4 Chicago Attractions You Won’t Find in Your Guidebook

Tsavo lion, tsavo man-eater, Chicago attractions, things to do
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Chicago is full of world-famous attractions, from Navy Pier, to the Art Institute of Chicago, to Millennium Park. Yet the city is also jam-packed with lesser-known attractions, many of which don’t even appear in standard guidebooks.

If you’re headed to Chicago and you’ve got an appetite for something out of the ordinary, try one of these four unusual attractions—you won’t regret it!

Tsavo Man Eaters

Back in 1898—and a world away from Chicago—employees of the British Kenya-Uganda Railway were terrorized by two monstrous Tsavo lions—a maneless species known for its size and, at one point, its appetite for human flesh. Over a period of nine months, 35 workers were eaten by the lions, with some experts arguing that the actual number of casualties could be closer to 135.

Eventually, the workers became so afraid that they refused to continue working until the lion problem was taken care of. Enter J.H. Patterson: a railway engineer who also happened to be an experienced hunter.

Over a period of several weeks, Patterson tracked and ultimately killed the two lions. The second lion required 10 shots to bring down—a testament to their size and ferocity.

“I kept blazing away in the direction in which I heard him plunging about,” Patterson said, recounting the moments after the first bullet hit the second lion. “At length came a series of mighty groans, gradually subsiding into deep sighs, and finally ceasing altogether; and I felt convinced that one of the ‘devils’ who had so long harried us would trouble us no more.”

What does all of this have to do with Chicago? Patterson ultimately sold the remains of the two man-eating lions to Chicago’s Field Museum where, thanks to some expert taxidermy and preservation techniques, they still prowl today—thankfully, with less of an appetite.

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Cosmic Ray Detectors

In an unassuming alley off of E. 56th St, near the University of Chicago, you’ll spot a massive, white object that is initially quite hard to identify. Walk a little closer, and you’ll see the word NASA printed on the object’s side.

What you’re seeing is the remainder of a cosmic ray detector nicknamed the “Chicago Egg,” which took flight on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985 as part of the Spacelab 2 (STS-51F) mission. This 2.5-ton, 12.5-foot tall piece of equipment is among the largest to ever be carried into space by a NASA space shuttle.

In the context of Chicago, this is about as close as you can get to an object that’s been in space without visiting a museum or being hit by a meteor. It’s an absolute must-see for any visiting space buffs.

S–t Fountain

When Artist Jerzy S. Kenar got sick and tired of his neighbors’ dogs defecating on his lawn, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He didn’t complain to the city. He didn’t even post a sign. Instead, he built a sculpture that really needs to be seen to be believed.

Aptly named “S–t Fountain,” this sculpture is essentially a metal turd sitting atop a three-foot sandstone pillar, and was a definite departure for Kenar, who typically specializes in religious and political art.

If it sounds like something you want to see—or you just want to use a few of your favorite bathroom jokes—head over to 1001 North Wolcott Avenue.

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities

We promised you unusual attractions, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Chicago’s Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities.

This bizarre, little shop has been open for business since 2010, and is still going strong today. Wander through its doors and you’ll find an overflowing collection of truly bizarre ephemera and relics ranging from skulls to taxidermy to old skeleton keys to antique medical equipment. The collection has an admittedly macabre tone, but there’s a reason for that.

“We stock these things for a selfish reason: to make ourselves more comfortable with dying,” the shop’s founders told Atlas Obscura.

If this sounds like something you’d like, you can check it out at 1513 West Foster Avenue.

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