I've lamented the pathetic state of American vending machine culture versus the advanced state of Japan's, but as with anything else in this giant and often complacent country, you've got to look at the trees, not the forest.
Specifically, you've got to look at Seattle, a city not just plenty of trees but a fair few interesting vending machines.
You may remember the new Seattle marijuana vending machine recently posted here at Boing Boing, but the Emerald City boasts at least one older and even more compelling example: a haunted one.
You'll find Seattle's "haunted vending machine" in Capitol Hill, not necessarily the first neighborhood in the city that comes to mind when you think of surviving repositories of weirdness, but there it stands nevertheless. I myself encountered this intriguingly freestanding, antiquated, and nearly illegible specimen accidentally, on a search for an Ethiopian restaurant. My subsequent research turned up an article wherein Vice's Hilary Pollack investigates.
"With its sun-bleached buttons and charmingly antiquated Mountain Dew logo, the Mystery Coke Machine has been spitting out sodas on the corner of John and Broadway for upwards of 15 years," Pollack writes, "but no one seems to know exactly for how long—or who re-stocks, maintains, or collects money from the thing. It’s as though it fell out of a wormhole and landed free-standing onto this lonely corner."
Insert your 75 cents — a price only recently upped from 55 cents — and you get "beverages so random that you couldn’t even think of them if you were playing Scattegories. Upon recently bestowing the machine with three dollars, I received a Mountain Dew White Out, a raspberry-flavored Nestea Brisk, a Hawaiian Punch, and a Grape Fanta."
Pollack finds out more about this machine than anyone has before, but the mystery remains essentially unsolved. I like it better that way; as long as the Mystery Coke Machine retains its mystery, it can continue inspiring articles like Pollack's and short films like Marcy Stone-Francois Mystery Soda above. "Someday this too will be the Old Weird America," once tweeted Jesse Walker. "Try to appreciate it now."