Earth logo

The 35-Year Mystery of the Garfield Telephones

Why did orange phones keep appearing on French beaches for over three decades?

By Bri CraigPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2023
Photo credit: FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Imagine that one day you are strolling along the beach, feeling the salty air against your face and listening to the churning hum of waves cresting. You continue walking, basking in your moment of peace until something vibrantly orange catches your eye...

A disembodied head of a cat. The pupils have been scrubbed away, and yet the cat smiles.

My God... It's Garfield.

Photo Credit: Claire Simonin / AR VILTANSOU

This scenario sounds strange, maybe even apocalyptic, but it's based on a true phenomenon that plagued the beaches of Northwestern France. Between the 1980s and now, hundreds of waterlogged Garfield telephones have washed up on the beaches of Brittany, France. No one understood where they came from, why there were so many, and who put them there. And for over three decades... there were no answers.

The Mystery of the Garfield Telephones

In 1978, Tyco released a novelty telephone product which featured the popular, lasagna-loving cat, Garfield. Novelty telephones were loved and admired by collectors with niche interests, and Jim Davis' Garfield Comic attracted a large fanbase of dedicated collectors and fans. This particular phone was just another gimmicky trinket to net some profit in the good cat's name. It was shaped like Garfield, with a corded telephone lodging into his back. When the phone was picked up, Garfield would open his eyes, and when the phone was put back, the cat would return to a "naping" state.

(You can still find and buy this phone today from collector sites)

But then suddenly, starting in the mid-1980s, these exact phones began washing up on multiple shores around France. And not just a few, but hundreds of them, day after day. This issue bothered the local environmental activist group, Ar Viltansoù, who jokingly made Garfield the face of their Ocean Pollution Campaigns.

Photo credit: FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

After decades of searching, a local farmer finally came forward with information. There was a secluded sea cave nearby that could only be accessed at low tide. In there, hid the secret.

In 2019, a small crew comprised of members of Ar Viltansoù and journalists climbed down the slippery rocks and found a fissure, where orange plastic poked out just beneath the rocks.

As it turns out, a shipping container had fallen off of a cargo ship during a terrible storm in the eightes. Some of the cargo included novelty items, particularly, the Garfield Telephone. The cargo became lodged within this particular sea cave, and the tides had slowly been pulling the phones out of the cave and onto the shores.

Unfortunately, even with the mystery of the phone solved, an appropriate solution to the problem of the Garfield phones has not yet been found. Because the cargo had become somewhat buried, it is impossible to know how much cargo is still sealed away, and for how many years the residents of Brittany, France will continue to have to clean the fragments of Garfield telephones off of their beaches.

According to the president of Ar Viltansoù, Claire Simonin-Le Meur, “[T]he bulk of the phones are already gone, the sea has done its job for 30 years. We arrive after the battle.”

What Garfield Reminds Us about Oceanic Pollution

While Garfield Phones may be the most comical (ha) thing to wash up on beaches, this incident is far from an isolated one. In 1992, a container ship lost shipments of around 28,800 rubber duck bath toys (Source). In 2018, thousands of shoe containers went overboard, and Nike Trainers begin washing up on beaches from Bermuda to Ireland (Source). The World Shipping Council estimates that around 1,000 cargo containers go overboard every year, polluting oceans and beaches with thousands of pounds of trash.

This pollution compounds with other man-made environmental mistakes, to dump between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tons of plastic into the ocean each year. This plastic goes on to disrupt ocean-based ecosystems in a myriad of ways: trash entangles marine life, gets mistakenly eaten by sea creatures, or breaks down into "microplastics" that have made their way up food chains.

The issue of microplastic consumption even extends to humans, who ingest microplastics through drinking water and seafood consumption - microplastics have even been found in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time ever (Source). Scientists are still studying the health risks of this consequence of pollution, and what it may mean for future generations.

The Pathway Forward

Oceanic pollution and microplastics are complex and intricate ecological problems, but there are a few things you can do to help. Taken from the Oceanic Society (an organization dedicated to improving ocean health) here are 7 steps that you can take to help reduce ocean plastic pollution (More detail here):

  1. Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastics
  2. Support Legislation to Curb Plastic Production and Waste
  3. Recycle Properly
  4. Participate In (or Organize) a Beach or River Cleanup
  5. Avoid Products Containing Microbeads
  6. Spread the Word
  7. Support Organizations Addressing Plastic Pollution


And remember... Garfield would want you to help.

