Connecticut is a state that has plenty to offer visitors, from gorgeous autumn scenery to freshly-caught seafood plates. However, this New England state also offers attractions that appeal to those who are interested in off-the-beaten-path and even eerie sites. This one-time colony has a long history with urban legends that date all the way back to pre-Revolutionary War times, while the prestige of Yale University makes it a focal point for historical possessions.
In Connecticut, you can find bizarre and otherworldly places to visit all across the state, so if you're driving from one end to the other, leave time for these outlandish detours.
Cushing Center, New Haven
Some of the world's best minds have come out of the Ivy League school Yale University, but the Cushing Center on campus brings a whole new meaning to that idea. The Cushing Center, located inside of the Yale School of Medicine Library, holds a collection of human brain specimens inside glass jars; it's like stepping into a real-life science-fiction horror movie.
It may sound creepy, but the exhibit is actually a dedication to Dr. Harvey Cushing, a Yale professor who was a pioneer in neurosurgery. Here you can read Dr. Cushing's manuscripts, watch videos about his work, and see the actual brains that he studied during his tenure. The brains are accompanied by information about the patient and what they suffered, most of which are brain tumors that were inoperable during that time.
Yale students can enter the library with their student ID, but the Cushing Center exhibit is free and open to the public. Ask at the library front desk for a temporary pass, and you can even check the Cushing Center website for guided tour information.
Saw Mill City Road, Shelton
One of the spookiest roads in the state, the single track lane of Saw Mill City Road plots a route through the woodlands near the town of Shelton, just outside of New Haven. Apart from the eerie setting, it's also said that "melon heads" inhabit the area—small humans with big heads who come out at night to attack passersby. The legend says that they're the descendants of a Colonial-era family accused of witchcraft who had to retreat and hide in the woods. After generations of inbreeding, the melon heads are what remain of them. Some locals even refer to the road as "Dracula Drive."
Whether you believe in the folk tale or not, the road itself is still a spooky place to visit at night. For fans of ghost stories and the supernatural, this is a location you won't want to miss.
The Frog Bridge, Willimantic
The Thread City Crossing, informally known as "The Frog Bridge," crosses the Willimantic River in the town of Willimantic, about 30 minutes east of Hartford. While it may seem like just another bridge crossing another river, the Frog Bridge does have one standout feature: At the four corners of the bridge, there are large sculptures of frogs mounted on plinths that are carved to look like spools of thread.
The seemingly bizarre sculptures do have a backstory, which ties in two important aspects of Willimantic's history. The spools of thread reference the city's past as a textile powerhouse in the state, and the frogs allude to a legend in town known as the Battle of the Frogs. In colonial times during the French and Indian War, residents of Willimantic were constantly worried about impending attacks from enemy groups. One June night in 1754, locals were awoken by loud sounds from the distance and the men rushed out with muskets to attack.
In the morning, hundreds of dead frogs were found in a nearby pond. They had apparently gathered in the area because a drought had reduced the nearby water supply, and the sounds of them fighting to the death for water were what the townspeople heard the night before. Over 250 years later, frogs continue to be a symbol of the town.
Beinecke Rare Book Library, New Haven
Another interesting aspect of the Yale University campus is the Beinecke Rare Book Library, which is a treat not only for bibliophiles and lovers of history, but also for those interested in architecture. The windowless building is suspended over the ground by four pillars, and almost resembles a floating monochrome Rubik's Cube.
The most famous book inside the building is one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, of which only 49 exist in the world (it's also a complete version, which is even rarer). Another item that attracts visitors is the Voynich manuscript, written during the early 15th century in a coded language that no one has been able to crack. Professional codebreakers have tried to decipher the meaning of the strange alphabet and unidentifiable plant drawings, but the mystery of the manuscript is what keeps visitors coming back to see it.
The Barnum Museum, Bridgeport
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may have shut down for good in 2017, but you can still get a circus experience at the Barnum Museum, created by and dedicated to the life of founding member P.T. Barnum. Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Barnum lived until his death, the museum displays artifacts and exhibits from the early days of the World's Greatest Show.
Some of the circus' most famous acts live on inside the Barnum Museum, including taxidermied pieces of Jumbo the Elephant and tiny items that belonged to General Tom Thumb, the miniature man. Other highlights include an alleged skeleton of a centaur, a replica of a mermaid, and an actual Egyptian mummy that's thousands of years old. You can also see several possessions of P.T. Barnum himself and items from his grandiose Moorish-style home, Iranistan. The house was located in Bridgeport but burned down in 1857.
The museum is usually open only on Thursdays and Fridays, but admission is free for all visitors.