Offbeat Adventure

Dinosaurs Feast on Civil War Soldiers at This Bizarre Theme Park

There are two things that we are sure of (and sure glad of) — except for birds, dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago. And the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Nobody has to worry about being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus rex or being shot by a musket. Except ... it turns out, there's a place in the United States where, gray coat or blue, you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for terrible lizards. Welcome to Dinosaur Kingdom II.

Related Video: 10 Weird Tourist Attractions

Land of the Lost

There's no place on Earth quite like Dinosaur Kingdom II — not even Dinosaur Kingdom I, since it burned down in 2012. This is the kind of place you have to turn off your rational brain to enjoy: a surreal sculpture park starring lifesize-ish dinosaurs and heroic-ish Confederate soldiers. This is probably — we'll go out on a limb and say definitely — the only place on Earth that you can find both a cybernetic Stonewall Jackson and Abraham Lincoln lassoing a pterosaur. There's a lot of backstory here, and it all plays out in Mark Cline's wacky works of art.

The park is based on a story saying that in 1863, a family of Southern paleontologists found a secret population of living dinosaurs dwelling in a hidden valley in Virginia. This was in the middle of the Civil War, so it wasn't long before Union forces arrived with thundering cannons that awoke many of the hibernating creatures. They decided, obviously, to capture the dinosaurs and tame them, but mainly succeeded in being chased and eaten (even by decidedly herbivorous dinos like Triceratops). Meanwhile, Confederate general Stonewall Jackson was there as well, boasting a new, 15-foot-long robotic arm to replace the one he (really) lost in battle. He was searching for the Beale Treasure in hopes of bankrolling the Confederacy, and was accompanied by a time-traveling mad scientist who not only built his cyborg enhancement, but also cloned an army of "Mr. Slimes" to keep the dinosaurs in check.

Confused? You're thinking about it too hard. Especially since it gets a lot more complicated (there are wizards involved as well). Really, this is just a goofy place to go, take a lot of pictures, and thank your lucky stars it doesn't resemble the real world in the slightest.

Behind the Screams

You might think that a project ambitious enough to include giant dinosaurs, an army of soldiers, a handful of robots, some miscellaneous slimes, and multiple American icons would take up a person's entire life. You'd be wrong. Creator Mark Cline has made the bizarre his life's work, and while Dinosaur Kingdom II is his most elaborate creation, it isn't the only strange sight he's made for rural Virginia.

Before Dinosaur Kingdom II, there was Dinosaur Kingdom and its next-door neighbor, the Haunted Monster Museum and Dark Maze, which was also lost in the fire. Cline is also the creator of Foamhenge, a Stonehenge replica built of styrofoam and relocated from Natural Bridge (home of Dinosaur Kingdom) to Cox Farm, about three hours northeast. Meanwhile, in nearby Lexington, you can meet the man and his wife Sherry on a ghost tour that has a similar Civil War focus — no word on how many dinosaurs haunt the city, however.

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We've only scratched the surface of American absurdity. Pick up "Weird U.S." by Mark Moran and discover Cline's kindred spirits around the country. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas September 14, 2018

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