Muffler Men: Crystal Lake
Although Muffler Men are much more plentiful than their female counterparts, the UniRoyal Gals, or other fiberglass giants such as Big Johns, they’re still pretty scattered around the country. I doubt I’ll ever see them all—not for lack of trying—but I feel as if I’ve hit the roadside jackpot when I can cross more than one off my list at once.
Crystal Lake, Illinois, a suburb about an hour northwest of Chicago, used to be home to three Muffler Men—two Bunyans and a Native American (only my second time seeing this variant). One of the Bunyans is not currently on display, but getting to meet two new Muffler Men at once was a treat. It was also my friend Francesca’s first time seeing a roadside giant in person, and it’s always a thrill to be able to see things from a fresh perspective.
You can’t be my friend and not at least acquire a cursory understanding of roadside attractions, but she was still surprised at how detailed they were—which proves that there really is no substitute for visiting places and seeing things in real life. Both Muffler Men are mysteriously missing their feet (and wearing the same mustard-colored pants), but they’re otherwise well-cared for. The Amish-style beard is a bit of a head-scratcher, but I love painted details like the hint of plaid, the crossed suspenders and the knuckle wrinkles.
Both of the big statues that currently reside at The Greenhouse of Crystal Lake originally stood at the Ozzi Waterpark in Palatine, Illinois. The waterpark closed in the early 2000s and the property was sold to build a new retail strip mall. I’m not sure how the giants came to reside at the Greenhouse, 30 minutes northwest of their original home, but I’m glad their philosophy appears to be, if one Muffler Man is good for business, two is even better.
The Greenhouse of Crystal Lake
4317 S IL Route 31
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Even if the greenhouse itself is closed, you can still see these guys by pulling into the parking lot.