Original Comic by Jim Davis, Edits by Bri Craig

Thank you for reading

If you enjoyed this article, check out the following piece about a "Fish Doorbell" project in the Netherlands:

Main Sources:

  • “Garfield Phones Beach Mystery Finally Solved after 35 Years.” BBC News, 28 Mar. 2019,
  • Hoffman, Ashley. “Mystery of Garfield Phones Washing up on French Beached Solved after 35 Years.” Time, 29 Mar. 2019,
  • Magazine, Smithsonian. “Why Have Garfield Phones Been Washing Ashore in France for 30 Years?” Smithsonian.Com, 1 Apr. 2019,
  • SustainabilityScienceNatureAdvocacy

    About the Creator

    Bri Craig

    Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

    Let's connect! More about me here.

    Reader insights

    Nice work

    Very well written. Keep up the good work!

    Top insights

    1. Expert insights and opinions

      Arguments were carefully researched and presented

    2. Easy to read and follow

      Well-structured & engaging content

    3. Eye opening

      Niche topic & fresh perspectives

    1. On-point and relevant

      Writing reflected the title & theme

    Add your insights

    Comments (18)

    Sign in to comment
    • asiful alam3 months ago

      Very elegantly composed. Keep doing awesome!.

    • Ahmed Ahmed3 months ago


    • Eternallife olali 4 months ago

      Title: Fragments of Love Part 1: The Dance of Fate In a small, picturesque town nestled by the sea, lived a young woman named Emma. With her fiery red hair and vibrant green eyes, she possessed an aura that attracted the attention of all who crossed her path. But beneath her radiant smile, Emma carried a longing for something more—a love that transcended ordinary boundaries. One fateful evening, Emma attended a masquerade ball held in a grand ballroom. Dressed in an elegant gown, she gracefully swayed to the enchanting music, lost in the captivating atmosphere. As the night progressed, she found herself drawn to a mysterious stranger, their eyes locking in a moment of shared recognition. With each passing dance, their connection deepened. They spoke without words, their bodies expressing emotions that words could not convey. Emma felt a profound connection, a love that seemed to exist beyond the realm of reality. They danced until the early hours of dawn, unaware of the world around them, lost in the embrace of a love that defied logic. Part 2: The Illusion of Time Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, but Emma could not find her beloved stranger. She searched tirelessly, questioning if their encounter had been nothing more than a fleeting dream. Doubt began to cloud her heart, and the once-vibrant love she had felt began to fade. One evening, as Emma stood by the edge of a cliff, gazing out at the vast expanse of the sea, she noticed an elderly couple walking hand in hand. Their love radiated from their weathered faces, telling a tale of a lifetime spent together. Intrigued, Emma approached them and shared her longing for a love that transcended time. The couple smiled warmly, and the old man spoke, "Love, my dear, is not confined to the boundaries of time. It is an eternal flame that burns within our hearts. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to find the one who ignites that flame, but when you do, it lasts forever." Part 3: The Tapestry of Love Inspired by the couple's words, Emma set out on a journey to unravel the truth of her encounter. She traveled to distant lands, seeking answers in ancient temples and mystical realms. Along the way, she met people whose lives had been touched by love in different forms—a mother's unwavering love for her child, a friend's unconditional support, and the love found within oneself. With each experience, Emma's understanding of love expanded. She realized that love was not confined to a single moment or person, but rather a tapestry woven from the threads of countless connections and shared experiences. Love was the heartbeat of humanity, the force that connected us all. Part 4: The Essence of Love Returning to her hometown, Emma's heart brimmed with newfound wisdom and a deep sense of gratitude. She began to notice the beauty of love in the simplest of moments—the laughter of children, the warmth of a friend's embrace, and the gentle touch of a stranger's kindness. One evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, Emma stood on the shore, contemplating the vastness of the universe. Suddenly, a gentle breeze caressed her face, and she felt an inexplicable sense of peace. In that moment, she understood that the love she had sought was not confined to a single person but encompassed the entire world. Love was the intricate web that connected every living being, an unbreakable bond that transcended the boundaries of time and space. And within that realization, Emma found solace—a love that was all-encompassing, boundless, and eternal. As Emma walked back into town, a smile played on her lips. She carried the  Part 5: The Fragments of Love With each step, Emma felt the fragments of love weaving through her being, resonating with the heartbeat of the world. She began to notice the subtle nuances of love that existed in every aspect of life—the delicate bloom of a flower, the symphony of raindrops on a rooftop, and the whispered promises carried by the wind. She saw love in the tears shed during moments of both joy and sorrow, in the courage found in vulnerability, and in the forgiveness that mended broken hearts. Love was not just a grand gesture; it was the tenderness of a hand reaching out, the empathy in a listening ear, and the selfless act of giving without expectation. Emma understood that love wasn't always a smooth path. It had its share of obstacles, misunderstandings, and heartaches. But even within the fragments of love, she found strength. She saw how broken pieces could be mended, scars could tell stories of resilience, and wounds could become wellsprings of compassion. Part 6: Love's Unseen Threads As Emma delved deeper into the essence of love, she discovered the unseen threads that connected souls. Love had a way of bringing people together, even across vast distances and disparate lives. It bridged the gaps between cultures, languages, and backgrounds, revealing the common thread that ran through humanity's tapestry. She met individuals who had experienced great love and loss, and witnessed how the human spirit could endure and thrive through the power of love. Love had the ability to transform, heal, and uplift, leaving imprints on the hearts of those touched by its grace. Part 7: The Eternal Essence Emma's journey through the fragments of love brought her back to the place where it all began—the masquerade ball. As she entered the ballroom, memories flooded her mind, and she saw the face of the mysterious stranger once again. But this time, she didn't search for him. Instead, she allowed the energy of love to guide her steps. As she danced with different partners, she realized that love was not confined to a single person. It was a shared experience that enriched every interaction. Each dance embodied a unique expression of love—some passionate, some tender, and others filled with playful joy. Emma no longer sought a single, elusive love. She reveled in the beauty of love's myriad forms, recognizing that every connection she made was a fragment of the grand tapestry of love. In the embrace of each partner, she saw the reflection of the mysterious stranger, understanding that they were all interconnected. Epilogue: Love's Unending Journey Emma's journey through the fragments of love had taught her that love was not a destination; it was an ongoing journey. It was a dance that unfolded throughout a lifetime, inviting us to open our hearts, embrace vulnerability, and celebrate the intricate dance of human connection. As Emma looked out into the world, she saw love everywhere—in the smiles exchanged between strangers, the bonds of friendship, the commitment of couples, and the unconditional love that flowed between families. Love had no limits, no boundaries, and no expiration date. She carried the fragments of love within her, cherishing each encounter, and understanding that the love she sought was already within her. It was the wellspring of her own heart, an infinite reservoir waiting to be shared with the world. And so, Emma continued her journey, guided by the eternal essence of love, touching lives, and leaving fragments of love wherever she went. For love, in its vastness and unending beauty, was the ultimate reality—a force that transcended time, connected souls, and held the power to transform the world

