Like the beginning to any good horror yarn, the arrival of the first Garfield phones came in the wake of a storm off the coast of France in the early 1980s. For locals living along a stretch of beach in the Bay of Brest, the first several must have been nothing short of amusing. After all, who doesn't love the world's laziest, lasagna-obsessed cartoon cat? Unfortunately, the laughter quickly turned to annoyance as the orange, grinning relics of the landline age continued to wash ashore over the next 35 years.

"It never stops," Claire Simonin Le Meur, president of Ar Viltansoù, a local beach cleaning association, told France Info. "At each (beach) clean, we collect three or four telephones, either complete or in pieces."

The phones, which are sometimes found intact, have become a symbol of maritime pollution along French beaches. The phones, which are sometimes found intact, have become a symbol of maritime plastic pollution. (Photo: FRED TANNEAU/Getty Images)

For decades, it was correctly assumed that the invasion of phones was not the work of some displeased, comic-obsessed sea spirit, but a shipping container lost en route to distant shores. Earlier this year, when the Garfield phones became the subject of an article on marine pollution, the mystery finally began to unravel.

"At the time, I was between 19 and 20 years old," René Morvan, a farmer who read the article, revealed to France Info. "There was a big storm. With my brother, we saw phones everywhere on the beach. We are guys from the coast, we decided to go see."

sea cave accessible only at low tide was the hidden den where all the plastic feline phones were hiding The location of the plastic feline's den. (Photo: France 3 Bretagne/YouTube)

Morvan escorted Le Meur and his team to a sea cave accessible only at low tide. There, wedged deep in the rocks at the back of the tunnel, were the remains of a shipping container. Strewn around it were Garfield phones, wires and other orange bits of sea-worn plastic.

"The mystery is solved," Dominique, an Ar Vilantsou volunteer, said. "We found our treasure."

Scratching the surface

While the lost container helps tell part of the story behind the Garfield phones, environmental activists aren't convinced it's the only source of the plastic pollution. For one thing, it was mostly empty; for another, the phones keep washing up onshore.

In 2018 alone, according to the beach cleaning group, more than 200 pieces were collected. It's quite possible that more than one shipping container filled with orange phones was lost that fateful night.

Knowing Garfield, chances are exceedingly good it happened on a Monday.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Mystery behind the beach invasion of Garfield phones finally solved
Decades after the first of the iconic orange phones began washing ashore, a French community finally has answers.