News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Finding the fantastic in Sisters museum

Olaf from Norway measures a full nine feet in height. He's now residing in Sisters. The Viking, found in 1888 and born circa 1335, is now on display at Sisters' newest destination attraction - The Fantastic Museum. The museum is located at 121 E. Cascade Ave. immediately next door to the Candy Corral.

That's a fitting setting for the many children who are wondering and wandering into the exhibit to the sounds of "Wow!" "Cool!" "Awesome!" Olaf is the biggest draw but basketball fans are equally amazed at the vast collection of original, high-value memorabilia from the world's biggest names in the sport.

Sisters is the 12th home for The Fantastic Museum. It originated at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and has several owners and a somewhat fantastic journey. It is now the property of Jim Schmit a legend in business who has made and lost millions of dollars. He is a colorful character and every bit as entertaining as the museum's contents.

A book has been written about him: "The Improbable Millionaire," by Laynie Weaver, and he was a principal subject in an ABC TV documentary.

The Fantastic Museum is a labor of love for Schmit, who is unlikely to get rich, or even close, from the exhibit.

As the story goes, Olaf the Giant Viking from the 1300s, believed by some to be the King of Norway, was found in 1887 by a group of Norwegian settlers traveling across the country who found themselves in the midst of a major storm. They took cover in a cave, where apparently, unbeknownst to anyone on earth, Olaf laid undisturbed for approximately 650 years.

The settlers noticed a foot protruding from the peat moss. They gently brushed away the moss and were astonished to find a giant human being in nearly pristine condition. Realizing this mummified giant was a treasure, they took calculations and created a plan to safely return to recover him and transport him to their village.

Once Olaf was settled in the village, word got out about the "Viking Giant." News spread quickly, and in a matter of time, Olaf was transported to the United States, where he would be reborn as a circus sideshow attraction.

On October 5, 1962, Olaf made his debut as a featured attraction of the 3rd Floor Balcony at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, as part of the Jones Fantastic Show. Up to that point it is estimated that over five million people have viewed Olaf.

And now he is in Sisters. Decide for yourself. A visit to The Fantastic Museum is fun and stimulates the imagination. As Schmit says: "Is Bigfoot next?"

The Williams boys from Redmond - Leo (11), Gideon (9), and Rever (4) - took grandpa Bruce of Sisters to the Museum and had a good time. They thought Olaf "looked good for his age" and "he would have been good at basketball." Leo and Gideon figured it would take three Revers to make one Olaf.

Jan and Will Martin from Springfield were having a grand time in the Museum. Jan, at 5-feet-4-inches, was used to big men with Will being 6-foot-8, yet couldn't get over an actual pair of Shaquille O'Neal's shoes - size 23.

"I played college ball and never got this close to experiencing any of these legends," Will said in amazement as he touched dozens of curated balls, posters, shirts, and more from the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Rick Barry, Yao Ming, and the Trail Blazers' Clyde Drexler.

Outside The Fantastic Museum are motorized treats. One is Bob Hope's stretch limousine that folks all over Sisters Country have been asking about. Another is Schmit's personal ride, a Doval Shadow.

The striking vehicle is a 1930s-style roadster fabricated from aluminum on a modified Ford LTD chassis with a 5.7-liter Ford V8 engine. There were plans to build a "limited edition" of 250 cars but the company went out of business in 1985 and it's unclear how many were actually built.

The Museum is crowded with items, to say nothing of the room Olaf takes up. Schmit has many more items that he will rotate in and out to keep folks coming back. He chose Sisters for a simple reason: "I like it here."

He and his terrier Gidget are eager to welcome visitors.

He figures the Museum will be around for quite a while. He took a year's lease on the space and he's having "nothing but fun meeting and showing people what's here."

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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