Spread Eagle, Dykesville. Don't forget the Bong Recreational Area. The Random Wisconsin City Name Generator is pretty spot-on.

Sheboygan has a strangely high number of wealthy bachelors.

...and, I'm spent ;)
(thanks, CzelticGirl, for the excellent photos!)
posted by mimi at 6:56 AM on August 7, 2005


More about the pyramids that Drezdn mentioned, at the bottom of Rock Lake, in Lake Mills.
posted by mimi at 7:14 AM on August 7, 2005


Best answer: James Romenesko, from Obscure Store also wrote a book called Death Log. His site used to have an archive on some longer articles he'd written for Wisconsin news outlets, like this one on albinos but I'm not sure if there is one page where he links to all of them.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on August 7, 2005


The American League was started in Milwaukee at the Republican house, a few blocks away from the spot where Teddy Roosevelt was shot, his life being spared when the bullet got lodged in the giant speech he was going to deliver. He went through with giving the speech.

The Republican party was founded in Wisconsin, yet, oddly enough, the city of Milwaukee has had more socialist mayors than any other US city.

The hamburer may or may not have been invented here but some sort of Ice Cream treat was (the Sundae?) was.

Bricks from Milwaukee's Miller Valley have the unusual property of turning yellow when fired. This gave the city a distinct yellow look that lead to the nickname creme city.

Most of the trees in the northern part of the state were planted in the last 100 years, as loggers had clear cut much of the state.

The Great Peshtigo Fire was more deadly than the Chicago fire and happened at the same time. There's even a museum dedicated to it.

The Clown Hall of Fame is in Milwaukee.

Most of downtown Milwaukee was built on an Indian graveyard.
posted by drezdn at 10:02 AM on August 7, 2005


Many US sewer covers are made in Wisconsin.
posted by drezdn at 10:04 AM on August 7, 2005


The bike's Lance Armstrong rode to victory in the tour de france were made in Wisconsin. (IN YOUR FACE ITALY).
posted by drezdn at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2005


The governor of Wisconsin has one of the most powerful veto powers in the nation. He or she can cross out words and numbers to create entirely new sentences (see recent Wisconsin State Journal article on this year's budget vetos. The governor used to have a so-called 'Vanna White veto" and could actually cross out letters to make new words, but that was taken away through legislation several years ago. It's pretty freaky, if you think about it.
posted by handful of rain at 11:25 AM on August 7, 2005


Winneconne seceded from the state of Wisconsin in 1967, after being accidentally omitted from the state map. They still celebrate with the annual Secession Days. Winneconne also has the only bridge in the state where it is legal to fish from the bridge deck.

Milwaukee streets: Ogden and Nash streets do not intersect; but Keefe and Richards do - feel free to open your Rolling Stones tribute bar there. Laverne and Shirley lived on "Kah-NAP" street, but the location scouts failed to mention that it's pronounced simply "napp." More on Milwaukee street history.
posted by mimi at 1:32 PM on August 7, 2005


Fountains are called Bubblers in RI too (Bubblah's in the local accent).
posted by fionab at 2:10 PM on August 7, 2005


Wisconsin is the home of Kikkoman Soy Sauce, one of the most popular soy sauces in the US.
posted by drezdn at 6:24 PM on August 7, 2005


In addition to scrap metal parks and giant fiberglass animals, Wisconsin has an amazing amount of outsider art environments.

My favorite Madison bar, the Pinckney Street Hideaway (demolished in the mid-90's, alas) served bloody mary's with pickle spears and olives in a pint glass with a peppered rim, along with a "snit" -- a shot glass of beer for a chaser.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:24 PM on August 7, 2005


Wisconsin was the first of the 50 States to enact gay rights legislation. Sadly, they have since lost their wisdom.

Awhile back, in regards the governor's power, one of the big papers ran the following headline about then Gov. Thompson: "Thompson's penis a sword!"
posted by Goofyy at 6:25 AM on August 8, 2005


Winneconne seceded from the state of Wisconsin in 1967, after being accidentally omitted from the state map. They still celebrate with the annual Secession Days. Winneconne also has the only bridge in the state where it is legal to fish from the bridge deck.

I think it's called "Soveriegn Days." That's what my wife's family calls it, anyway; they live right outside of Winneconne, and generally don't like about the festival because the Winneconne revolutionaries shake them down for a toll to cross the drawbridge.

The six-hour sturgeon-spearing season
I witnessed outside of Winneconne was one of the weirdest mornings of my life.
posted by COBRA! at 7:10 AM on August 8, 2005


It was my experience that the part of Wisconsin I lived in for two years cumulative (Fox Valley) had a disproportionately high number of...emu farms.

I don't even know.

Oh, and everywhere I went, restaurants served spaghetti noodles in their chili. Being from the Texas Louisiana area of the country, I always thought that was peculiar.
posted by angeline at 12:10 PM on August 8, 2005


Let's see, is there anything left?

As a kid there we were told that every restaurant has to serve you cheese if you ask for it, but I never tried it since everything always seemed to have cheese in it already.

I can't believe no one mentioned the high rate of serial killers in the state, especially Dahmer and Gein.

I'm also surprised no one mentioned the dead alewives on the beaches.

Wisconsin ginseng is well regarded in traditional chinese medicine, although it is considered to have opposite effects from asian ginseng.
posted by babar at 5:17 PM on August 8, 2005


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