If you like chickens AND feeling like you’re on the set of a real-life horror movie, then Demolition World is most definitely the place for you. If however, like many normal people, you are creeped out by mannequins under the best of circumstances, then you should avoid this place like the plague. Being the former sort of person, I had an amazing time.
I found about Demolition World by sheer chance; we were planning a stop in Invercargill anyway to break up the long drive from Dunedin to Te Anau (and because the World’s Fastest Indian is there, see bottom of post), and I happened to pick up a tourist brochure on the town the day before that mentioned it (seriously, don’t neglect tourist literature! Sometimes really bizarre places advertise in them that don’t have much of an internet presence); from the scanty description provided, I was most definitely intrigued.
As far as I can tell, a couple who run an actual demolition business used the scrap to build this extraordinarily weird village outside of Invercargill, and you can just show up and walk through it whenever their business is open (they ask for a gold coin donation, meaning $1 or $2, but it’s just a donation box, not someone standing there or something, so no pressure. Though I suppose the mannequins see all. And it’s definitely worth it!). So that’s what we did, despite it being a cold, wet, and windy day, as perhaps to be expected on the south coast of the South Island at the end of autumn (watch yourself though, some of the wooden steps outside the buildings were very muddy and thus slippery, and I almost fell over a couple times).
I’m not really sure what the best way to describe this “attraction” is. My boyfriend kept comparing it to House of Wax, which I have never seen, which is perhaps why I was not freaked out. It is a series of old dilapidated buildings (and one rather nice solarium-type one in the middle, for some reason), arranged in a labyrinthine way, and crammed with mouldy furniture with the stuffing coming out, other random dusty decorations, and the creepiest dead-eyed mannequins you have ever seen in your life, many of them missing heads and limbs (some arranged in tableaux, but many just randomly shoved in wherever there was room). It is most definitely not for the faint-hearted (I say that a lot, don’t I? I don’t know, I’m the kind of weirdo that leaves Halloween decorations up year-round, so I’m not really sure what normies can tolerate. It seems like goths do wedding photo-shoots here though, if that helps to give you some idea what it’s like).
Oh, and there were like 30 chickens (all different breeds, some fancy!) wandering around the place, along with some ducks and one turkey. I like chickens a lot, so I was thrilled (Sainsbury’s is currently selling paper towels with chickens on them, and my boyfriend went out and bought me three packs so I can have the joy of using chicken towels for months!). Scary mannequins AND chickens?! The best!
Really, this is the kind of thing you need to see for yourself. I think I’ve expressed my enthusiasm enough (and I hope the people who are frightened by mannequins stopped reading some time ago). For me, this was by far the best part of Invercargill, and I loved that it was so casual, in that you could just rock up and see it without anyone bothering you (the fact that no one else was around at first definitely added to the unsettling atmosphere). 4/5 for being so damn delightfully weird.
Oh, and about the World’s Fastest Indian I mentioned earlier. In actual downtown Invercargill, there is a department store called E Hayes and Sons that is home to the motorcycle featured in the movie The World’s Fastest Indian (which is completely charming, by the way, if you haven’t seen it. It’s the only time I’ve found Anthony Hopkins adorable instead of creepy). I don’t really care about motorcycles, but I do love that movie (and Burt Munro, as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins), so I wanted to see Burt’s bike whilst we were in town. The shop actually has a fairly extensive collection of vintage motorcycles and cars (for a shop that I don’t think actually sells motorcycles or cars. Unless maybe they do. There was a lot of crap in there), but the only one I really cared about was Burt’s. They have both his actual bike, and one of the replicas built for the film. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way for it (though I might for Demolition World, because it was my kind of bizarre. The kind where everything in it looked like it might come to life and kill you and/or give you tetanus. For real, there was a bed in one of the houses with a lump underneath the covers, and even I was not bold enough to lift the covers and discover what it was), but it was neat to see since we were already there.
Invercargill also has a nice Victorian water tower on the other end of town (and I do mean the other end. We ended up having to drive there as our parking meter would have expired if we’d walked), and is known for a type of sandwich called a cheese roll, which I never ended up trying. Partly because I didn’t see anyone selling them (though apparently chippies have them) and partly because my love of bread and cheese doesn’t quite extend to cheap white bread filled with onion soup mix, evaporated milk, and low-grade “cheddar” (scarcely deserving of the name), but since I’m talking about local curiosities, just letting you know that they exist. And that, finally, is all I have to say about Invercargill.