North Carolina: Acid Park

My love for legends is double sided. Legends and ghost stories have their way of keeping history alive and in the present. And while most legends have a root, in fact others come strictly from idle adolescent minds. These I can do without. What is known to the teenage populace as “Acid Park”, a local thrill seeking destination in Wilson North Carolina, plays host to exactly one of these kinds of urban legends.

The story begins just like any typical cliché teen ghost story would. A young girl is driving home from the prom, of course. It is the sixties, and she is under the influence of LSD. Just a short distance from her home, she collides with a tree and is killed. Her father, so bereaved over the loss of his only daughter, Valerie, loses his sanity and begins erecting large towers covered in reflectors. The towers made of steel and miscellaneous old parts, are a shrine to his daughters haunting honor. Dare you set foot on this sacred property to get a glimpse of the car that remains “wrapped” around the tree, or the towers and reflectors, you can be sure the eternally grieving father will give chase with shotgun in hand. And he is not to shy to shoot. But, if you happen remain unnoticed until the wee hours of the mourning on prom night, at approximately 2:00 am, you can hear her screams emanating from the twisted charred remains of that terrible accident.

Now, the only problem is “Acid Park” is really Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Farm. And the truth about Vollis and his amazing work is being overshadowed and threatened by this urban legend. Vollis Simpson’s unique career began when he was stationed in Saipan (in the Mariana Islands), during World War II, when he first built a working whirligig to conveniently power a washing machine. After he returned home from the war, Vollis began work with a few of his pals in the 1950's, repairing farm machinery, as well as literally moving houses by dismantling and reassembling them in new locations. By 1985, his partners were ready to retire, and Vollis was left with plenty of time, and turned his attention to a real creative solution. Giant breathtaking whirligigs. “I had to find something that was better than watching television.” he explained in an interview.

Built from all sorts of parts, and discarded items he has bought or acquired, these fifty foot whirligigs are a prime example that one mans junk is truly another mans treasure. And that is exactly what Vollis has turned them into. In 1987, Museums all over the country began including Simpson’s whirligigs in there collections. And in 1996, Vollis Simpson was asked to build whirligigs for the XXVI Summer Olympics, held in Atlanta, GA - which are still on display today. You can find Vollis Simpson's Whirligig Farm on Wiggins Mill Road Lucama, NC (near Wilson), and if you are lucky, he will be there.

Though a man of little words, he delights in visitors who come to see his handy work, and is more then willing to answer any questions you may have. Sure, you can see the old car believed to be the wreckage of that infamous accident, but you would notice, it was no wreck at all. The car has been left there quite a long time ago, and the tree it supposedly careened into, actually grew through the engine compartment. And Vollis Simpson does in fact have a daughter, but she is alive and well.

I love a good ghost story but the life of this wonderful man isn’t over, and should be celebrated. But sadly, Vollis will tell you those adventure seeking, thrill seekers, looking for “Acid Park”, do quite a bit of damage to his work. My hope is that Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Farm will last way after the artist, who is now in his late 80's.

-GhastlyG :July 2008