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31 Weird, Creepy, Awesome, Interesting Things that We Love Right Now ... Well, Mostly

Folio Weekly celebrates our 31st birthday by spotlighting the people, places and things that make this our favorite corner of the rock

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For 31 years, it has been our privilege to serve first the urban core of Duval, then the whole county, then, gradually, to expand into St. Johns, Clay and Nassau counties and, most recently, cross the border into Georgia to share that sweet 'n' tangy Folio Weekly love with the fine folks of Camden County.

Over the years, in our role as the region's alternative voice, we've shown up for the area's best, worst and most WTAF moments. Since the strangest things are often our favorite things, as we celebrate our last prime anniversary until we turn 37 in 2024, we're recognizing some of our most cherished weird, strange and oddly awesome people, places and things that we've collected over the last three decades (plus one year!) of being your No. 1 source of what's news, what's fun to do and who's got and is giving us and our pals the blues.

As always, thank you for letting the Folio Weekly family serve you every week; living among the best readers anywhere is a gas: Sometimes it stinks, but it always makes us feel better.

Ooh, and don't forget to mark your calendars for April 25, 'cause you are personally invited to party like the liberal media at our epic 31st birthday celebration at Myth Nightclub. Please, stick around for the afterparty: 31 more years of finding fun between our sheets.

 

1. WAREHOUSE 31 UNLEASHED, 11262 Beach Blvd., Southside

Warehouse 31 Unleashed, "the largest haunted house in North Florida," is probably not where one might expect ... unless you were expecting a totes random strip mall anchored by a Winn-Dixie-or is it Bi-Lo? We forget-on the Southside. But for serious, this massive haunted house utilizes cutting-edge special effects and creates its own, one-of-a-kind creeps and scares that are so lifelike, so original, we're still having nightmares. And we like it.

2. ZOLTAR AT THE LANDING

If you can't get enough '80s, get thee to The Jacksonville Landing, where Zoltar lives next to the escalator. Feed him a buck, and Zoltar comes to life, delivers a few jokes and tells your fortune. Tom Hanks fans will recognize the turban-wearing, mysteriously accented, fortune-teller in the machine as the twin of the wish-granting Zoltar Speaks from 1988's Big. Just be careful what you wish for.

3. ST. PAUL AME CHURCH, 85 M.L. King Ave., St. Augustine; Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center, 102 M.L. King Ave., St. Augustine

During the Civil Rights movement, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent a lot of time in St. Augustine engaging in non-violent protest. He was even arrested and spent one night in jail! Today you can attend a service at St. Paul AME Church, the only church in Florida where King preached, then led a demonstration. Just down the street, tour the Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center, housed in a nearly-century-old former school for black children, to learn more about black history and the fight for civil rights.

4. MIDDEN, 13165 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Arlington

A midden is really just the Native American version of a dump. But 'ancient garbage heap' sounds nothing like the elegant mounds and hills speckled with sun-bleached oyster shells that we know and love. Prior to colonization, midden blanketed the Eastern Seaboard; beginning in the late 1800s, much was cleared away by shell-miners and developers. Happily, it's now illegal to remove midden from public lands; happier still, there are still some left. The 25-foot-tall, 25-acre midden at Fort Caroline, parts of which date back 2,500 years, is our personal fave.

5. A JAIL WITH A VIEW, 500 E. Adams St., Downtown

OK, for serious, Jacksonvillians, whose bright idea was it to build a jail and police station with river views? Couldn't that real estate have been better used for damn near anything else? Oh, it was convenient to the riverfront courthouse? Who the hell thought it was a good idea to build a riverfront courthouse!? But we digress. Another awkward fact about Duval County's cop & con campus: Liberty Street dead-ends into it. Irony much?

6. FERNANDINA BEACH PINBALL MUSEUM, 2106 Sadler Rd., 435-8424

If you got crazy flipper fingers, get your wizard ass to the Fernandina Beach Pinball Museum posthaste. Arcade owner Tim Trickett (pictured) says his machines don't accept quarters, though-it's one admission price for unlimited play on a variety of machines; some classic, some new, some kiddie ones, most based on TV shows or movies. (Yes, Star Wars is there—no fear.) Some of the pinball games are state-of-the-art, some are simple, unsophisticated toy-like constructs. But all await the rapid digits of pinball freaks, in Fernandina's Sadler Square. Plus, you gotta admit, there's something fabulously fitting that the owner's name is Tim Trickett.

