You’ve heard me say over and over again that there’s a museum for anything and everything in this country. It’s all part of what makes road trips across America so much fun – stumbling upon places like Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania – 12 miles outside of Gettysburg.
Ed Gotwalt began his collection after his sister-in-law gave him an elephant as a wedding gift many years ago. “What am I supposed to do with this?” was his initial response to the bizarre present. “She told me it was for good luck”
As the months went by, other elephants caught his eye and he started adding them to a collection. Friends and co-workers started picking up elephant related trinkets and toys for Gotwalt while on vacation or shopping. “It was weird. Our house was covered in elephants. Even the bathroom. My wife said you need to find a home for all of these things and this isn’t the one.” So, “Mr. Ed” created a museum to showcase the thousands of elephant related items he has in his collection. Originally he charged .50 cents but quickly changed his mind after feeling guilty for charging people to see things that had been given to him as gifts.
Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum has now been open for more than 40 years.
People send him items all of the time or even bring him their own collections from all over the world. Looking around the quirky road side candy store and museum – there’s literally no room left to squeeze in a single extra elephant. Walking into the room with glassed-in display cases covered from floor to ceiling in elephants – was bizarre to say the least. They were everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Mr. Gotwalt made the collection go from bizarre to charming in a matter of minutes. He was humble, so thankful and repeated the line “everything in my life has been good” more than once. “I didn’t realize how many people collected elephants. Tens of thousands of people collect them”.
His favorite elephants are those that he wears. He has a favorite elephant ring and a 60th birthday gift – an elephant necklace his wife bought him.
Among the quirkiest of the elephant collection? An elephant hair dryer.
In 2010, a fire destroyed the museum and part of the collection. Mr. Gotwalt had to rebuild from scratch – opening in it’s current location with a candy store attached that features a wide variety of specialty candies and baked goods – in addition to some hard to find retro candy. One employee noted the selection of PEZ candies is the largest in the eastern United States.
Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum & Candy Emporium is located at 6019 Chambersburg Road, Orrtanna, PA 17353. The website is: www.mistereds.com
You can hear my Bill On The Road interview with Mr. Ed below: