02/07/2013 07:05 am ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

The Strangest Towns On Earth (PHOTOS)

Deep in the California desert exists a strange, lawless town, where folks live without running water, yet create outdoor art installations and host concerts.

Slab City, CA, is unafraid to embrace its quirks, and it's one of a rare breed of towns that draw travelers for their novelty factor at a time when the world feels increasingly homogeneous, teeming with high-rises and chain stores. After all, we're not talking about just an offbeat tourist attraction; these places take strange to a whole new level.

Consider Thames Town: the Chinese knack for knockoffs has spawned this full-on replica of an English town in a suburb of Shanghai, complete with cobblestoned streets and red phone booths. Have a pint at the pub, post the photo to Facebook, and your friends will be none the wiser.

While every town has a story, these strange spots have the best punch lines.

--Alison Lowenstein

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