7. REX THE BEACH BOULEVARD DINOSAUR, 10150 Beach Blvd., Southside

No list of 904 weirdness is complete without Duval's most hilarious mascot: Rex the Beach Boulevard Dinosaur, for decades a beloved fixture of Goony Golf Course. When a developer thought to tear him down, locals lost their ever-loving minds. Hence Sexy Rexy got an updated look and today reigns as the orange king of a strip mall that includes a head shop, a Cuban bakery, a pool hall, an Asian market and an Auto Zone. His glowing red eyes beckon hooligans from nearby Sin City to stop in for a spell.

8. ZINES

Analog is back, baby. As zinester Hurley Winkler wrote in a December cover story, the "Zine Scene" is blasting off. Topics covered vary widely-sex, skateboarding, motorcross, coming-of-age, to name a few-but all have a DIY ethos, commitment to creative craft and, our personal fave, love of the printed word in common. Check out the Main Library's first-of-its-kind in the Southeast zine collection.

9. THE FLORIDA THEATRE GHOST CHAIR, 128 E. Forsyth St., Downtown, 355-2787

Section 500, Row E, Seat Two. Bumbumbumbuuuummmm. Steve Christian and Pamela Theresa, of Local Haunts, went Downtown to The Florida Theatre, a 'fantasy architecture' building on the National Register of Historic Places, in 2010. Caught on film is an apparition of a man sitting in that exact balcony chair, scratching his head or waving as he watches the performance. Psst: We hear the theater offers tours now and again.

10. THE FLORIDA NILE

Even with the best of intentions, over time, most of us become numbed to the majesty of the St. Johns River. The lack of public access points, boat ramps and docks doesn't help. But every list of strangeness unique to our corner of the peninsula must include the 310-mile-long St. Johns River, the longest in the state and which, like the Nile, flows north. Designated an American Heritage River in 1998 (you hear that, JAXPORT?), the river is home to dolphins, manatees, shrimp, oysters, gators, fish, snakes, turtles and various waterfowl (and perhaps a few rednecks and watermen/women).

11. THE FIRST COAST SISTERS OF PERPETUAL INDULGENCE, ABBEY OF THE SEVEN BRIDGES

These sacred jesters appear dressed in black and plaid, with white-painted faces and the occasional elaborate, be-feathered chapeau. They are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a "leading order of queer nuns" that got started on Easter Sunday in San Francisco in 1979. Here in Jacksonville (in the present), they're often spotted at The Metro Entertainment Complex or advocating for LGBTQIA/human rights, such as the 2015 "Come Get Married in Hemming Park!!" mass wedding (pictured) celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriage. They're always up for a good time, but they're here to serve. Praise and glory indeed.

12. 501ST LEGION

Four words: Storm Troopers in Kilts. That's really all the deets you need tounderstand why 501st Legion is one of our favorite local oddities. It would be cool enough that our newest nerd heroes wear awesome costumes and parade about, like at the Celtic Festival, but it's straight up next level that they also do it for great causes, like neurofibromatosis fundraisers and charitable events for rescue animals. Big <3 and bigger light saber salutes to 501st Legion: Florida Garrison, Squad 7!

13. EVERGREEN CEMETERY, 4535 N. Main St., Springfield

Founded in 1880, this landmark graveyard sports some of NEFLa's most recognized names (what's up, Isaiah Hart?) in a setting so serene and dripping with Spanish moss, it looks like a scene out of Scooby Doo. At Evergreen Cemetery you'll find the graves of slaves and freedmen, Confederate and Union soldiers, Muslims and Jews. Wandering around, squabbling over mausoleum designs and contemplating eternity is a lovely way to spend an afternoon with your best friend(s).

14. CUMBERLAND ISLAND

 If you've read Wuthering Heights more than once (guilty), or have a fondness for pilgrimages to special spots, we humbly submit that the mysterious and beautiful Cumberland Island is well worth the drive to St. Marys and the short boat ride to get there. Pack a picnic lunch and dine in the shade of Dungeness, the Carnegies' ruined summer home, then walk on the beach and commune with wild horses (not too close, now). There's primitive camping available if you're interested in more than a day trip, and if you're feeling splurge-y, check out the Greyfield Inn for a stay in quasi-isolated splendor.

15. SWAMP HIPPIES

Instead of laurels in their hair, Swamp Hippies wear sunny crowns of marsh marigolds, often go barefoot and, in lieu of paved streets, seek isolated islands. OK, we can't confirm the marigolds, but Swamp Hippie is a thing: The creation/ethos/brand of Curtis McCarthy (pictured), a former photographer and real estate salesman who adopted the moniker after Gullah Geechee residents of Sapelo Island called him just that. It started as a joke and became an opportunity to build the kind of commune-centric culture he's interested in. McCarthy has plans to build something on Sapelo Island, but for now, he and other "hippies" can often be found at Live at the Blue Door in Brunswick.

