Photo: Ben and Darlene Sexton stand in front of what multiple publications have called the world’s largest horseshoe crab. It is located on SR 124 at the eastern edge of Hillsboro.
By Jeff Gilliland – email@example.com
It has been called the world’s largest horseshoe crab and its most recent home is along SR 124 at the eastern edge of Hillsboro.
The manmade crab, measuring 67 feet long, 28 feet wide and 12 feet high – not counting the tail that extends higher – is the brainchild of Ben and Darlene Sexton, who own a sporstmen’s lodge on the property where the creature now rests.
“The reason we wanted to put it here, other than that I just loved it, was that I wanted to save it as the bit of Americana that it is,” Ben Sexton said. “We felt that with our business – renting vintage campers – this would compliment that in that it creates that old-time Americana roadside attraction feel, and it would be an attraction to our business.”
Made of two layers of fiberglass with a foam core in between, the crab was originally created for The Columbus Center, a marine biotechnology research institute in Baltimore, Md. It opened in May of 1997 as an interactive Hall of Exploration to entertain visitors while teaching them about marine life and the Chesapeake Bay, according to The New York Times.
At that time a multimedia presentation on sharks was shown inside the crab.
A couple years later the crab, or actually a picture of it on a T-shirt, was used in the movie “Eclipse” featuring Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattison.
In the mid 2000s it was moved to the Creation Museum in Hebron, Ky., but due its size the museum donated it in 2006 to the Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio.
That’s where it caught Sexton’s attention.
In his travels as a former facilities manager, Sexton often traveled through Blanchester and he said the crab intrigued him enough that he’d sometimes stop to check it out. Then last year, after his facilities manager’s job had been outsourced and he was starting a business of renting vintage campers that he restores, Sexton noticed the crab was for sale.
“You talk about a hard sale to make,”Sexton said. “Honey, I lost my job and I want to buy the world’s largest horseshoe crab.”
The real cost though, Sexton said, was moving the crab to Hillsboro and then setting it back up. He said it was originally made in nine sections, but he had to use a chainsaw to cut it into 11 sections so he could transport it.
Sexton said he purchased the crab last winter when the area was getting pelted with snow, and he had just 10 days to move it.
“It was getting dark when we were loading the last pieces, the snow as blowing, and because of the way it was situated we had to leave it belly side up. So last spring I had the world’s largest mosquito factory,” Sexton joked.
He had to drill holes the crab’s shell to drain the water, then went about sealing the seams and holes and repainting it in its original colors.
He originally planned to put the crab where he rents campers near South Beach at Rocky Fork Lake, but said he was afraid it would ruin the location’s tranquility.
The crab has created such a stir, Sexton said, that he’s working with the Ohio Department of Transportation to create a pull-off area along SR 124 so people can stop and check it out. He said some people have asked about using it for graduation or birthdays parties.
Sexton plans to close open areas under the crab in, install a floor, and decorate the inside in some intriguing fashion. Then he’ll worry about exactly how to use it.
“It has the potential to be anything – a gift shop, meeting hall, who knows,” Sexton said. “People wonder what it is. We love Rocky Fork Lake and want to see it bloom again. We want to be part of that, and maybe we can use it to promote the area and the lake.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.