Mike Allen is I-95's former News Director and a brilliant researcher. On Tuesday January 11, 2022 he was our guest, on I-95's the Ethan & Lou Morning Show, as he is every week. Mike guides us through a segment we call "The Place You Live." The feature is a deep dive, into a piece of Connecticut history. Allen researches and presents these stories for our audience in a way, no one else can. The most recent story was called "The Trail of the Whispering Giants."
This past summer (2021) Mike Allen went on a vacation to Ocean City, Maryland and saw an exquisite and massive art installation. It was a 30 foot statue, resting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, carved out of wood and depicting the face of a Native-American with tears coming down it's cheek.
He went to read the plaque and learned that this wonderful work of art, is one of fifty, with one in every state in America. The series of statues is called "The Trail of the Whispering Giants" and the artist behind the work is a man named Peter Toth. (PHOTOS BELOW)
He asked Toth what his inspiration was for the project? Why put a massive Native-American face in every state in the country? Allen relayed some of his conversation with Toth saying, "He was born in Hungary and his parents had their land taken by Russian Communists and he says, his family became refugees and he said he can absolutely empathize with the plight of the Native-Americans and he wanted to make sure people understood what Native Americans have gone through."
Let's backup, I may have buried the lead, because there is a mysterious element to the story, that involves Connecticut. You see, before Allen went in search of the artist, he first went looking for the CT "Trail of the Whispering Giants" statue.
After some internet research Allen learned that the statue was originally installed in Groton, CT but was listed as missing which intrigued him to no end. He kept digging for clues and found one "obscure" website that had one clue, a photo.
The photograph was of the statue itself, "wrapped up in a sky blue tarp" laying in what he could only describe as a "statue crib." Underneath the photo there was a caption that read Jerry Olson has this, he's holding onto it because it rotted and they are hoping to get repairs done. But, if you contact him, he'll take the tarp off so you can see it.
This was the only clue Allen had and he knew what his next mission was, find out more about Jerry Olson. First Mike called the phone number that was listed under the photo and got an answering machine for the Olde Mistick Village
. Allen says he left a message and no one got back to him.
Mike would later come to learn that Olde Mistick Village
was a destination location that was the brainchild of Jerry Olson's father. He also would come to find out that Jerry Olson had a twin sister named Joyce, who was the current manager of Olde Mistick Village. He was also able to gather, that the original site for the CT statue was in front of the Groton Public Library
At this point he'd gathered a lot of information but still doesn't know for sure who is in possession of the statue, and he's not spoken with Jerry or Joyce. When men can't find things, what do they usually do? That's right, they ask their wife and that is precisely what Allen did.
Mike asked his wife Yvonne what to do, she happens to be a librarian and told him to reach out the Groton Public Library, he did that and learned even more. Mike spoke to Jennifer Miele, the Director of the Groton Public Library and she had more leads for him.
Miele confirmed to Allen, that the Groton Public Library
was the original site for the CT "Trail of Whispering Giants" statue. She also explained that the statue was taken down and placed in storage after people began to worry it would fall on someone. Mike was stalled out again when he learned Miele didn't know where it was stored.
Enter Peter Toth. Yes, we made it back to Peter but sadly, he didn't know where the statue was either. Toth explained that if Allen could find it, he'd be happy to get involved with the statue's restoration.
Mike was back to square one looking for Jerry Olson and using the first phone number he had, he called again. Allen told us "sure enough a woman picks up the phone." Mike introduced himself, the woman introduced herself and he's now speaking with Jerry Olson's sister Joyce.
Allen shared the story of his search for the statue and asked to speak to Jerry, and after a moment of silence, Joyce told Allen that Jerry passed away three years ago. After sharing his deep regret, Allen asked Joyce if she knew what happened to the CT "Whispering Trail" statue and he says, she replied by saying "I don't know what you're talking about." The call ended soon after but Mike was in no position to give up. He'd come this far and his years of journalism experience taught him he was onto something.
The part I found most intriguing about Mike's journey, was the part he couldn't or wouldn't tell us. Allen said "I can't tell you exactly who I called and what I did but I had come to find out that there were some people I needed to speak to."
Doing whatever it was, he could not tell us, led Mike to two former Groton Town Managers. The first was a man named Ron who told Allen the statue was there when he left office. Ron put Mike in touch with his successor, a man named Mark.
Mark told Allen that the core of the statue had rotted out, so for safety reasons, they took it down and gave it to the Department of Public Works. They held it for awhile but when they needed more space they made arrangements to give it to, you guessed it, Jerry Olson.
According to Mark, Olson kept the statue in his maintenance garage in Olde Mistick Village. Allen followed up, and spoke to the former Director of Public Works. That person confirmed they did give the statue to Jerry Olson.
Armed with a lot of information indicating Jerry Olson had this statue at some point, Allen called Joyce back and shared what he learned. Allen told Joyce, what he'd been told and asked to speak to Joyce's son Chris who manages the grounds at Olde Mistick Village. Chris got on the phone, Allen asked about the statue and according to Mike he said, "yeah, we've got it."
Finally, Mike Allen knows where the statue is, and he's talked to almost everyone who has ever been involved with it, now what? Now the trail starts to reassemble itself. Chris told Allen the statue was in really bad shape so Mike called the artist Peter Toth. They arranged a conference call for all the involved parties. Based on what Mike told us, that conversation is taking place today (1/13/21).
Furthermore, the Town of Groton
has gotten involved, a Town Councilperson has told Allen they will introduce a resolution to get the statue restored. Allen said after the conference call, he'll be stepping aside and leaving the rest to the Town of Groton and the other involved parties.
So, the "Trail of the Whispering Giants" ran cold in CT but Mike Allen heated things up and it's looking like, a happy ending is coming. A wonderful piece of art, with an important message will be fixed, put back where it belongs and a CT town will be reunited with a piece of it's history.
So, what about the artist, Peter Toth? Peter is not done creating thought provoking works of art. There are 50 "Whispering Trail" statues and he's done an additional 24 worldwide for a grand total of 74 statues. His 75th project, is one he's very much looking forward to. Toth said he intends to build a statue of an angel (artist rendering below), and install it on the banks of the Amazon River, on the edge of the Amazon Forest.
Toth told Allen this will be done as a reminder that the Amazon cleans and purifies the air that we breathe. Toth has already reached out to a notable Brazilian Chief about the project. Mike was in awe of Toth's brilliant artwork and life perspective and called him a "genius' several times during our discussion.
If you missed our live segment of the "Trail of the Whispering Giants", you can go back and listen to it on the Ethan and Lou Show Podcast
on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, the I-95 Website and the I-95 Rock Mobile app.