Mondo DC
Mondo DC
An Insider's Guide to Washington, DC's Most Unusual Tourist Attractions
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Welcome to Mondo DC!


Come along on an adventure through the Washington, DC, area’s most astonishing, inspiring, and unusual places. You’ll visit little museums, odd archives, hidden monuments, unusual tours, and roadside art. From the Agnew Room to an insect zoo, castles to catacombs, erotic art to outsider art; gold mines, gargoyles, giants, and ghosts. Plus sex, drugs, guns, anarchy, and much more! These are DC’s secret spots, many unknown even to long-time Washingtonians—each with fascinating stories that come to life when you join the Mondo DC tour.


More than a tour guide, Mondo DC collects the definitive true stories about the oddest and most interesting places in Washington. Go behind the scenes to learn the history, explore the highlights, and hear conversations with key people at each attraction. This book includes 40 articles, covering over 70 sites, including the Squished Penny Museum, Black Fashion Museum, Assassination Archives and Research Center, Joseph Cornell Study Center, National Cryptologic Museum, National Glamour Archives, and the Bull Run Castle. You’ll meet an Awakening Giant, the Queen of the Belly Dancers, a Giant Mermaid, naked mole-rats, Mr. Dixie, and Anarchy herself! There are also special mini-guides to the DC area’s mummies, planetariums, and mini-golf courses. Plus DC’s hidden belly dancing legacy, including a guide to current local restaurants that feature Middle Eastern dance. No other guide offers this level of detail about these amazing attractions—if they mention them at all. Many of these places are covered only in Mondo DC!


Mondo DC will entertain life-long residents, newcomers, and travelers looking to expand their experience of Washington, DC, beyond the Mall and monument core. Cheap dates, family fun, group outings, and private retreats were never so wild!


The author has written about unusual people and places in DC for over ten years for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Bizarre (UK), Pulse!, and other publications. A native Washingtonian, his experiences as a concert promoter, underground musician, and freelance writer frequently bring him face to face with the best and the weirdest DC has to offer.

Watcha gonna see next? A real castle built from scratch by a monomaniac’s bare hands? The “Indian shooting buffaloes” painting that hangs on a Merrifield, Virginia, auto body shop? The tin man costume from Broadway’s “The Wiz”? A portrait of former Vice President Spiro Agnew dressed as a clown? How about opium pipes, real corpses as anatomical models, tiny trees, or tinier zoos? Would you like to type on an old World War II encoding machine once used by real spies? Hunt for ghosts on Alexandria’s King Street, or for monsters in a cathedral? Descend into Roman catacombs without leaving town? Research assassinations, hang out with anarchists, or gape at pin up art?

From the curious to the cultured, the offbeat to the obscure, the Washington, DC, metropolitan area is blessed with many amazing places offering magical journeys and visions. Mondo DC is your private guide to discovering the region’s secret spots often overlooked by standard tour books—little museums, odd archives, hidden monuments, unusual tours, roadside art, and even esoterica. What unites them is a special feeling of uniqueness. Or strangeness. Or obscurity. In any case, the feeling of specialness increases the closer you get. And Mondo DC gives you an unprecedented insider’s view of these attractions, revealing fascinating stories about their history, founders, and collections that even many longtime Washingtonians don’t know.

The smaller operations are labors of love, determined to highlight forgotten cultural activities. Often volunteer run, their hours sometimes are restricted or by appointment only. The larger ones house unusually specialized collections, or a particularly rare and fascinating specimen. The best part? Most are free or low cost. For your convenience, I’ve included contact information, hours, and costs. (As this information can change unpredictably, it’s best to call or check websites to verify it.)

Of course, local treasures like the Smithsonian (the largest museum complex in the world), the National Zoo, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, U.S. Botanic Garden, and the National Aquarium (among others) are chock full of fascinating stuff. These places haven’t been included here (unless they have something truly bizarre) because they appear in standard guides to the area. Nor does this book list restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, or other amenities essential for travelers. Look to more conventional guides for that information.

A quick note on the title. Mondo DC refers to the genre of film documentaries started by Gualtiero Jacopetti’s Mondo Cane in 1962. A montage of odd human and animal behavior from around the world, Mondo Cane (translated from the Italian as “World Gone to the Dogs”) is a bit like a cinematic Ripley’s Believe it or Not. This “shockumentary” spawned a rash of imitators over the following decades, starting with Jacopetti’s own Mondo Cane 2, and including Mondo Infame, Mondo Bizarro, Wild Wild World, Mondo Topless, and Mondo New York. By focusing on the history of the quirkiest places in the Washington area, Mondo DC aims to be as amusing, informative, and stimulating as the best of the Mondo movies.

I’ll be posting updates to this book and new discoveries on the web at If you’ve discovered a Mondo site in the DC area, please let me know. I’m always up for touring!

There are so many great, offbeat places in the Washington, DC, area that you can visit. How many have you seen? Do you know where you’re going?

Tourists, start your engines. Your trip through Mondo DC is about to begin!

Jeff Bagato has written about unusual people and places in Washington, DC, for over ten years for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Bizarre (UK), Pulse!, and other publications. A native Washingtonian, his experiences as a concert promoter, underground musician, and freelance writer frequently bring him face to face with the best and the weirdest DC has to offer.

Currently, he directs the Panic Research Agency (, an umbrella for creative projects including the Electric Possible (concert series for experimental, free improvisation, and electronic music); and the experimental music groups Spaceships Panic Orbit, Violet Panic, and DJ Panic. From 1989-2002, he edited and self-published Mole magazine, which covered underground music, outsider art, crackpot thought, and the counterculture.


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Perfect Bound Softcover
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