A plague of Garfield telephones was set upon the shores of Brittany, France, back in the 1980s that would last for over 30 years. Plastic landline phones the color of American cheese began washing up in the region in their hundreds, but for decades nobody knew where they were coming from.
The iconic Tyco Garfield landline telephone, that’s since become something of a collector’s item, was an homage to the cartoon character’s sleepy nature as its eyes would stay shut until someone picked up the receiver. A choice accessory for the lasagna-loving Garfield fan, but not exactly something you expect to find on a beach.
However, that was exactly the sight residents in Brittany were forced to witness across three decades from the 1980s, as the first few breadcrumbs of orange plastic Garfield detritus turned into fully-fledged phones strewn across the French shoreline. Some years saw hundreds of the phones rock up, but where were they coming from?
The Great Garfield Mystery was solved with the help of a farmer whose memory was jogged by a renewed campaign about the phones from a beach-cleaning team in France. As the press locked onto the story, he got in touch to say that he remembered seeing a Garfield phone after a storm back in the early 1980s, and what’s more – he knew where they were coming from.
As if often the case when a huge number of bizarre items start washing up in a specific area, the Tyco Garfield phones had escaped from a shipping container that was lost from a freighter at sea. A similar example is the case of the Friendly Floatees, which saw a consignment of 28,000 rubber ducks released into the ocean after a shipping container came loose during transit from China to America.
The bath toys first made ground in Alaska, but with so many on the loose thousands continued to the Bering Strait where they were frozen in Arctic ice, only to defrost a few years later and drift on towards the UK. Being bath toys they were uniquely well prepared for journeying across the seas, but the Garfield phone was not so seaworthy.
The shipping container from which they’d come was tucked away inside a hidden sea cave, its location known only to the farmer who reached out in 2019 to finally crack the case of the Garfield phones in Brittany. Decades had passed since its crash landing, but when teams went to explore the cave they found the destroyed container, as well as a few lingering phones.
“I saw Garfield and container pieces all over the cave,” the president of the local beach cleanup association, Claire Simonin-Le Meur, told Ouest-France. “But the bulk of the phones are already gone, the sea has done its job for 30 years. We arrive after the battle.”
While the mystery is over, Garfield’s grip on the French shoreline endures as, though the shipping container was located, it was in too difficult a spot to remove. With an unknown volume of cargo still hiding within, who knows for how long Jim Davis’s creation will continue to pepper the beaches of Brittany.