Muffler Man: Frankenstein
The first of four Muffler Man that I met on my recent Chicago/Iowa/Wisconsin road trip was this Frankenstein, located in Burbank, Illinois at the Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Center. Haunted Trails is about eight miles east of Historic Route 66, and about 30 minutes southwest of Chicago.
In hindsight, December is probably the worst month to take a road trip because most seasonal businesses are closed and there is very limited daylight. Although Haunted Trails is open year-round, the outdoor part of the park—where the Muffler Man is located—was closed when I arrived. Luckily, a very nice manager opened the gate for me and allowed me all the time I needed to take photos (unluckily, the sun was in the absolutely worst position for photos, but these are the risks you’re traveling with limited time).
This Frankenmufflerman’s origins are a bit of a mystery, but he allegedly came to the Haunted Trails sometime in the 1970s. International Fiberglass—makers of the traditional Muffler Men—went out of business in the early ‘70s, so American Giants theorizes that Creative Display, a fiberglass manufacturer located in Sparta, Wisconsin, used either a Muffler Man mold or parts of an actual Muffler Man to create this variant.
Although at first glance he appears similar to the standard Muffler Men, upon closer inspection you’ll notice some differences. The pants and hand positions are the most Muffler Man-like features, while the head, shoulders and axe all appear to be custom pieces. He has a wonderful, gruesome paint job and the iron bar stuck though his neck is a nice detail.
Haunted Trails is kind of like a creepy Chuck E. Cheese, and although I only took a brief survey of their offerings, I think it’s definitely the kind of place where I would have loved to have my birthday party when I was a kid—or, even now. I also loved the several screaming ghost trashcans that were scattered around and they prove my life philosophy that just because something is utilitarian, doesn’t mean it can’t also be whimsical.
Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Center
7759 S. Harlem Avenue,
Open year-round, but you’ll need special permissions to get up-close and personal with the Muffler Man in the off-season.