Thousands attend auction of property owned by Zanesville exotic animal owner

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — Gearheads, bikers, horse-traders and curiosity-seekers arrived in Muskingum County in droves today for the auction of property formerly owned by the man who released dozens of exotic animals before killing himself almost two years ago.

An estimated 3,000 visitors, who paid $25 per vehicle just to enter the grounds, spent the afternoon walking the rows of vintage cars and motorcycles and assorted parts and doo-dads that filled the huge lawn and spacious barn.

Mixed in with the scores of rusted engine blocks, mufflers and headlamp housings were ultralight gliders, or what was left of them. There were two busted-up speed boats and a hovercraft that one onlooker guessed by its beaten condition had flipped off the trailer on its way back to Zanesville.

There were boxes of books and manuals and Harley-Davidson posters and T-shirts — remnants of T’s Harley-Davidson shop that Thompson once owned. A pair of crutches leaned against the barn, tagged for sale. Everything, it seemed, but the kitchen sink, though there were two bathroom sinks and a toilet.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Sara McClaskey, a senior at Fairfield Union High School who, with the help of father, Mark, purchased a horse and a mule colt for $575 among the three-dozen or so horses to be auctioned, and she waited patiently to buy the remnants of a petting zoo loaded onto the back of a small trailer.

“It looks like he pushed most off this stuff off the trailer into the field and forgot about it,” said Dennis Clark of Dayton, who had eyeballed the rear assembly that would fit nicely on his 1931 Ford Model A coupe.

“I can’t believe the guy has so much stuff and, secondly, I can’t believe he didn’t do more with it and take better care of it,” Clark said.

Still, most agreed that items were selling for surprisingly high prices. A rusted-out 426 Hemi engine with a stand sold for $1,500, leaving a pair of guys amazed. “Lot of money,” they grumbled, walking away. “Lot more money to get it running.”

Auctioneer Jeff Koehler, owner of SE Ohio Auctions, spent the better part of year preparing for the auction with Thompson’s widow, Marian. “It’s the biggest auction I’ve ever done,” he said. “ It’s good, really good. A lot of stuff is doing very well.”

Koehler said he had “no idea what we’ll make, and I wouldn’t disclose it anyway” but guessed he’d be auctioning items well into the evening.

Still, it was difficult not to imagine the scene 18 months ago when more than 50 tigers and bears and cougars ran wild among these same rusted-out vehicles, and later, were buried in a mass grave somewhere on the property.

“It almost gives you goose bumps walking around here when you know what happened,” McClaskey said.


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