Leave it to me to dig up the dark side of sunny Arizona.
Most visitors are oblivious to AZ's kooky, spooky attractions such as a monster theme restaurant, body modification studio, and New Age alien shops.
Located east of Phoenix, Mesa takes pride in its offbeat boutiques and rainbow street art. I saw Day of the Dead skulls and a Salvador Dali-esque melting mural on my downtown walk.
On August 24, the horrifying Monsterland Bar & Grill (18 W. Main St, Mesa, AZ) re-opens. This cavernous theme restaurant is filled with life-sized monsters like Frankenstein, some of which lurch out unexpectedly at customers. Special events include costume parties and "Scary-aoke." Order the "Children of the Corn Balls" and bat wings if you dare.
Sedona is known as a landing ground for UFOs. To get here, we drove north about three hours from Phoenix, and found ourselves surrounded by outer-worldly red rock. Along the way, we spotted homes designed like spaceships.
I didn't have any close encounters, but saw alien statues outside the Center for the New Age (341 Hwy 179, Sedona, AZ). The store offers vortex tours, aura photography, palm reading, healing crystals and other spiritual services.
As Leon put it, "Sedona is a place that encourages people to look upward." We went inside the Chapel Of The Holy Cross (780 Chapel Rd, Sedona, AZ), a simple but powerful place of worship. The Catholic church's windows burst with light, reflecting the red mountains and the shape of a cross.
The Goth scene is intimate and welcoming at Club Sanctum (4343 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ). My guides and I drank absinthe, and danced to 1980s darkwave. Despite the dark dress code, DJ Apollynon kept the atmosphere warm with on-the-floor interaction and music requests. Sanctum plays Gothic-alternative tracks every Saturday, and has a monthly Industrial Aggrotech event.
Phoenix is also home to Steve Haworth's body modification studio, where you can insert magnets in your fingers, or silicone horns in your forehead. I interviewed him about the future of extreme body mods on Huffington Post.
Did you expect Arizona to have such spooky culture? Would you visit the monster-mash restaurant featured in the video?
Music composed, arranged, and produced by Leon Lindon. Music performed by the Lindon Automata.
For more alternative travel tips, take a look at La Carmina's city guides.