John Preble, UCM Museum, aka the Abita Mystery House

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  • Location:

    Abita Springs, Louisiana, USA (Map)

  • Status:


  • Artist:
  • Built:

    Opened 2000

Visiting Information

The Abita Mystery House is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm for a donation of $3.00.

About the Artist/Site

The UCM Museum (Unusual Collections and Minitown, pronounced “you-see-em-mu-se-um”), also known as The Abita Mystery House, is a family-operated roadside attraction located in an old 1950s car service station in a small town about an hour north of New Orleans.  The museum was opened by John Preble in 2000.  Preble had received traditional training as a painter, and had gained recognition in the art world for his portraits of Créole Indians, but he chose to focus on work outside of the mainstream after a visit to Ross Ward’s Tinkertown Museum in New Mexico. (The Tinkertown Museum features miniature, animated wood carvings in dioramas depicting scenes of Southwestern life.) Preble was so inspired by Tinkertown that when he came back to Abita Springs he wanted to create something similar, but using motifs and images relevant to Louisiana.

Preble’s Minitown consists of such Louisiana-themed scenes as “New Orleans Jazz Funeral,” where you press the button and spooks jump out of the coffins and brass bands float through the speakers, and “Martians Come to Mardi Gras,” where the French Quarter crowd lets the good times roll while a UFO spins happily in the background.

Aside from the Minitown exhibits, the museum is a Victorian style cabinet of curiosities, channeled through twentieth century pop culture, and it represents decades of Preble’s collecting activities.  Historic vintage objects and cultural detritus such as a large paint-by-numbers collection, surrealistic early twentieth-century postcards, and an assortment of barbed wire fences are just a few of the 50,000 items lining the walls of the main exhibition space.  Not to be missed are Preble’s taxidermy inventions, which include a Fiji mermaid and a 30-legged alligator. There is also a real live alligator snapping turtle that lives in a small pond by the front door.

Outside are large scale installations including the giant fish/alligator hybrid construction “Buford the Bassigator.” a former Mardi Gras parade float made from spray-foam installation and foam rubber; The House of Shards, a stucco structure with inlaid glass and ceramic found objects placed in mosaic patterns; The Hot Sauce House collection of Tabasco products; and a vintage trailer that has been impacted by a flying saucer that crashed into its roof.

As well as serving as an exhibition space for Preble’s collections and inventions, the property also includes a Créole cottage used by the Northshore Art Academy, a program that hosts art classes for both adults and children.

The Abita Mystery House is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm for a donation of $3.00. It is located at 22275 Hwy. 336 in Abita Springs.


~Irene Rible

Map and site information

Abita Springs, Louisiana, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 30.478526 / -90.037575

Visiting Information

The Abita Mystery House is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm for a donation of $3.00.


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