WTF Wednesday: The Seattle Gum Wall

Posted on
Jan 19, 2011

Recently, I met up with travel blogger (redacted), who was visiting Seattle with her mom. They were both in town from (redacted), because (redacted) had a (redacted). Sigh. Let’s just call her “Redacted,” okay? And her mom can be Sue. That’s going to make this all a lot easier. (Also, names have been redacted for nothing sinister or bad. Some gals just like their privacy. I can respect that.)

Anywho, Redacted and Sue and I had lunch in the Pike Place Market, and I showed them around the immediate area. We tried to stop by the fish-throwers, who were sadly out closed for renovations (and still are. In 30 years, I’ve never known them to be closed. So sorry about that, ladies). As we were wandering around, I asked if they had seen the gum wall.

They hadn’t. And when Sue asked precisely what it was, and I started to explain, I realized just how ridiculous of an attraction it is.

Seriously, people of Seattle. I love you and all, but WTF?

The gum wall is in Post Alley, a winding mostly-pedestrian street that runs through Pike Place Market. The gum wall resides in a less frequented part of the alley – just south of the brass pig in the market is a narrow stairway that winds down and around. Follow it, and you’ll find yourself in a forgotten part of the market, dotted by a few bars and restaurants, a small theater, and the gum wall.

It kind of looks like a Jackson Pollack. Only grosser.

You can’t actually discern the size of the gum wall from my photos, but it’s pretty darn expansive (this might give you a better idea of the dimensions). And it keeps growing.

Sue was horrified. Redacted was bemused. I was introspective – trying to figured out exactly how and why all this came to be. I’ve seen plenty examples of weird traditions in my travels – people putting their hand into the Boca della Verita in Rome, grooms carrying their new brides up the stairs of the church in Bled, Slovenia (like Rand did to me). Most of them made me smile or shrug. There were few that I could explain – clearly someone just started doing something that would later become tradition. Such is the case with the gum wall – its history is neither miraculous nor logical.

Folk started placing gum on the wall before going into the theater. Theater workers scraped the wall down a few times, but they couldn’t keep up, and eventually the gum wall was born. It’s now … a thing.

I couldn’t give Sue and Redacted a better explanation that that.

Their reaction, and mine, was something along the lines of, “Whoa … Ew.” And later, “WTF”, too.

—————-

I can’t be the only one with something inexplicably weird in their town, right? If you’ve got something incredibly weird to share about your town (or a place you’ve visited), include it in the comments, or contact me about writing a guest post (contact-at-everywherist-dot-com).

Leave a Comment

  • I’m definitely on board with the, “Whoa, ew”, reaction.

    I can’t think of anything we have locally that even remotely compares to the Gum Wall, but with all the Amish horse and buggy’s (buggies? I have no idea) there are some large poop collections along the side of the road and by the hitching posts at the local Target.

    • Everywhereist

      Whoa. Back up. There are HITCHING POSTS AT THE LOCAL TARGET? Can the Amish shop at Target? I just learned something.

      • Yup. At Target. There is even a walk-in stable for inclement weather, I kid you not.

        There is an Amish working farm for tourists right next to Target, they share a parking lot.

        I’ve definitely seen Amish in Target. And the mall. And the grocery store. I’ve never seen them in the bar, but rumor is they make plenty of their own hooch. They get around more than you may think. I hear that some new school Amish even have cell phones (but I do not have solid proof of that).

  • This definitely wasn’t local, I can’t think of anything about my hometown that distinguishes it from any other New England colonial town, but I had a weird experience in Kyoto with a spinning symbolic womb: http://travelingmonkeys.org/2010/12/18/right-round/

  • Nicole

    We have a museum of ham!!!I have photos if you’re doubtful!!

    • Everywhereist

      Nicole – Guest post. Stat.

  • I think San Luis Obispo (just north of my hometown of Santa Maria, CA) also has a gum wall. But I don’t feel like looking it up.

    I did go see what my hometown might have to offer, but all of the tourism/Chamber-of-Commerce sites list places (mostly wineries) that are 15 miles away. My hometown is awesome.

    Santa Maria does, however, host an annual “Beard-A-Reno” every year around rodeo time. http://bit.ly/hLdNcc

    Might be your kind of event.

  • Well, we’ve got the Bush Man in San Francisco…and a whole lot of other weird shit, as you know from all your visits.

    I just spent the weekend in LA and got to experience the Robertson Dancer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhJJauyvxXQ&feature=related) for the first time. Now THAT was a riot.

  • Well, let’s put it this way: I can’t think of anything more revolting than a gum wall that we have here in Burlington. When I think of all the germs in all that saliva….shudder.

  • I love the gum wall.

    The fish-throwers also are closed on Easter Sunday as a couple years ago I tried to take my not-laws to see them, and then we realized it was Easter and they weren’t there.

  • Pingback: The Everywhereist: The Detourist’s favorite travel blog | The Detourist()

  • Andi

    There’s definitely a gum wall in San Luis Obispo. It’s strangely fascinating.

    Love your blog! Found it while bored at work, helps with my slow-paced job.

    • Everywhereist

      Hooray! That’s what I’m here for. 🙂

  • Meg B

    LOVE your blog. I read it at work and gnash my teeth in envy over youre travels. I’m trying to catch up on your archives.

    We have…wait for it because it’s glorious…an exit number 69 for BIG BEAVER ROAD. I kid you not.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rtdphotography/3202672494/

  • UnicodeJoe

    closest thing to that I can think of? In Salt Lake the Computer Bargain Store, run by a guy in his apartment, is the last official Commodore Retailer in the country, and yes, his house is stocked full of Amiga’s and old commodore 64’s.

  • Flea

    We have the International Tow Truck Museum.

    No national tow truck museum would do.

  • Anisa

    We stumbled on the gum wall when we were in Seattle in the 90’s.(or early 2000’s) Boy has it grown since then.

    The only weird “attraction” in my town I can think of is someone bought an old church and turned it into a house and then proceeded to decorate the outside of it with strange huge lifesize paper mache sculptures.

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