    • Ravindu Bandara 4 months ago

      Wow This was wonderful information on good to red thanks 😊

    • Misty Rae4 months ago

      That's kinda creepy, how they showed up randomly on the shore in France. I had one. I still have it. I loved Garfield. But I'm not a dick. I don't toss out plastic. God humans suck sometimes!

    • Gopikrishna4 months ago

      Nice content and worthy

    • L.C. Schäfer4 months ago

      Apocalyptic is the right word! Kind of random and creepy. Tiny typo - "naping state" 👍

    • Barbara Gode Wiles4 months ago

      This was a great read

    • C. H. Richard4 months ago

      Well done! It really is a horror what we have done to our oceans. Congratulations on your top story ❤️

    • Cathy holmes4 months ago

      That's a fascinating article and clear example of what a disaster we humans are. Congrats on the TS.

    • Obsidian Words4 months ago

      This is such a great example of humanities impact - amusing catch with the Garfield phones!

    • Gerald Holmes4 months ago

      Very informative article that opened my eyes a little wider. Well done and congrats on the Top Story.

    • Kendall Defoe 4 months ago

      A very disturbing tale well-told! Feel like I need some lasagna now...

    • Kelsey Clarey4 months ago

      Great article! This was so interesting to read.

    • Heather Lunsford4 months ago

      I always wanted one of those phones. I had not heard about this particular ocean plastics disaster. Thank you for spreading the word and reminding us we can be part of improving the situation.

    • Yetunde Omotola4 months ago

      Wonderful message

    • Babs Iverson4 months ago

      Fantastic article and wonderful message!!! Loving it!!!💖💕

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.