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Occasionally, one just stumbles across a very odd site that you have trouble putting into context. Such a thing happened to me yesterday when traveling on rural Indiana State Route 262 near Dillsboro, Indiana. At first my mind was just focused on getting home and it barely registered in my mind that I had just passed an "elephant." But sure enough I had. I hit the brakes and turned around. It's not everyday, after all, that you seem an elephant: real,imaginary, or fake just sitting in a field. What IS this gentle giant? And how did it get there? And why is it here? The life-sized mock pachyderm is sitting behind a chain-link fence, sitting atop a flat-bed trailer. The area is fenced off and appears to be abandoned. A couple of low-slung buildings on the property seem vacant. yet this elephant must have a story to tell. Someone out there knows. Why is this elephant here and where did it come from? Kind of sad to see such a regal creature that probably brought a lot of joy to people in whatever capacity it was used in just sitting abandoned.....
UPDATE: One of our readers from Dillsboro didn't have specific information about the elephant (maybe that it was once used in parades), but he said the property was part of an old missile base during the height of the 1950s Cold War. The base was decommissioned at some point and the property is now in private hands. That just sort of deepens the mystery for me of what this elephant's story is and what its sad, cartoonish eyes are saying....
In the 50s it was a NIKE missile base, and has been in hands of private owners for many years. There is a large underground area with massive elevator (for missiles I presume). One owner stored cars underground. The elephant appeared in a few parades, I believe, probably in election years. He has been standing there for quite some time. I don't know current owner or any details.
Thom, thank you for that..very interesting...mystery partially solved...although still would be interesting to know more about the elephant and how it came to be there....Didn't know there was ever a missile base in Dillsboro!
The property and elephant belong to a relative of mine. I can't say why the elephant came about but it has been around for probably 35 years or so.
The previous person was correct about storing old vehicles in a bunker and another was turned into a house that was featured in several magazines. The elephant may be discussed there.
These are all such interesting comments. Thank you for sharing. I take it we have some people from Dillsboro who saw the post somehow? The elephant being part of an old traveling carnival sounds really neat, I'd love to hear more about that....Yes, Sarah, if you could ask your father and found out more info about the elephant, that'd be great...I'm sure our readers would be interested! Or at least I would be:)
David, Thanks, I'll have to maybe track down those magazine articles!
There are underground silos I believe one have been turned into a home. I know at one point in time the owner had quite a few corvettes an had it set up like a museum an done tours as far as the elephant it's been there as long as I can remember and I'm 32.
The property is far from abandoned even though it appears it is. There are still cars stored in the buildings there. Every now and again you will see different cars sitting outside. The elephant, I believe was property of one of the owners and stored inside. When the property changed hands it was sat outside. Many many years ago it was painted very nice. The years outside have taken its tole
I am going to have to look into this as I am from Dillsboro and have never heard about Carni's living there. My grandmother is like a history book of the area so she may have info on this. There is also another similar property off of Texas Gas Rd. just a few miles outside of Dillsboro off of Highway 50.
My dad purchased the base over 30 years ago. Some of the buildings contained cars amongst other things but back to the mystery of the "Elephant". My dad bought it and brought home after my mother was upset and didn't want it is exactly why he bought it! I die laughing about it every time I see it..my mother's look on her face when we went by it riding horses was priceless. Guess my dad keeps it to remember my mother by since she has passed away.
Thanks for stopping by. How did you see our post? And thank you for the story about the elephant. Do you know any of the elephant's "backstory" such as where he bought it? How old it is? Definitely a fun landmark along a kinda boring stretch of 262! - Kevin
My parents were out shopping one day, which they both loved various and oddity things. All I know is my dad had to have it and my mother said she didn't want a pachyderm. I believe it was bought from an individual in Versailles on what I can recollect. Heard it was used in Bluegrass concerts in the past. I saw this post on Facebook and after reading some of the comments some of the people would like to know about the story behind the Elephant. It was truly nice seeing the pictures..brought back memories.
I know the owner of the NIKE base. He is an interesting person and a family friend (and a distant cousin by marriage). He has a collection of oddities but this one if i remember correctly was used in the Dillsboro parades and at one point for advertising his business. Though that was before i came about. It has been there for as long as i can remember and will forever be a part of my childhood along with the NIKE base itself.
