South Carolina... we have a problem. It seems aliens like to frequent these parts but thanks to Jody Pendarvis of Bowman, the spacemen have a kiosk to help them navigate around our planet. Back in 1994, Pendarvis built the first phase of his 'UFO Welcome Center' in his yard from scrap pieces of wood, metal and fiberglass. In 1999, he believes they came looking for the center but it was not tall enough... so he added on.
Stories and sights like the UFO Welcome Center can be found all across South Carolina. As you drive to your next destination or are out on a weekend drive, consider doing some exploring and you might find a space ship or another country and even God's own healing springs.
If you find yourself traveling down Interstate 26 towards Orangeburg, stop at Bowman and visit the UFO Welcome Center.
The pseudo spaceship was built by Pendarvis in preparation for any alien visit that might take place. I was lucky enough to visit the welcome center on the 10th anniversary of Pendarvis' first alien encounter -- very exciting. He described the encounter as a glowing orb floating all around Bowman but never stopping at the welcome center. Concluding the spaceship was not tall enough, he built on another level and added lights. On summer nights he can be found in the upper portion of the ship laying on his blowup mattress watching the stars through a hole in the roof hoping for another visit.
It is hard to reach Pendarvis and messages left on his answering machine that has a message for any aliens calling, are not returned but it is worth a quick stop at the welcome center for a photo-op. While there, a couple of cars and motorcycles stopped as people got out to get their picture taken in front of the spaceship.
After your alien encounter, take another short drive to Blackville and visit God's Acre Healing Spring.
The land is owned by God himself and according to legend, the spring that flows from the ground has healing properties. The land, originally owned by L. P. "Lute" Boylston, was willed to God after his death so the healing powers of the spring would be free to everyone.
One older gentleman was there filling jug after jug with the spring water. I asked him if he believed the water had healing properties. He said it couldn't hurt to believe in the healing powers, besides the water from the spring tasted a lot better than the water from the faucet at his house.
Others made the same claim as they collected water from the springs. One couple makes a trip to the spring once a week to get water for use at home.
Speaking of drinks, on my way out I spotted a small igloo on the side of the road in Williston. It turned out to be a liquor store. Nothing says cold drinks like an igloo shaped store.
If you have ever wanted to visit Africa but don't like to fly then stop in and visit the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon. A sign out front explains that upon entering the village, you have left the United States... no passport needed. I am not sure if they consider this village an embassy but they believe this is a sovereign nation located along Highway 17 on the way to Beaufort.
My guide, Osun Ede Olusegun, explained the village was founded in 1970 by King (Oba) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I and is home to many families. The compound is a maze of huts, dirt roads and concrete buildings situated on over 20 acres of land in the middle of the forest.
She led me through the different structures used for school or worship and past concrete altars of different gods. Kids ran around and women prepared for a celebration that would take place that night. I did see one man burning trash in the back but the rest of the village was pretty empty and quiet.
I did ask how they were able to establish an African village in the deep south in the early 70s.... Osun Ede Olusegun explained they had to sacrifice many animals to surround themselves with good energy.
That was my cue to exit... though I would like to visit again someday during one of their celebrations.
Not interested in visiting Africa, how about the world's largest fire hydrant? The 39 ft. tall sculpture, 'Busted Plug Plaza,'was made by local artist Blue Sky and sits along Taylor Street in Columbia. The tilted hydrant is obviously a huge draw for large dogs but it is also an interesting piece of art sitting in front of one of Blue Sky's other works, 'Tunnelvision.'
'Tunnelvision' adorns the wall of the Federal Land Bank Building and is a very realistic mural of a road tunneling through a mountain. The artist added a lot of detail to the mural and up close you can see bullet holes in the road sign. Another gentleman there admiring the mural said anyone with a couple of drinks in them might mistake this painting for the real thing and drive right into the building.
That would be pretty darn funny, like a Roadrunner cartoon gone bad.
Sure, South Carolina is full of odd stops but it is not the only state in the nation for visitng unusual sites. On a recent visit to Texas, for example, I found a house completely covered in beer cans. John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer, didn't want to repaint his home so he started covering the exterior in beer cans. Everything is covered in cans and bottles from the fence and mailbox to the house and windchimes.
Or how about Flowerman Cleveland Turner who decorated his home in found objects -- aka trash. Turner sits in front of his home selling flowers everyday and loves to give visitors a tour of his home. His entire home, inside and out is covered in junk items he has collected over time.
South Carolina is full of interesting places I still want to visit. For example, I want to see the Bee City in Cottageville or South of the Border above Florence. Most of these places as well as locations across the United States can be found on web sites like RoadsideAmerica.com.
Have fun, explore and see the other side of South Carolina and America! Been anywhere fun? Tell me about it in the comments or send me an email.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.