When my mom and I returned from our South of the Border road trip last year, I discovered that we had been literally ten minutes away from the Farnham Colossi. I obsessively scan maps on Roadside America and elsewhere to plot my road trip destinations but this area has so many states so close together—West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania—that I hadn’t thought to check a WV map. The Farnham Colossi is located in Unger, West Virginia, just over the border from Virginia, and it shouldn’t be hard to see why I planned our entire August road trip around it.
The Farnham Colossi, also called the Farnham Fantasy Farm, is located on the private property of George and Pam Farnham. George, a former DC lawyer, moved to West Virginia in the 1980s. Both George and Pam are collectors—the house and garage are filled with old magazines, nudie calendars and naughty hot sauce bottles. They both also share a love of “big things” and they bought their first Muffler Man on eBay from a Midas muffler shop in California. He’s the first Muffler Man I’ve seen that is actually carrying a muffler, which—despite the name—seems to be rare.
It turns out that rural West Virginia is the perfect place to have a strange collection, "You live in West Virginia and you have no zoning—nobody can say anything!" George says. "So we can get away with it and nobody cares." In 2005 they came across Brian, a "beach dude" statue for sale in Cincinnati. He so big—taller than the 25-foot-tall Muffler Men—that he was moved to the Farnham's property in pieces, on two flatbed trucks.
They added a Big John statue soon after the Brian was delivered, and a (questionably styled) UniRoyal Gal (the sixth I’ve seen) joined their family in 2008. Michelle Sommers, a local artist, works with the Farnhams to restore some of the statues and periodically gives them a fresh coat of paint (her handiwork is particularly noticeable on the totally woke Big John, the second of only a handful remaining that I’ve seen).
The Muffler Men—yes, they have another one in the back of their yard, a plaid-wearing Bunyan with visible chest hair like the Camp Bullowa Bunyan—are anchored in concrete so they’ll be in Unger for a while. On the other side of the house are even more statues, including a roly poly hamburger guy, a train full of Simpsons characters, a small dinosaur, seahorses, a shark and several clown heads.
The Farnham Colossi is probably not a main destination for many people, but it’s a total goldmine if you seek out Muffler Men and other big, fiberglass statues like I do (even if the sun was in an awful position for photos when we arrived). Unfortunately, the Farnhams weren’t home when we visited but, according to a neighbor, they love visitors—which is the only logical position to take when you have such a large, whimsical collection.
The Farnham Colossi
14633 Winchester Grade Road,
Unger, West Virginia 25411