Hunter S. Thompson
Shrines don’t have to be aesthetically opulent to be important, though. Friends and fans of author Hunter S. Thompson thought it best to glorify the Gonzo journalist with a simple bench in the Snowmass ski area near the writer’s former home in Woody Creek, Colorado. Thompson, best known for his book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and well-played articles in the pages of Rolling Stone, committed suicide at age 67 in 2005. A group called Glorious Leaders of the Underground Movement (or GLUM), in true Gonzo fashion, have enshrined Thompson the same way devotees have remembered others—Bob Marley, John Denver, Elvis—in the wooded areas of Aspen and Snowmass.
Aside from the bench, several surrounding trees are devoted to Thompson as people post a potpourri of items that followers feel best encapsulates the writer’s life, such as bullet shells, mannequin arms and booze bottles hung from tree branches.
Strange Shrines: Amelia Earhart Memorialized Through Pasture
Sometimes it’s the medium that draws the most attention to a shrine. More than 75 years after Amelia Earhart’s courageous attempt to circumnavigate the globe before her plane went missing in the remote waters of the Pacific, the aviatrix remains one of the most famous fliers in American history, male or female. In 1997, artist Stan Herd saw fit to memorialize her with a landscape project in Atchison, Kan., her hometown. The earthworks project covers 42,000 square feet of hillside overlooking Warnick Lake and is most fittingly viewed from an aerial perch. Made of grasses, plants, earth and stone, the portrait required planting 50 tons of stone and 500 rug junipers, among other preparations, into the earth.
Strange Shrines: Thailand’s Fertility Shrine
Shrines and memorials are universal. While Americans tend to build great obelisks and create carved likenesses of their greatest leaders, elsewhere in the world, shrines are used to praise other facets of the human experience. Take what is commonly referred to as the “penis shrine” in Bangkok, which might easily be mistaken for an adult sex store located just behind the city’s Swissotel hotel.
Women have been coming to the sacred area known as the Lingam Fertility Shrine, where they leave behind phallic symbols as a way ensuring fertility, conception and a healthy birth. It’s a pilgrimage that can be traced back for centuries.
The practice stems from a belief in Chao Mae Tuptim, a tree-dwelling spirit who supposedly blesses all of those who pay her a visit. Hundreds of wooden or stone phalli ranging from life size to 7 feet long pepper the area. Perhaps shocking to Western sensibilities, the “lingams”, as the carved artifacts are called, are also seen as a symbol of good luck.
Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Museum
Off the small Caribbean island of Grenada, probably best remembered for a Reagan-era invasion in the 1980s, is a unique composition rated by Travel+Leisure as one of the world’s strangest monuments.
Created by sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor, the series of human figures has one extremely unusual feature: It can only be viewed by divers or passengers in a glass-bottom boat.
What is dubbed as the world’s first underwater sculpture park also serves as an artificial reef and a shrine to conservation efforts to protect the oceans. His site-specific, permanent installations become living works of art as they attract corals, various fish species and other marine life. The installations are also meant to attract tourist and divert them from more fragile natural reefs.