I can inquire with my father on further information if you would like. I'm sure he wouldn't mind.
The Mystery Elephant was made back in 1969 or 1970 by my Dad & a friend of his, Terry Garvin. They made it for Terry's Mom who was running for governor. They used it as a political piece in a parade in downtown Cincinnati. It was later sold at an auction. The guy that owned the base in Dillsboro bought it.
Ah-ha! Thanks, Melinda, I was trying to put an age on the elephant, and we have one now...Such a neat story and a neat elephant...hope it is a welcoming beacon for Dillsboro for years to come.
Some that have already commented would probably know if this is true or not, but I have heard that the owner that built the underground house was trying to hide it from the government for tax reasons. I always thought it was an interesting place regardless and have always been curious so thanks for the article.
Liz, the underground silo was part of the Nike (military) base. The person who bought it made a nice home and a place to work on his cars in the silo. A while back there was a huge article with pictures about him and his accomplishments in a magazine/newpaper. (forgot which)
As the admin of the Dillsboro Indiana Facebook page, I put this article on the Dillsboro page and have gotten many comments and likes. Thanks to my friend Thom (commented above) who had posted it on his FB page. As an 'almost' lifetime resident of Dillsboro, I find the comments above are true. A comment from a friend of the current owner today said that Mr. Whisman said he went to purchase a car and when that failed, he said he wasn't going home without 'something'. I was a teen in the late 1960's and the Nike base was still active. The town had many soldiers 'come to town' or lived in town. It closed sometime between 1970 and 1974 and was sold in two parcels to different people I believe. The one with the elephant is on State Hwy. 262....the other part is on Texas Gas Road with the address technically in Aurora, IN.
PS: This article has gone wild with shares on FB. I know 19 people have shared it since I posted it 24 hours ago and there are many people who have shared from those 19!
Gayla - Well, thanks, that may explain the traffic crush...Amish365.com is a busy site most days anyway, but, sheesh, the elephant story crushed anything Amish I've ever written about....I know little about Dillsboro other than passing through on 50...Thought there was a Red Wolf Santuctary or something like that in your area that I've always wanted to visit...but thanks to all for the great info!
Sherry Evans DeMoss
The Mystery Elephant was made back in 1969 or 1970 by my Dad & a friend of his, Terry Garvin. They made it for Terry's Mom who was running for governor. They used it as a political piece in a parade in downtown Cincinnati. It was later sold at an auction. The guy , Harold Whisman ,that owned the Army Nike base in Dillsboro bought it. Melinda Goodwin Baxter
Just FYI the Red Wolf Sanctuary was relocated to my hometown of Rising Sun IN on the opposite end of The 262 from the Elephant. I guess they're still giving tours by appointment idk for sure. Also not positive of all they house now but have had bears,cougars,falcons and of course wolves atone time or another. Surely there's a website if ya Google it!
Good to know, Kurt, I guess there's still a lot about SE Indiana I don't know even though it's less than an hour from me!
The sanctuary has wolves 3 of which are new additions and just got released into their new official enclosure, foxes, coyotes, a puma/cougar, 4 black bears, a black vulture, a great horned owl, a barn (or bard i cant remember exactly right now) owl, and a hawk. They give tours by appointment. Paul who owns and runs the place is wonderful though quite odd. Also, they are always in need of donations and/or volunteers to help out.
Sarah, thanks for the info...sounds like it might be a neat place to visit!
The sanctuary is cool to see. But don't expect a zoo like setting. It is built for the animals safety and comfort, not for humans. Sometimes you cant see the wolves and foxes or most of the coyotes (minus snagz, he is always glad to see people due to his being hand raised which was necessary because he sustained injuries that prevents him from being able to survive in the wild.) While you're there ask paul to get them to howl. It is a once in a lifetime surreal experience. I volunteered there for most of a summer and have gone back when i can. It is like a little piece of protected woodlands right next to a town.
Okay, Sarah, I'm sold, I'll have to check it out soon, thanks for the info!:)
Thanks, Sherry, for the insight and for visiting Amish365.com! So what year was the elephant built? And what is it made out of? Thanks for sharing the info!