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Cursed stone faces

They've always made me wonder...

By Karen CavePublished 3 years ago 3 min read
What's behind those faces?

The photo I took a few months ago, of the stone faces outside the church on the way up to my daughter's school, always caught my eye, and creeped me out. I found I always had to look up at them, every time I passed by. They even inspired one of my recent short stories: 'Grotesque.'

There's something about them, despite the damage from weather over the years, despite the bits of stone that have been chipped away by Old Father Time. Despite the fact they seem to have been around forever, and therefore should by now blend into the background like old stone walls and church spires, and moss on trees.

They look human to me. Each one has features, and a different expression. Mostly malevolent. They gaze down at me, and I feel seen, judged, sentenced. They never look kind, or welcoming. I feel as if they are taking a bit of my soul each time I see them (or is it when 'they' see 'me?')

So, I always wondered about the faces, where they came from, who carved them, and whether they were based on real people. Were they maybe people who once worked at the church, or were associated with religion? Did these people have families, and were they loved by someone?

I asked a friend of mine who works for the church, and knows a lot about history, and she told me that they are called 'grotesques.' I had been calling them gargoyles, all these years. It turns out if it is just a carved face, it is known as a grotesque. If it has a whole body and a drainage system, then it is a gargoyle.

I always look at those faces, and notice their differences, how uniquely human each one looks. I imagine that maybe they were based on people who had sinned and had been punished, their likeness carved into the stone as a warning to others. My twisted imagination also concocts a scenario whereby real people's heads were encased in the stone, or that their spirit was entombed forever, doomed to stare down at passers-by forever more.

I think it is one of those punishments that is so awful, that the very thought of it haunts you and stays under your skin. As a child I was fascinated by medieval torture methods; boiling in oil, the rack, the iron maiden. I loved reading about them and seeing graphic depictions: the grislier, the better. Because of my high empathy I would try and imagine how agonising those deaths would be, how it would feel to die that way, plus having your terrible death publicly paraded for all to see. And as I got older, I gravitated towards horror, the dark side of life. Yet, I am easily disturbed. And I cannot deal with real-life gore or hospital shows.

I've just this moment researched 'entombment' as a torture method, and there are a lot of grisly historical examples of this. According to some folklore, there are tales of old buildings found with skeletons walled up within, the idea being that people were bricked up alive as a kind of sacrifice, to help keep the building stable. To me, this makes those faces feel like the equivalent of the ravens at the Tower of London, keeping the building upright by their very presence.

PS: a warning; do not look up medieval torture methods unless you are ready to do much grimacing and have your soul in pain. There is a whole A-Z of this stuff, and it is honestly some of the grimmest reading I have ever come across.

I will never look at those stone faces in the same way again, knowing it is very possible that some real remains lie within them.

urban legend

About the Creator

Karen Cave

A mum, a friend to many and I love to explore dark themes and taboos in my writing. I am an optimist with a dark side...

Hope you enjoy! I appreciate all likes, comments - and please share if you'd like more people to see my work.

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