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Jurassic Lark

Mark Cline with a couple of his slime monsters at a haunted house that runs at the Natural Bridge park
Mark Cline and some of his haunted house creations, adjacent to the Escape From Dinosaur Kingdom attraction he constructed in Natural Bridge, Va. (Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

Soon he was winning commissions to build sculptures for other attractions, including eight-foot statues of Yogi Bear for the Jellystone Park chain of family campgrounds.

In the mid-'80s he made a statue of Freddy Krueger, the psycho killer from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies, for a haunted house in Virginia Beach. When businessman Jim Johnson saw it, he was awestruck.

"It was right on," Johnson recalls. "I could tell he was extremely creative, and I went and visited him."

Johnson hired Cline to turn a tired old Virginia Beach wax museum into something with more pizzazz. Cline came up with a ride that took tourists from ancient Pompeii to the Wild West to the Bermuda Triangle to a spaceship full of aliens. To honor its creator, Johnson named the place Professor Cline's Time Machine.

"It was very successful," Johnson says.

Last winter, Johnson hired Cline to come up with a new attraction. Cline created a pirate ride that includes a ship full of skeletons, a giant snake, a giant shark that eats a pirate, a giant octopus that fights a pirate for a buried treasure -- and, of course, dinosaurs. Johnson named it Captain Cline's Pirate Adventure Ride. It opened this month.

"Mark's an artist," Johnson says. "I haven't seen anybody more creative than Mark. And his prices are not out of line."

But not everyone is quite so fond of Cline's oeuvre. Conservative Christians around Natural Bridge denounced his haunted house as satanic.

In 1997, when Cline staged a mock seance designed to end the losing streak of a local baseball team called the Salem Avalanche, a Christian radio station urged fans to boycott the team for promoting the occult.

On April 9, 2001, a midnight fire destroyed Cline's Enchanted Castle. While he watched it burn, he opened his roadside mailbox and found a handwritten note. It began, "In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit" and ended, "Fire represents God's judgment. Behold -- The Judge is standing at the door."

Virginia State Police investigated the fire but never arrested anyone. Cline rebuilt his studio and kept working.

In 2002, Leonard Puglisi, owner of the Natural Bridge, hired Cline to create Dr. Cline's Haunted Monster Museum in an old farmhouse. Two years later, Cline built Dinosaur Kingdom next to it. Last year, he built Foamhenge nearby.

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