Missouri has three giant balls of string, and none actually hold the world record for being the largest. Spend a weekend traveling around the state to see these crazy big balls of string. There are also many things to see and do in each of these “Balls of String” towns.

St. Joseph’s Big Ball of String
Photo by Annie Rice

By Jonas Weir


Finley Stephens of Weston began making this giant ball in the 1950s, and before he died in 1980, it weighed in at three thousand pounds and had a circumference of nineteen feet.

Claiming that his ball of string was the world’s largest—although it wasn’t—Finley displayed the ball of string in a museum that he ran out of his barn in Weston. Today, you can visit the giant ball of string at the Weston Brewing Company at 500 Welt Street. Go to WestonIrish.com or call 816-640-5235 for more information.

Weston’s Big Ball of String
Photo Coutesy of Kelly Ludwig

About forty years ago, the Patee House Museum acquired a giant ball of twine from a local entrepreneur who ran a junk store.

“Back then, we didn’t have a hell of a lot of stuff,” says Gary Chilcote at the Patee House Museum.

C.C. Kelder, who often went by the nickname “I Buy Anything,” made the ball himself, and Gary says he had two or three similar balls of twine. However, since the museum acquired the piece, it has also acquired many more significant historical items that focus on the Patee House’s origin as the birthplace of the Pony Express.

“When you have a museum that deals with the Pony Express, Jesse James, and the Civil War,” Gary says, “a ball of string isn’t your highest priority.”

Visit the Patee House at 1202 Penn Street in St. Joseph. Go to PonyExpressJesseJames.com or call 816-232-8206 for more information on the museum.

Branson’s Big Ball of String
Photo Courtesy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not

J.C. Payne of Plainview, Texas, spent four years making this giant string ball that’s more than forty-two feet in circumference.

“I think he had too much time on his hands,” says John Dixon, general manager of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, where the ball is now housed.

Legend has it that Payne was inspired by similar balls in Darwin, Minnesota, and Cawker City, Kansas, which Guinness World Records considers the largest. Just like the balls that inspired it, its creator claimed that this ball was the largest. See it for yourself at 3326 Route 76. Visit Ripleys.com/branson or call 417-337-5300 for information.

Featured image courtesy of Ripley’s believe

Check out this amazing bicycle museum here.

Article originally published in the June/July 2015 issue of Missouri Life.