World's Largest Ball of Paint – Alexandria, Indiana - Atlas Obscura

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World's Largest Ball of Paint

Alexandria, Indiana

Covered in tens of thousands of coats of paint, this Indiana attraction holds a world record all its own. 


It’s only taken since the late 1970s, but Alexandria, Indiana is now home to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint, a unique attraction that continues to grow as visitors add new coats.

The bizarre artifact came into being in 1977 when Alexandria resident Mike Carmichael let his young son cover a baseball in blue house paint, a weird hobby he had invented during his years working at a paint shop. After that, they continued to add new layers, one over the other, causing the ball to slowly expand with each application. In the beginning, the ball would be painted multiple times a day, as it could simply be dipped in a can, or quickly brush painted, but as it continued to expand, becoming more unwieldy, the process began to take longer, and the growth slowed, but it did not stop. 

Eventually, Carmichael was forced to build the ball its very own barn with a specially constructed girder that could support the increasingly heavy paintball. Today, after more than 27, 000 coats of paint the ball weighs around two and a half tons. It has long since lost its spherical shape, taking on a more ovoid form due simply to gravity pulling the paint around as it is applied. Small imperfections have also grown into bulbous lumps, giving the paintball the looks of an alien cocoon.

With giant balls taking much longer to cover in coat, nowadays Carmichael allows visitors to add coats when they come to see the thing. They can choose what color they want to add from different buckets of paint, and add their choice to a running tally of top hues (blue is the favorite). Visitors can also walk away with shaved cross-sections of the ball, proof that they contributed to one of America’s newest superlative achievements.  

Know Before You Go

They ask that you make an appointment now to see and paint it. Although it’s free to experience, donations are accepted. 

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April 8, 2016

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