The Big Yellow Man Washed Ashore on the Beach

On the morning of October 25, 2011, police in Sarasota County, Florida, received a strange and potentially alarming phone call. A man had washed ashore on Siesta Key Beach, a massive white sand expanse on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn’t the first or last time that something strange came up onto the beach; a few years later, for example, the carcass of a 12-foot pilot whale ended up not far from where this man was found. But the man discovered on that October morning was … different. He had a huge smile on his face and he didn’t seem any worse for the wear; in fact, his green shirt and red pants seemed to be totally intact. The county sheriff’s office immediately took him into protective custody, as reported by ABC News.

Here’s a picture of how the mystery man looked not long before police found him.

Yes, that’s a giant LEGO figurine. Well, not officially.

Since 2007, giant LEGO men like the one above have been appearing, sporadically, on beaches throughout the world. The first one, according to the BBC, “mysteriously appeared on Zandvoort beach in the Netherlands” in August of that year, wearing a blue shirt and red pants, as seen below. The message on the shirt reads “No Real Than You Are,” which seems to be missing a word, but when you’re talking about 8′ tall LEGO men appearing on beaches, odd grammar is definitely the least weird part of the story. Another one of these things appeared in Brighton in Sussex, England a year later (this time, green-shirted). And there have been a few other appearances, too — on a Los Angeles beach in 2012, on a Japanese shore two years later, and floating in the Danube in 2015.

So, who is behind these LEGO invasions? We’re not totally sure. An artist who goes by “Ego Leonard” claims responsibility, and there’s little reason to think he or she is lying, for a few reasons. First, some of the more recent LEGO men have the name “Ego Leonard” on them. Second, Ego Leonard’s website explicitly takes credit for the creations. And third, “Ego Leonard,” if you take its last initial and put it before the first name, spells “L. Ego,” or “lego.” While it’s unclear at best what Ego Leonard’s true identity is, there’s some evidence that it’s the pseudonym of a Dutch artist named Leon Keer.

In any event, the giant LEGO men aren’t actually LEGO men — at least as far as the company behind the iconic toys are concerned. Per the above-linked ABC News report, a company spokesperson told the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office that the giant figures are “in no way sponsored or endorsed by The LEGO Group or Merlin Entertainments, who run LEGOLAND attractions.” 

Bonus fact: Ego Leonard’s creations aren’t the only LEGO-ish things appearing on beaches. In 1997, a container ship hit some rough seas, and a crate of more than five million LEGO pieces went overboard. More than two decades later, pieces are still washing ashore on the UK’s beaches.

From the Archives: LEGO’s Greyscale Color War: LEGO bricks have been around for a long time. Some things have changed, though.