10 Unintentionally Horrifying Statues of Famous People

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Having a statue erected in your likeness sounds like it would be an honor. But when the end result leaves you looking terrifying for all eternity, it's worth considering that sometimes it's not the thought that counts. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo learned that lesson the hard way back in March when a bust made in his not-so-likeness was unveiled at Madeira International Airport, to celebrate the airport's new name: Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo. Fortunately for Ronaldo, a new and improved bust was just revealed:

Not every celebrity has been so lucky.

1. LUCILLE BALL // CELORON, NEW YORK

This statue in the beloved comedian's hometown became a source of rancor when it was first erected in 2009. "Scary Lucy," as she quickly became known, even inspired an online campaign "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue." As it turns out, everyone thought the statue was an abomination—even the man responsible. In 2015, artist Dave Poulin issued a public apology saying, "I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy,' though by no means was that my intent or did I wish to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image." Earlier this year, tired of the ongoing conversation about "Scary Lucy," Poulin retired from sculpting altogether. His public admission that the statue really was awful paid off. In 2016, a new statue—this one created by Carolyn Palmer, who beat out more than 65 sculptors in a national competition to create the upgraded Lucy—was unveiled.

2. KURT COBAIN // ABERDEEN, WASHINGTON

In Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, the late singer's February 20th birthday is "Kurt Cobain Day." As part of the initial festivities, the town unveiled this somber statue of the singer, which notably features a single tear. Artist Randi Hubbard began work on the sculpture shortly after Cobain's death in 1994. Sometime in the past two decades, she'd offered the work to the city who, at the time, refused. Their conviction has since wavered.

3. ARTHUR ASHE // RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Arthur Ashe Statue

rvaphotodude, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1996, Arthur Ashe's hometown of Richmond erected a statue in his likeness on Monument Avenue, despite controversy that a sculpture of the tennis great didn't belong alongside the existing congregation of Confederate icons. But the bronze memorial, cast by Paul di Pasquale, is bizarre for more than just its location. In an attempt to capture Ashe's dedication to social activism, he is shown holding books and a tennis racket high above the outstretched arms of a gaggle of children, frozen forever in a state of seemingly mocking them for their lack of height.

4. JAMES DEAN // LOS ANGELES

View of a statue of James Dean at the Griffith Observatory
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

James Dean himself commissioned the bust that stands as his memorial at the site of several key scenes from Rebel Without a Cause. But perhaps because artist Kenneth Kendall began work the night Dean died, the actor ended up looking downtrodden. In 1988—33 years after Dean's death—Kendall donated the sculpture to the Griffith Observatory.

5. WALTER JOHNSON // WASHINGTON, D.C.

Walter Johnson Statue in washington DC

Wally Gobetz, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

"It just doesn't work," Walter Johnson's grandson and biographer, Henry Thomas, said of the attempt to show motion in his grandfather's statue. The multi-armed likeness of the late Hall of Fame pitcher, the work of sculptor Omri Amrany, was erected outside Nationals Park in 2009.

6. OSCAR WILDE // LONDON

Oscar Wilde statue in London

Drinks Machine, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

In a sculpture by Maggi Hambling, the bust of the brilliant Irish author rises out of a sarcophagus-style block. As if that wasn't creepy enough, his mangled bronze features actually look like something that has risen from the dead.

7. ST. BARTHOLOMEW // MILAN

The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral

carolyn_gifford, Flickr // CC BY NC-2.0

The oldest statue on this list was cast by Marco d'Agrate in 1562 to honor the only saint to have been skinned alive. And if you're an artist, how could you pass up a graphic opportunity like that? The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral is not only skinless, he is literally carrying his own skin, identifiable by the face and feet on either end.

8. FRANZ KAFKA // PRAGUE

In the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where Franz Kafka spent most of his life, a sculpture by Jaroslav Rona stands as a memorial to the influential author—or to giant, headless, handless, well-dressed men everywhere. A miniature Kafka sits perched on the shoulders of an ominous empty suit that looks to be lumbering toward the viewer.

9. SAINT WENCESLAS // PRAGUE

In Wenceslas Square, a statue of the eponymous patron saint of Bohemia is shown, in typical form, atop a gallant steed. Inside Lucerna Palace mere yards from the original, a parody of this statue by David Černý also depicts Saint Wenceslas and a horse. Only this time the horse is upside down—and dead. If the juxtaposition doesn't freak you out, the lolling horse tongue will.

10. MICHAEL JACKSON // LONDON

Michael Jackson Statue in London
Ian Walton/Getty Images

This slightly smirking, colorful rendition of the late King of Pop was actually deemed so creepy—and controversial—that it was removed in 2013. The former owner and chairman of the Fulham football team, Mohamed Fayed, commissioned the statue, which stood outside the Craven Cottage stadium from 2011 through late 2013 when new owner, American businessman Shahid Khan, heeded the public opinion and had the statue removed and returned to Fayed.

