Ed Gotwalt and Miss Ellie.
Ed Gotwalt and Miss Ellie.

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum

Field review by the editors.

Orrtanna, Pennsylvania

Ed Gotwalt has elephants on the brain. That's what friends and visitors tell him -- frequently. So when he saw a sculpted human head in Mexico, tiny elephants bursting from the skull, he had to add it to the collection at Mr. Ed's Elephant Museum

According to Ed, his passion for pachyderms is not all that unusual. "There are elephant collectors by the thousands. Almost everyone who walks through the front door here either has a collection, or knows someone who collects, maybe 3 or 400 pieces. But when they see this," Ed fans his hand at the knickknack-crowded shelves, "it blows them away."

Ed has collected over 5,000 elephant-related pieces for his museum, which first opened in 1984.

Ironically, he was once a peanut dealer, and traces back a hobby gone nuts all the way to 1967. When Ed passed that 3- or 400-piece milestone, nothing could slow him down. He's traveled around the world in pursuit of rare elephant items. "I'm trying to find really unusual pieces," Ed notes as he points to various favorites. While he fawns over his eclectic sculptures and carvings, he also has a soft spot for folksy elephantalia.

Elephant sculpture.

"This is an actual elephant potty chair -- useable -- made right over in Chambersburg...."

The bulk of the displays, along with news clips and posters, are arrayed in two long narrow rooms. There are photos of celebrities that Ed has met over the years. A red, white, and blue pin from 1976 shows an elephant squeezing a large peanut with his trunk: "Don't Settle for Peanuts, Elect Ford." Many items are tiny, cute, or more serious objets d'art, arranged on narrow glass shelves. Nothing is labeled, but Ed is ready to tell the story behind any particular treasure, even down to recalling price-by-price bartering at flea markets and antique shops. Never quick on the apparel appreciation reflex, we finally notice Ed is dressed to complement a cartoon elephant's ear.

Ed and the Elepotty.
Ed and the Elepotty.

If this all sounds a little too precious for Roadside, well... it almost is. Except for that life size talking elephant out near the road.

Miss Ellie is a 9.5 ft. tall white elephant with animated eyes and ears. Her voice is triggered by a hidden electric eye. Ed keeps it in good repair for the kids, and Miss Ellie blathers on about the area, tells a few jokes, and then gets sleepy.

Ed nods and smiles. "Yes, I have elephants on the brain."

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum

6019 Chambersburg Rd, Orrtanna, PA
Rt. 30, 12 miles west of Gettysburg.
Daily 10-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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October 1, 2020

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