Arts & Culture » Culture

Go back, Jack



Thom and Linda Hildbold want their Jack back. There’s been a hole in their lives, not to mention their front yard, since their beloved 6-year-old with a perpetual snarl and demonic horns was snatched from their Ferndale home one month ago.

The police have been notified. A site alerting the world to Jack’s disappearance is on the Web at Fliers with his picture are up. Kids from the area are on the lookout for him.

But so far, no luck. There has been no ransom note yet, no phoned demand from the people who took him asking for money … or else.

“Every day I come home and walk past where Jack used to sit, and see he’s not there, and think, ‘Damn,’” says Thom, a designer for the automotive industry.

Whoever “kidnapped” Jack had to really want him, says Linda, a woman of many talents who has just begun a new business distributing a nutritional drink. (A graphic designer, she’s also the one who created the Web site. “It only took a few minutes,” she says.) After all, although only a squat 3 feet tall, Jack weighs in at a hefty 200 pounds. “So it’s not like someone just threw him over their shoulder and ran down the street with him,” says Linda. ‘They had to have planned this out. They had to wait until the lights were out, and they needed a truck.”

It appears Jack didn’t go easily, according to Thom. The ground around his spot in the garden was pretty scuffed up, indicating a struggle. There would have been a hell of a lot more struggle if Linda had caught sight of the abduction.

“I would have gone out there and kicked their butts,” she asserts.

Among Jack’s distinguishing features is moss growing on his back and around his taloned toes.

Jack is what’s commonly referred to as a gargoyle, but etymologically speaking, that’s not exactly correct. Technically, in architectural terms a true gargoyle functions as a rain spout projecting from a roof gutter and is designed to shoot water away from a building’s foundation. Its name is derived from the Old French word gargouille, meaning gullet or throat. The same root has given us the words gargle and gurgle.

Strictly speaking, a creature such as Jack should be referred to as a grotesque. One glance at his fierce visage leaves no doubt that the appellation is apt.

Gargoyles flourished during the Middle Ages, appearing on cathedrals throughout much of Europe. It is speculated that the early Catholic Church, seeking to attract the attention of a largely pagan customer base, thought that using these mythical creatures as decorations could generate a little foot traffic. Sort of an early bait-and-switch sales tactic, you might say.

Gargoyles and grotesques such as Jack were also seen as potent forces which were more than capable of warding off evil sprits. It’s a matter of some dispute whether they frightened off evildoers because the presence of a gargoyle indicated a particular piece of property was already well-haunted, or because they were simply such bad-asses they could scare away all the less-ferocious demons.

The Hildbolds became fascinated with things gothic when Thom took a six-month assignment in Germany several years ago. One front room of their modest home, which is shared with a pair of shar-pei pooches and a squawking Amazon parrot, is decorated with a variety of gargoyles. There’s one made of wax, and one cast in brass. There are several made from stone, including one created by a family member that has jade-green eyes and a nose ring.

“We just like this kind of stuff,” says Linda.

She wonders about the origin of gargoyles, whether they are simply the stuff dredged from ancient dreams or whether such creatures may have actually existed thousands of years ago. She hesitates for a moment before saying that, fearing people might think her “wacky.”

But it may not be that weird a thought at all. Although they proliferated during medieval times, creatures such as gargoyles and griffins date to the ancient Greeks. In her book The First Fossil Hunters, Adrienne Mayor offers some compelling evidence that many mythological creatures were inspired by the fossilized remains of dinosaurs found by early Greeks and Romans.

That, however, is really ancient history at this point. What the Hildbolds want to know is: Who has Jack now? They’ve gone looking for a replacement, but have been unable to find one quite as special.

“He’s really different looking than any of the other ones we’ve seen,” says Linda.

Their garden, which was built with Jack as its focal point (“I guess maybe too much of a focal point,” says Linda) seems oddly barren and forlorn without him.

“He was a part of our family,” says Linda. “We just want him back. We miss him.”


Anyone with information about Jack’s whereabouts can phone the Hildbolds at 248-548-5977.

Curt Guyette is the news editor of Metro Times. E-mail

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