Buena Vista, Georgia
We first heard about Eddie Martin and his folk art palace "Pasaquan" from some of our older relatives in Columbus, Georgia. Their recollections were alluring:
"That fellow, 'Pasquale' they called him, used to come into town dressed like a wizard."
"They say he danced naked on top of the Empire State Building."
"He trained snakes to guard his home."
"He let his mule starve to death, because the mule wouldn't go into the barn with all the crazy mirrors and wild colors."
Eddie Owens Martin was born outside of Buena Vista, Georgia, in 1908. When he was 14 he ran away to New York City. Former (now deceased) Pasaquan site supervisor Gwen Martin told us that he worked as a waiter, a bartender, "studied dance, was a male prostitute, got into the drag queen scene... later he was a pimp and ran a successful gambling house." He also traveled as a merchant seaman to distant ports, but he regularly came home to help his family harvest the cotton crop.
When his mom died in 1957 Eddie returned for good -- because people from the future told him to.
Eddie later said that he'd been sick with a fever when he was visited by three very tall humanoids from the future world of Pasaquan. They chose him, they said, to be their envoy, "St. EOM," the only Pasaquoyan of the twentieth century. Eddie's job was to go to Georgia, make art, and live his life in a way that would show people how wonderful the future would be.
For the next 30 years Eddie did just that. He built room after room onto his mom's little farm house, furnishing it with paintings and sculptures of multi-colored Pasaquoyans in their anti-gravity "Power Suits." He covered the outside walls with mystic symbols, and filled the surrounding seven-acre compound with cement totem poles and lots of big heads, all brightly decorated with Sherwin Williams house paint. He used hubcaps and Tupperware as molds for the stucco insets in his undulating brick and concrete walls.
As St. EOM, Eddie wore serapes and necklaces; turbans, feathered headdresses, and pointy coolie hats. He braided his beard with corks and beads. He never paid taxes, and earned money by telling fortunes. Allen Woodall Jr., owner of the Lunch Box Museum in Columbus, recalled driving out to Pasaquan to have his fortune told in 1962. "You'd park outside and beep your horn," he said. "If Eddie wanted to work that day he'd wave you in." Allen paid ten dollars, and Eddie's predictions for him all came true.
If you visit Pasaquan today, Eddie won't be around -- he shot himself in 1986. But the "Bodacious Mystic Badass of Buena Vista" has left behind plenty to interpret. His sprawling art site and home makeover still stands, tended by volunteers from the Pasaquan Preservation Society, visited by countless fans despite the local highway departments tendency to remove its directional signs.
Visitors enjoy the weird energy of Pasaquan, although it's probably a fraction of what was generated by the live Eddie experience.
Folklorist Fred Fussell, who gives tours of the site, said that, "Some people come here and say, 'I can't deal with this!' They just kind of freak out; the vibes are too much for them." As for the guides, "It's like The Shining," he said with a smile. "You spend time here, you start developing personality quirks."
Pasaquan is equal parts mysticism, geometry, and snake handling. Eddie's amateur concrete work is crumbling in spots, there are holes in the floor of the house, his paints are fading. But the preservationists have repaired areas damaged by neglect and weather, and plan more improvements to keep Eddie's vision in good shape.
Eddie's glorious future has thus far gone underappreciated, but perhaps some day we'll tour Pasaquan as we levitate in our Power Suits. Either that, or the Pasaquoyans will have to canonize a new saint to carry on the mystic badass work.