Bob Dylan's Lyrics, Poetry, and Prose Showcased at Chicago's American Writers Museum

A collection of Bob Dylan poems that was auctioned off by Christie's in 2005.
A collection of Bob Dylan poems that was auctioned off by Christie's in 2005.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Like a Rolling Stone, Tangled Up in Blue, Blowin’ in the Wind, and The Times They Are a-Changin’ are among Bob Dylan’s best songs, but the 77-year-old singer’s writing isn’t limited to lyrics. Dylan has also penned poems, prose, an autobiography, and a nearly four-hour movie (that got terrible reviews).

An ongoing showcase at Chicago’s American Writers Museum is paying homage to Dylan the writer. The "Bob Dylan: Electric" exhibit, which will remain on view though April 30, 2019, highlights dozens of items from Dylan’s expansive career.

“The world knows Bob Dylan as a prolific songwriter,” museum president Carey Cranston said in a statement. “'Bob Dylan: Electric’ gives the public a chance to see how his writing shaped more than just American music, but American literature as a whole.”

The period covers Dylan’s “electric” career, beginning with the time he made his electric guitar debut at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The exact instrument he played at the festival—a 1964 sunburst Fender Stratocaster—is naturally one of the items on display.

Visitors can also check out Dylan’s personal copy of The Catcher in the Rye, which he read in the summer of 1961. He jotted down notes and drew doodles in the back of the book, including a bottle of rye and the words “good book.” (Interestingly enough, a talent agent approached Dylan the following year and asked if he’d play Holden Caulfield in a movie adaptation of the book. For better or worse, that never came to fruition.)

Dylan’s writing was recognized with a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. At the time, the committee's decision to award a songwriter rather than a novelist was a controversial one. The New York Times dubbed it a “disappointing choice,” while Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh (author of Trainspotting) was a little more blunt, calling it “an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”

Nonetheless, Dylan accepted the award, eventually releasing a video detailing his literary influences. Moby-Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey are just a few of the singer-songwriter’s many inspirations.

Vinnie Ream: The Teen Who Met With Abraham Lincoln for 30 Minutes Every Day

Library of Congress // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Some of the most important people in the world have trouble getting even a few minutes of the president’s time. But in 1864, 17-year-old Lavinia “Vinnie” Ream managed to steal half an hour with Abraham Lincoln every day—for five months.

Ream made a name for herself as an artist at a young age. Word of the teen prodigy’s painting prowess quickly spread, and in 1863, Missouri Congressman James Rollins introduced her to sculptor Clark Mills. Through Mills, Ream discovered her talents included molding clay.

After creating small, medallion-sized likenesses of General Custer and many Congressmen, including Thaddeus Stevens, several senators commissioned Ream to create a marble bust—and this was just over a year after she had picked up the skill. The senators allowed Ream to choose her subject, and she picked the president—Abraham Lincoln.

Ream's friends in the Senate personally asked Lincoln to pose for the sculpture, but he declined. After hearing that she was a struggling artist from a Midwestern background not dissimilar to his own, however, Lincoln relented. “He granted me sittings for no other reason than that I was in need,” she later wrote. “Had I been the greatest sculptor in the world I am quite sure I would have been refused.”

Not only did the president agree to the sitting, he gave her a half-hour of his time every day for five months—no small sum of time for a man in such demand. “It seemed that he used this half-hour as a time for relaxation, for he always left instructions that no one was to be admitted during that time,” Ream said. “He seemed to find a strange sort of companionship in being with me, although we talked but little.” He occasionally talked about his son Willie, who had died two years before. The stories sometimes moved him to tears, and he told Vinnie that she reminded him of Willie. Lincoln "never told a funny story to me. He rarely smiled," Ream later recalled.

After Lincoln's fateful night at Ford's Theatre, Congress hired Ream to create a memorial statue of the fallen president, making her the youngest artist—and the first woman—to receive a commission from the U.S. government.

Though she had already proved that she could create a remarkable likeness of Lincoln in bust form, not everyone on the commission was convinced she would be up to the task of sculpting a full-length version. “Having in view the youth and inexperience of Miss Ream, and I will go further, and say, having in view her sex, I shall expect a complete failure in the execution of this work,” Senator Jacob Merritt Howard said.

But Ream had the last laugh: Her work still graces the Capitol Rotunda today.

Vinnie Ream's sculpture of Abraham Lincoln still stands in the Capital Rotunda
USCapitol via Flickr // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

This article originally ran in 2016.

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