I went through the House on the Rock a few years ago and felt I got taken for $20 on the admission (plus additional money on tokens to operate the fake machines). This place is a dreary, dim, endless maze of dusty, worn-out machines and musty carpeting. The few instruments that are real (such as a Welte orchestrion) are generally in poor repair and not being maintained. As others mentioned, many of the homemade contraptions "play" via hidden speakers, accompanied by a wheezy pneumatic or two half-heartedly adding a little movement occasionally. Towards the end of the self-guided tour, you find yourself walking faster and faster as you enter room after room of themed collections... Christmas decorations, cast iron figurines, dolls, electrical equipment, circus memorabilia, horse-drawn carriages, etc. It just goes on and on through a series of metal buildings surrounding the actual house.
The polar opposite of the House on the Rock may well be the Sanfilippo Music Salon
near Chicago, which is not open to the public but which occasionally hosts benefits, tours and special performances. A description found on the web:Jasper Sanfilippo lives in a 64,000-square-foot house in Barrington Hills, with most of his children living elsewhere around the 100-acre estate.
Nearly half of Jasper's house is given over to a grand concert hall, called the Palace Musique, with a 75-foot ceiling decorated in a fairy-tale Second Empire style. It's here that Jasper houses his collection of musical instruments, ranging from a massive old Wurlitzer organ to more than 100 music boxes, automatic pianos and orchestrions, self-contained orchestras in miniature. Many are more than a century old and have been meticulously restored under a music maintenance budget that runs more than $400,000 a year.
The elder Sanfilippo doesn't play an instrument himself. His concert hall has seating for 300 and is the setting for regular performances by guest artists, often for the benefit of local charities such as the Barrington Youth Dance Ensemble, St. Anne's Catholic Church and Hopeful Heart. Jasper's collecting doesn't stop with music: In various barns on his property he also keeps antique locomotives, circus carousels, slot machines, penny arcades, 1920s-era Rolls-Royces and tower bells from old Chicago churches.