16. BLACK ROCK BEACH

If you've ever been to a student photography show in NEFLa, chances are you've seen photos of the epic live oaks scattered across a beach that looks equal parts moonscape and Hawaiian retreat. Part of Big Talbot Island State Park, at Black Rock Beach, magnificent hulks contrast black, volcanic-looking rocks, which are actually made of sand and decayed leaf material from the forest abutting the beach. The shore is an easy half-mile from roadside parking, but the bluff requires a bit of a scramble down. Also, dogs aren't welcome because of nesting birds: If birds even smell dog, they abandon their eggs to boil in the sun! Pro tip: Check a map before heading there for the first time.

17. AMERICAN BEACH, 1600 Julia St., Fernandina Beach

This beach was once the only one in Florida where black Americans were safe and welcome. Founded in 1935 by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, American Beach on Amelia Island is currently in flux-from a modest community with sweet little 1930s-style bungalows to something that more closely resembles the Mc-architecture of the wealthy dune dwellers flanking it. However, thanks to opera-singer-turned-environmentalist MaVynee Betsch, aka "The Beach Lady," the beach's most striking feature, a huge sand dune she called NaNa, is now a protected part of the National Park Service. It took an act of Congress! Much of the community's history is preserved in American Beach Museum, just down the road from the Atlantic's lapping waves.

18. THE 5 POINTS LIGHT

Say a prayer to all the gods that ever were and ever will be as you, fair driver, enter the intersection in Riverside's 5 Points. Whatever else you do, keep to the damn right. The "not-quite-roundabout, not quite a five-way stop," anchored with a stand-alone flashing light installed about 100 years ago, is slated for a $4 million upgrade, and business owners and sentimental Riversidians aren't too happy about it. Businesses are worried about foot traffic, while the old guard is reluctant to see the odd little light go away; as Bill Bishop noted in 2016, it's "the 5 Points trademark." Chances are, no matter the resistance, change is on the way, even if that way is the long way round-about.

19. SPOKEN WORD COMMUNITY

T.S. Elliot wrote: " ... poetry can communicate before it is understood." That succinct summary helps explain the persistence and vitality of our local poetry scene. With voices like Ebony Payne English, Cheech Forreign, Nikesha Elise Williams, Johnny Masiulewicz, David Girard, Tim Gilmore, Yvette Angelique Hyater-Adams, Larry Knight and so many more, our minds and our hearts adore being illuminated. For opportunities to see these luminaries, keep an eye on Babs' Lab, De Real Ting Café, Bards & Brews and Chamblin's Uptown.

20. GERM SPIDER DESIGNS

Jeremy Spicer (Best Local Weirdo in our 2017 Best of Jax readers' poll) once said, "I cut up bears in my underwear." The reason: He's The Toymaker and the brains (and needle, glue and pliers) behind creepily cute plush toys that've been, er, retrofitted to fit his vision of a horrifyingly hilarious group he calls "infected toys." They've taken off; he counts Naomi Grossman of TV series American Horror Story as a collector among many more around the globe.

21. SPRINGFIELD SCULPTURE WALK, 204 W. Third St., Springfield

Located in Springfield's Klutho Park, this temporary installation, which includes local and nationally recognized artists, provides our region with a small dose of 3D vibrancy. It feels playful with a few overtones of formalism, creating an intersection of ideas ripe for dialogue. "We want to make city parks inviting, educational and more experiential through the arts," said curator Jenny Hagar. Our personal favorite might be Tower II by Matthias Neumann, yet the work on view varies from realism to whimsy.

22. ED HALL

Jacksonville gem Ed Hall speaks truth to power with editorial cartoons that are funny, accessible and consistently excellent. Even more impressive, dude can draw like a demon. As exquisite as his line quality is, in all honesty, our favorite thing about Mr. Hall, who's among those "cartooning for peace," is that he is a straight-up, 100 percent, genuinely kind person.

23. ROMANCE WRITERS

Admit it. You claim to read only nonfiction, scholarly tomes. But late at night, you grab Danielle Steel's Sunset in St. Tropez and settle in for ... romance! (Steel is the best-selling author alive. ALIVE.) Not sure if Ms. Steel was in one, but two local writer groups help elicit the Danielle in all of us. The local chapter of Florida Romance Writers, Ancient City Romance Authors' mission is 'to assist aspiring and published authors in the advancement of their romantic fiction genre careers.' An affiliate of Romance Writers of America, First Coast Romance Writers host published writers at monthly meetings, 'promoting excellence in romantic fiction.' And pro tip: Whatever you do, don't begin sentences with "And ... ."

