Elvis fans come in many forms, including an extremely rich English aristocrat who lives in a castle.  His name is Sir Benjamin Slade, and he has a substantial Elvis collection.  One of his more recent additions was a rare 1909 teddy bear from famous German manufacturer Steiff.  A teddy bear with that pedigree has intrinsic collectible value, but Elvis owned this one for a while, which made it even more valuable.


Sir Benjamin purchased the teddy bear, named Mabel, at auction in Memphis for $75,000.  However, he didn’t keep it long.  In a very generous move, he loaned Mabel to a nearby tourist attraction that was assembling an exhibition of rare teddy bears.  Mabel joined the British Bear Collection from Barnwell Castle, the Wareham Bears from Dorset, and others.  The total insured value of these combined loaner bears was $900,000.


The insurance company insisted on 24-hour-uniformed security with highly trained guard dogs.   Security Guard Greg West was on duty when Mabel the bear showed up at the exhibition area.  His canine partner of six years was a Doberman named Barney.


All the most valuable bears in the collection were kept inside glass cases.  However, Mabel needed some prep work, so she was left on a large worktable.  Greg West came strolling through with Barney the Doberman, who was not on a leash.  Seeing Mabel laying there belly-up, West could not resist giving her a stroke and saying what a nice little bear she was.  Barney saw this and freaked out.


In a jealous rage, he attacked Mabel and tore her head off.  The ninety-seven-year-old, $75,000 Steiff teddy bear that Elvis once owned was decapitated – by the guard dog.  Uh oh.  Barney must have liked the taste of stuffing, because he went on to tear up several other bears worth another $25,000.


The insurance company can’t be too happy about having to pay this claim, and Sir Benjamin is really mad.  Who can blame him? 


There is something ironic about this strange story.  Perhaps you noticed.  This is the second Elvis story involving a security guard named West that didn’t turn out so well.  Hopefully, Greg West won’t try to emulate Red West and publish a tell-all book titled “Barney: What Happened?”


The attraction where all this took place is Wookey Hole Caves near Somerset.  How’s that for a name?  Their website boasts that Wookey Hole has 300,000 visitors a year and is “the most stunning underground caverns in the British Isles.”  In addition, the Wookey Hole attractions include: Dinosaur Valley (20 life-size dinosaurs), Victorian Arcade (large collection of Edwardian Arcade machines you can play), Pirates of the River Axe (pirate ship game area involving nerf cannonballs), Magical Mirror Maze (distorted mirrors plus a maze you try to navigate through), and Enchanted Fairy Garden, (a river trail where you encounter fairies, elves, and dragons).


What Wookey Hole doesn’t have anymore is Barney the guard dog – and probably not Mabel the Elvis bear either, if Sir Benjamin has any sense.


©  2006   Philip R Arnold

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