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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)

"I guess he's always wanted to make a replica of Stonehenge," says Puglisi, "so I decided to give him a place to put it."

Cline says he just can't stop creating this stuff. "It's my gift," he says. "I don't know where it comes from. I'm not going to tell you it comes from God or the Devil or Alpha Centauri. But I have been given this amazing gift and I have to use it. I have to."

He's waxing lyrical about creativity when his wife, Sherry, walks into the office.

"I'm the bookkeeper, the secretary, the hairdresser and the housekeeper," she says. "Without me, the show would not go on."

She met him in a bar in 1987, when he was doing his Mick Jagger impersonation with a local rock band.

"He didn't really impress me much," she says.

He asked her to dance and then they talked for hours. "The next day he showed up where I worked," she says, "and brought me a long-stemmed red rose."

They got married in 1992. Now they have two daughters, Sunny, 12, and Jenna, 6.

"Everybody thinks artists are weird and they think he's bizarre because of his creativity," she says. "But we live in a normal house with normal things -- there are no skulls there. And he's a great dad."

Ta-Da!

Cline pulls his pickup off to the side of Route 11 and points toward his masterpiece. There it is, sitting atop a verdant hill in all its fabled glory -- Foamhenge.

He hops out of the truck and starts up the hill. A soft rain is falling from a gray sky.

"It's all Styrofoam," he says, "beaded Styrofoam spray-painted gray to look like stones."

It took prehistoric Brits four centuries to build the original Stonehenge, but Cline works a lot faster.

"I built it in six weeks," he says. "We put it all up in one day -- March 31, 2004. We hung a huge piece of plastic over it and invited people up for April Fool's Day and I unveiled Foamhenge. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a virgin to sacrifice."

He walks into the center of the circle of Styrofoam stones. Up close, Foamhenge is an impressive sight, certainly among the greatest of America's henges. Stand inside it and you can feel its power. Close your eyes and you can sense the presence of ancient Styrofoam Druids.

Perched on this mystical spot, Cline recalls the magical moment he conceived of Foamhenge. "I was in a store called Insulated Building Systems in Winchester and I saw these huge pieces of Styrofoam and I thought: Foamhenge! " he says. "And the idea sort of festered in my brain."

He sold the concept to Puglisi as a freebie that might lure tourists to Natural Bridge's other attractions. But right now, Foamhenge is inspiring Cline to more cosmic thoughts.

"Styrofoam isn't biodegradable, so Foamhenge might outlast Stonehenge," he says. "In 1,500 years, people might stand right here and say, 'I wonder what this was? Probably some kind of calendar.' "

He laughs and heads back down the hill.

"Because I make these things, people think I'm smart, but I just do them to make people happy," he says. "But if people want to think I'm smart, that's fine. I've been called a genius but I don't like that word. It's overused."

He looks down the hill to the road, where two vans have pulled up next to his pickup.

"Look -- people stopping at Foamhenge!" he says.

He jogs down the hill and stops a few yards from a bearded man who has emerged from one of the vans.

"Here to see Foamhenge?" Cline asks, his face is beaming with joy. "I know the guy who made it -- me!"


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