24. ST. AUGUSTINE PIRATE MUSEUM, 12. S. Castillo Dr., 877-467-5863

Pat Croce-sports medicine guru, NBA team owner, author, businessman-has been into pirates (à la Errol Flynn in Captain Blood) for decades; he ran a museum in the Keys dedicated to high seas swashbucklers. Pat and wife Diane moved it all to St. Augustine in 2011, setting up 'right at the bay where [Sir Francis] Drake sailed in.' The Ancient City is ideal for displaying rare artifacts, like treasure chests and Jolly Roger flags, plus interactive exhibits. The state even lent Croce treasures gleaned from galleons lost to the briny deep, recovered by adventuring SCUBA divers. Weird family fun!

25. MYSTERIOUS GRAVE AT FORT CAROLINE

A year before his 1970 death, Willie Browne bequeathed his family land to The Nature Conservancy in what is one of the greatest gifts a local ever gave the people. Today he and a few friends and family are buried in a small plot on the trails at the Theodore Roosevelt Area at Timucuan Preserve. Along the steepest, narrowest section of trail lies another grave, that of Sgt. John Nathan Spearing (1812-1879). We regret that Spearing served in the Confederate army, specifically the Eighth Florida Infantry Regiment, which was part of Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, and can only hope that, if he did believe in the "cause," the years after the war inspired a change of heart. Nevertheless, the mystery and intrigue of his lonely headstone captures our imagination. We've heard Spearing came to be buried there because he was friends with the family. But something tells us there's more to the story...

26. ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE GHOST, 81 Lighthouse Ave., 829-0745

It's still up in the air (see what we did there?) whether or not there are any spirits wafting through the St. Augustine Lighthouse, but Dark of the Moon ghost tours are offered, so there must be something going on there. Since the structure became an official lighthouse in 1864 (several earlier towers stood on or near the same site), keepers and/or their relatives have died there, so it follows that specters are said to have evolved from those sorrowful events. Find out for yourselves.

27. CRYSTAL FLOYD RECORDING STUDIO DIFFUSER WALL ART INSTALLATION, Bear Machine Studios, Riverside

If ever there were an artistic case of under-promising and over-delivering, Crystal Floyd's sound diffuser wall for musician Radical Face's (Ben Cooper's) Riverside Studio is a masterpiece of assemblage and wit. With surprising details like working lighting and an infinity mirror diorama television screen, it is one of our city's subtle wonders. The installation, like Floyd herself, makes living here even richer.

28. JUMBO SHRIMP, Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds, Downtown, 358-2846

These days, the team that trots out onto the much-beloved Bragan Field is wearing a different stripe, so to speak. After buying the Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball team, Ken Babby gave the team the mascot equivalent of an extreme makeover: renaming them the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Pandemonium ensured, which ultimately ended with the vast majority of locals wholeheartedly embracing the delightfully campy and whimsical mascot, no matter what he's doing to the state of Florida on those t-shirts.

29. SHAUN THURSTON'S JAGUAR MURAL, 1 Everbank Dr., Downtown

Bad news, art nerds: You're now essentially obligated to begrudgingly cheer for the Jags. No, not because they made it to the AFC Championship (that's a tournament-a big one), but because Duval's hometown team has shown its support for local artists by commissioning a gorgeous 12-foot-by-10-foot painting of a Jaguar by your very own Shaun Thurston (pictured). The mural is now home at EverBank Field. Rawr!

30. NORMAN STUDIOS, 6337 Arlington Rd., 742-7011

In the way back of the Roaring Twenties, local, white filmmaker Richard Norman blazed a trail making movies with black actors in non-stereotypical roles. Decades before Hollywood got a clue, an evolution that is still not complete a century later, Norman made a movie inspired by the first black female aviator (The Flying Ace), another starring and featuring the man who invented bulldogging aka steer wrestling (The Bull-Dogger), and a romance on the South Seas with an all-black cast (Regeneration). Today Norman Studios on Arlington Road is on the U.S National Registry of Historic Places and listed as one of Florida's Historic Landmarks.

31. FOLIO WEEKLY

Did you really think we were going to skip Folio Weekly? No way! If only for the sheer numbers of weirdos who've rolled through our doors as part of the staff, a tradition that happily continues to present day, your favorite alt weekly belongs on this list. Every week, we're proud to give voice to the strange, kooky, cool, amazing and super-talented writers, artists, mouthpieces, pot-stirrers and passionate advocates who make you come back for more heaping helpings of strange on the regular.

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