Thursday, September 28, 2023

Remember those presidents’ heads? This may be your last chance to see them

The 43, 18-foot president statues currently reside at Howard Hankins' property in Croaker. But they might not stay there for long. (WYDaily/Courtesy Flickr)
The 43, 18-foot president statues currently reside at Howard Hankins’ property in Croaker. But they might not stay there for long. (WYDaily/Courtesy Flickr)

On a property in Croaker rests the eerie site of 43 crumbling heads of United States leaders, waiting to be seen and wanting to be heard.

And now, they will get that chance.

“They’re creepy, they’re huge and they’re cool,” said John Plashal, a photographer and author who is leading a presentation of the heads. “People like things that have been abandoned.”

At the end of March, an exclusive group of photographers and 80 members of the general public will have access to the presidents’ heads, thanks to a program directed by Plashal. Plashal has already sold out the two nights open to photographers to explore the location and he believes there will be a large interest from the general public as well.

The heads were first the main attraction of the President’s Park in Williamsburg, which closed in 2010. Howard Hankins, owner of the site was asked to crush the heads after the closure but he said he just couldn’t do it.

“I just had the idea to create another park,” Hankins said. “I thought they still could help teach people something so I brought them [to Croaker].”

Hankins brought the 43 heads to his property where he runs his business about six years ago, he said. But since then, the heads have caused him to have expensive liability insurance and he has had an issue with a number of trespassers.

Originally, Hankins wanted to make the heads open for people to experience but he said it became too dangerous because people would come onto his property without asking and try to climb on the statues. He has had to install a security and camera system to ensure safety.

But Hankins said he and Plashal had connected when he asked to photograph some of the heads. Plashal has become known for leading tours and presentations across Virginia in creepy and abandoned places. He said he loves to show off the history and beauty of those places and the statues have held a certain public fascination over the years.

“I am fighting my cause to spread what these men did and any person that wants to help carry these stories out there is welcome,” Hankins said.”

The event might be one of the last for those interested in the statues in the area. Hankins said he has been working on various partnerships to move the statues to different locations. One of which he could not share but said that if it happens, some of the statues could be transported in as early as two months.

Hankins said he is planning to raise about $1.5 million to fund moving and preserving the statues. He said he hasn’t figured out how that’s going to be done yet.

“It’s to teach people young and old why you have freedom,” he said. “Why we shouldn’t fight each other, we should fight together.”

Plashal’s event will be on March 30 from 2:30-5 p.m. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased online prior to the event.

Plashal said there will also be a presentation on abandoned Virginia at the Liberty Baptist Church located near the property. He said the presentation will be a compilation of different locations’ histories throughout Virginia that he has photographed.

A date for that presentation has not been set.

Following the presentation, guests will get to visit the park for about two hours. It will not be a guided tour, but rather an experience that will give guests the chance to view the park and take photos as they wish.

Guests must sign a waiver beforehand and Plashal reiterated that anyone not wearing a ticketed wristband will be arrested for trespassing.

For more information, visit the event page online.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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