This last week I was fortunate enough to have a chance to meet one of the most singularly fascinating people I have ever known.
In a wooded field, behind a junkyard, off a country highway outside a small Wisconsin town, a man has spent the last 30 years building an extraordinary expression of creativity and artistic vision. The man calls himself “Dr. Evermore”, and claims he is a time-traveler from Victorian-era England. The machine that sits in this pastoral setting is the "Forevertron". The device, according to Dr. Evermore, is designed to transport the operator through "space, time and dimension” by riding on a “magnetic lightning force beam”.
The Forevertron is over six stories high and 120 feet long. It contains features such as the "Overlord Command Tower", the "Gravitron De-Watering Device” (which dehydrates Dr. Evermore to minimize weight prior to his trip), the "Celestial Listening Ears”, the "Tyco Telescope Complex” and other constructions that are intended to allow Dr. Evermore to climb inside a “glass sphere” inside a “copper egg” and travel through the dimensions.
Dr. Evermore is the alter ego of Tom Every, who perhaps invented what is now called “Steampunk” sculpture. The Forevertron, and the hundreds of other found-piece sculpture items scattered throughout the field are the work of a lifetime.
On a rainy Sunday I sat under an army surplus tarpaulin in the middle of Every’s creation and talked with him for the better part of two hours.
Tom Every started collecting surplus pieces and doing salvage work at the age of 14, right after World War II. He approached this work with grandiosity and a sense of self- promotion not often found in the common “junkman". For years he salvaged old factories, decommissioned electrical plants, breweries, generator houses and various other heavy industrial type sites throughout the country.
He made and lost fortunes in this business over the years. At one point he lived in a spectacular mansion with 32 rooms, set high on top of a hill overlooking the Wisconsin River Valley. Not too many years later he was flat broke and living in a trailer. But in true iconoclast fashion, he tricked out his trailer to look like a pirate ship and named it the "Fancy", as he believes he is the lineal descendent of pirate Capt. Henry Every, whose notorious marauding ship bore the name.
In the 1960s, Tom hooked up with famous Wisconsin character/artist/vagabond Alex Jordan, creator of the much celebrated "House on the Rock". Alex Jordan and Tom would form a tempestuous partnership that created many of the spectacularly unique art and sculpture installations at the House.
Tom and Alex had a falling out in the early 80s, at this same time Tom was indicted by the Feds for tax evasion. He had shared Alex Jordan's obsession with the House on the Rock, and had acted as Jordan's chief procurer. In this role he had had little patience for government red tape and regulations in his quest to obtain incredible materials to work into the dream of the House. When the sky started falling, he felt Jordan sold him out. (Having been through something similar, I felt a special kinship with Tom)
He retreated into himself, and awoke his own artistic vision. Over the years he fell farther and farther down this "rabbit hole". His passion became an obsession and he built and built, forging phantasmagoric creations from the collections of his salvage business. He developed the character of Dr. Evermore, and as time passed he became more and more the personification of his 19th-century adventurer.
What he has built is simply extraordinary. The “Forevertron” itself has been described as "the world's largest scrap metal sculpture". The materials incorporated into it are unbelievable. There are original generator dynamos from Thomas Edison's 1885 workshop. There is the decontamination chamber from the Apollo 11 moon mission. There are thousands of fascinating pieces of industrial debris forming a snapshot of the industrial revolution. Tom claims that just the materials themselves are now worth many millions of dollars, but he would never consider selling or breaking up any of his work.
Tom is a happy man; he lives, among his creation, quietly and simply, with his devoted and still beautiful wife of 40 years. He has suffered several strokes, and has complications from diabetes. All the results, he says, of a “lifetime of being a hellion".
Tom Every shows what can happen when you devote yourself unreservedly to a vision. He has created something extraordinary, something that has never existed before and will never be duplicated. He has a lifetime of incredible memories, which bring him the greatest joy to talk about and share.
The man, more than anyone I have met in the past few years, has rejected the common path and forged a new reality for himself. The path he chose was one of great individuality, and as all individualistic people find, the path he chose was difficult. But, he found happiness and he found peace.
Tom is not a well man, and I asked him what he thought would happen to his creation after he passed. He said "I'd love to know what an archaeologist 1000 years from now will think if he stumbles upon the Forevertron, he might find my grave right here under it and think I was a Pharaoh and this a 20th century pyramid. But, who knows, he may find nothing, because, someday I may just decide to fire up the dynamos, power up the grid, focus the beams and bring down the magnetic lightning. I'll take my last trip, and when you look up at the Milky Way, I'll be there."
The Forevertron of Dr. Evermore
Thomas Edison's Dynamos
The Power Transformers
The Apollo 11 Moon Mission Decontamination Chamber. For three days the
home of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, now, a Bug?...
Tom's Trailer and Pirate Ship.
Who knows how much of Tom's work has
already been lost to the enroaching forest.
Tom and me
Dr. Evermore, alone in his world