Foamhenge recreates an ancient ruin and keeps the memory of an old friend alive.
Story and Photos by Mary Kate White
The mysterious origin of Stonehenge on England’s Salisbury Plain makes it one of the most magical wonders of the ancient world. While the origin of Foamhenge, an exact replica of Stonehenge in Natural Bridge, Va., is less mysterious, it possesses some magic of its own: a wizard with the face of a dead man.
Mark Cline, a renowned local fiberglass sculptor known for his elaborate and larger-than-life April Fool’s Day pranks, built the replica. In 2003, after seeking permission from property owners (though never seeking approval from any county officials) Cline set up several large statues of dinosaurs outside of businesses, in parking lots and even on the roofs of buildings in Glasgow, Va. The dinosaurs drew visitors in from all over the state. Soon these April Fool’s Day surprises became a tradition.
In 2004, Cline unveiled Foamhenge just down the street from his studio in Natural Bridge. While its initial impact was huge, earning him attention from national travel publications, Foamhenge was actually a work in progress for several years. It wasn’t until 2007 that the final touch was put into place: a statue of Merlin levitating the stones.
Several plaques around the site offer possible explanations of the orginial Stonehenge’s origins: prehistoric technology like ropes and lumber, extraterrestrial intervention and lastly, Merlin’s magical powers. Playing off this theory, Foamhenge has a statue of Merlin with a plaque in front of it with a photo of a rough-looking man with a long, brown beard.
The sign explains that the photo is of the man whose face was cast, after he had died, to make the face of the Merlin statue.
Jamie Jordan, the man named on the plaque, was eccentric — a trait that he and Cline bonded over while he was alive. After admiring Cline’s work for years, the two finally met one night at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge. They talked about growing up in Waynesboro and their shared fascination with the bizarre. That night, Jordan excitedly told his daughter, Emily Jordan, about the encounter. And he remained friends with Cline for years afterward.
“My dad took me to Dinosaur Land and we went to [Cline’s] studio afterward. I went in and said, ‘Are you Mark Cline?’ And he said, ‘Depends, are you pregnant?’ And my jaw just dropped,” Emily Jordan says. Jordan frequently visited Cline at his studio over the years. The two chatted about upcoming projects or people back home in Waynesboro, Va. where Jordan still lived. During one of these meetings, Jordan requested that Cline use a mold of his face for one of his pieces in the future. “I sat Jamie down and I said, ‘Jamie, I’m gonna make you into somethin’ magical,’” Cline says.
Magical was an adjective that Cline hadn’t put much thought into, and the project wasn’t discussed again until Cline received a phone call with tragic news from Emily years later. Jamie Jordan died as a result of complications from a liver transplant on Feb. 15, 2007. His daughter was in charge of arranging the funeral and opted to have him cremated. Before the cremation, though, she called Cline. “She called and asked me to come make a mold of his face. I had to take some pieces of my work somewhere, so I told her I could do it the next week,” Cline says. “But she said, ‘No, they’re cremating him so you need to come do it tonight.’”
Together, Cline and Emily went to McDow Funeral Home in Waynesboro and told the funeral directors their plan. What would already be considered by most to be a strange request was further complicated by Jordan’s diagnosis of Hepatitis C, a disease that is highly contagious for up to 72 hours after death. The staff of the funeral home was, for the most part, resistant to the plan. “[Emily] did what anyone would do in that situation: She started crying,” Cline says.
Because Jordan was to be cremated, his body had not been embalmed and was therefore still highly contagious. The funeral home was unwilling to allow Cline to expose himself to such a dangerous pathogen, so a compromise was made: One of the funeral home’s staff, Jeffrey Hodge, who had been trained in protocol dealing with blood-borne pathogens, would make the mold of Jordan’s face.
“For someone in the public, funerals have very personal attachments, but for me it all blurs together — it’s my job,” Jeffrey Hodge says. “But this was definitely an unusual thing, it definitely stands out in my mind.” Hodge, who now works at Henry Funeral Home in Staunton, had been working in the funeral industry for more than 20 years by the time of Jordan’s death, and this project remains one of the strangest requests he’s ever received. “It was important to him,” Hodge says, his voice taking a serious tone after laughing about the absurdity of the whole ordeal. “I personally went to the management and told them I was willing to do it, that I’d be glad to do it, to please let me do it.”
Together, Hodge, Cline and Emily went down to the basement of McDow Funeral Home to make the mold. Emily and Cline stood behind a door with a glass window, talking Hodge through the process, mixing the casting agent and handing him supplies. Within a few hours, the project was complete, and Jordan’s body was finally ready to be put to rest. The funeral came and went, and the cast of Jordan’s face remained at Cline’s studio. Cline had told Emily that he planned to make her father’s face into a Civil War soldier riding a dinosaur. Maybe the word “magical” was ringing through his ears, though, because he had a change of heart.
While he had originally planned to use his own face to make the statue of Merlin, Cline later decided to make the statue in the likeness of Jamie Jordan. “I cried because it was such an honor,” Emily says. But the magic doesn’t stop there. McDow Funeral Home occupies a building that was once Waynesboro’s hospital. The room in which the mask was made was once the maternity ward.
“As this was being done, it was in the very same room he was born in,” Emily says. “That’s the real magic in all of this.”