World's Scariest Statues
Ever heard of the Black Aggie -- the bleak-looking statue of a mysterious, hooded and seated figure that presently holds court in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Park? She originally topped a family plot in a Maryland cemetery, but was moved due to the attention she received for her sinister appearance. Lookers-on have reported that spending an extended amount of time in her presence can lead to bad luck, even death. The legend of Black Aggie could just be an old wives' tale (we hope), but it does make you wonder -- if art is supposed to inspire emotion, then why aren't there more statues that make us feel like this one?
But that's another story. Here, we're spotlighting Aggie's running mates for the globe's spookiest, most spine-tingling and shocking statues.
[See a photo recap of the World's Scariest Statues]
Seattleites have embraced the monster that lurks under the Aurora Bridge in the Fremont neighborhood as a prized community member and friendly tourist attraction. But, we're not fooled. Inspired by the monster in the Scandinavian folk tale, "Three Billy Goats Gruff," this 18-foot troll was assembled in 1990 by a team of artists, led by sculptor Steve Badanes, from wire, rebar steel and ferroconcrete. His one good eye -- a glistening hubcap -- stares ominously at passersby and a Volkswagen Beetle (a souvenir from the above roadway, perhaps?) sits captive in his left fist. Since his creation, tourists and locals have flocked to northern Seattle to take pictures with the bearded beast, and to occasionally leave him a few token gifts.
Quirky to some but bone-chilling to us, this statue in Paris shows a man playing spook-a-boo with residents and tourists as he strides through a wall in the Montmartre district. With a name that loosely translates to "The Walker Through Walls," Le Passe-Muraille statue is based on a famous short story of the same name. This piece of science fiction, written by the late French writer Marcel Aymé, tells the story of a man who discovers that he has the power to pass through walls. Another famous Frenchman, the late Jean Marais, sculpted this piece as a tribute to Aymé. Sweet sentiment aside, the wall-walker makes our list for two reasons: One, it's just rude to sneak up on folks in that manner; and two, what's wrong with his gnarled left hand?
Even the name of this statue is slightly ominous. Sculpted in 1903 by Miklós Ligeti, "Anonymous" immortalizes a mysterious monk from Hungary's 12th century. Although no one knows his actual name, he is recognized as the writer of the earliest known record of Hungarian history, Gesta Hungarorum. The ghostwriter's supposed likeness reclines outside Budapest's Vajdahunyad Castle, near Heroes' Square. To his left rests his celebrated text, while his right hand clutches a stylus that students and writers touch for good luck as they pass by. Seems harmless, right? Think again -- while Hungarians might be comfortable celebrating their unidentified historian, tourists come away a little horror-struck due to the low-hanging hood that virtually covers Anonymous' face. Even in art, he remains an enigma.
At first glance, this sculpture takes the shape of a seated, slumped individual, wrapped in a billowy shroud. But look closer -- if you dare -- and you'll notice that there is no one beneath this weighted-down cape and cowl. Various bronze iterations of the cloak have been placed across the globe: One that sits beside Austria's Salzburg Cathedral and another perched in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, plus one lurking outside Prague's Opera House. The sculptor of the series, Czech-born Anna Chromý, chiseled her latest and largest interpretation, "The Cloak of Conscience," out of white Carrara marble. At its current home at the Michelangelo Studios of Carrara, Italy, this newest fright stands 15 intimidating feet in the air. According to Chromý's official website, her cloaks represent "a reflection of human character and its ability to infiltrate our world with change, both good and bad." The idea is lovely, but we can't help but be a little reminded of the freakish ferryman Charon, shuttling the dead to the underworld along the mythical River Styx.
British artist Damien Hirst has created quite a few controversial pieces in his career. His Natural History series, featuring dead animals preserved in formaldehyde, stands as an example of his sometimes-misunderstood vision. But it's his bronze molding of a pregnant woman, "Virgin Mother," that earns a spot on our list. Demure as she might sound, she is in reality a 35-foot tall statue, posing nude in a Degas ballerina-like stance with one hand resting on her very pregnant belly. Her "skin" has been peeled back on the right side of her body to reveal her skull, muscles and tissue, as well as the fetus. Two versions of this expectant Amazon have previously been erected; one in the Lever House courtyard along New York's Park Avenue in 2005, and one that was displayed in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2006. Spectators from both cities seemed split between amazed and appalled to witness Hirst's Mother in all her anatomical glory. So we'll bridge the distance: We're amazingly appalled (not to mention a little frightened) at just how tall and exposed she stands.
The Czech sculptor David Cerny has created so many hair-raising statues that it would be impossible to pick just one. Let us highlight a few of his more ghastly goodies, many of which you can visit around Cerny's native Prague. "Babies" is a series of creepy infants with pushed-in faces, crawling up the city's Žižkov television tower; "Hanging Out" is a chiseled rendering of Sigmund Freud, precariously suspended from a pole high above the Old Town Square; or "Kun," found in the Lucerna Palace, shows St. Wenceslas straddling the dead, upside-down and suspended carcass of a horse. But Cerny's most shocking and controversial piece may be "Shark," a parody of Damien Hirst's famous work, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." Cerny's version, however, consists of an corpse effigy of Saddam Hussein that is encased in a tank of formaldehyde. Yikes.
Our list concludes with one of the most famous and fearsome sculptures in the United States. Artist J. Seward Johnson, Jr's "The Awakening" depicts a buried giant struggling to free himself out of the ground. The prisoner was first unveiled at Hains Point, the southernmost tip of Washington, D.C.'s East Potomac Park, as a temporary exhibit for the International Sculpture Conference of 1980. Much to the giant's horror -- and to ours -- he continued to live there for the next 27 years. In 2007 the National Park Service announced the statue would cross the Potomac River to a new home at the National Harbor just outside of Oxon Hill, Md. In 2009, Chesterfield, Mo., received its own version of Johnson's emerging giant. Both distressed statues consist of five separate cast aluminum pieces, molded in the shape of a head, arms and legs and then strategically placed along a wire base to lay anatomically correct. The piece's highest point, the giant's right arm, stands 17 feet into the air. But perhaps the most prominent and terrifying feature is his bearded face, frozen in a scream of anguish. If he were to ever break free, this angry art installation would stand more than 70 feet.