Editor's note: This story was originally published in Oct. 2014.
Halloween and October go hand in hand. Ghosts and goblins, black cats, scary masks and all things frightening erupt on Oct. 31 and evaporate by the next morning.
Unless, of course, they are permanently affixed to buildings.
Throughout recorded history, buildings have been the chassis for displaying strange and sometimes grotesque figures and statuary.
Found on ledges, rooftops, nooks and crannies, these creatures and caricatures of the night loom large — especially when you discover their location and purpose.
Where there’s history, there are ghosts. Lancaster County has plenty of history—and plenty o…
By definition, a grotesque is "art characterized by an incongruous mixture of human and animal parts interwoven with plants." Although the terms "grotesques" and "gargoyles" are often used interchangeably, they are different in their use and description.
Gargoyles, while grotesque in appearance, are water spouts. Grotesques are nonfunctional, purely decorative stone carvings. Regardless, both conjure up images of unworldly creatures of the dark, designed as a mixture of the most frightening living things imaginable.
We most often associate grotesques and gargoyles with the gothic cathedrals and churches of central Europe. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris reportedly contains over 5,000 examples.
Another style of architecture that supports these unusual carved ornaments is Chateauesque, a style familiar to Lancaster County, and especially the city.
This castlelike French-origin design with carved stone detailing often includes bizarre figures on its facade. The reason for their repulsive appearance remains a mystery.
Some authorities, however, liken their purpose to that of a “spiritual scarecrow” designed to overwhelm evil forces attempting to enter the sacred places of worship.
Other examples of grotesques and scary ornamentation can be found on roof cresting. There are two forms of roof cresting that conjure up scary images: the silhouette of rooftop wrought-iron pickets against the night sky and the lifelike decorative terra cotta tiles on the ridge of a roof.
Black wrought-iron fencing or pickets atop the mansard roofs of Victorian mansions served only to increase the apparent height and grandeur of the residence, and they’re the signature of every Halloween image, greeting card and horror movie.
With history comes stories that are passed down through the generations. The Fulton Theatre,…
The other roof cresting detail that can offer a permanent scare is terra cotta tile. These unique, decorative glazed tiles affixed to the ridge of roofs include the likeness of dragons, grotesques, black cats and serpents: Always present, always watching.
Although the tradition of trick-or-treating is a relatively contemporary American ritual made popular in the 1940s, the practice of using architecture to frighten innocent passersby has been used for centuries. Lancaster city is rich with examples of scary design elements. See if you can find them.
This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, a local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. Email GScott@rlps.com.