Drivers passing through the Shenandoah Valley on Rt. 11 just north of Natural Bridge, Virginia, may just find themselves double checking their directions to make sure they didn’t somehow “fold space” and morph to the English countryside as the specter of Stonehenge appears to emerge from nowhere out of a typical field. Besides scratching their heads with wonder, visitors feel inclined to get a closer look at this mysterious creation.
Fortunately, the gates are usually open and the admission is free (donations are appreciated). Upon closer inspection, visitors soon realize that this life-sized replica of Stonehenge, affectionately known as “Foamhenge” is more than a mere fantasy of the mind. "Foamhenge”, which officially opened to the public on April Fools Day, 2004, is more user friendly than its English counterpart. You are allowed to walk right up to see it, touch it and if you are inclined to do so, you can even smell it. Yes, the figures are real; however the methods and the materials are a bit different than the real thing.
It is only up close that you realize the delicate nature of the “rocks” as some evidence of the elements and perhaps a little human intervention have exposed the white foam underneath. However, the experience is none the less enchanting. It makes you wonder that if given the choice, would the original builders prefer the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains instead of the English countryside.
Just like the real Stonehenge, many more questions come to mind like: Who did this? Why did they do it? What is its purpose? Unlike Stonehenge, the answers to “Foamhenge’s” questions are much easier to find.
The “who” of Stonehenge is open for debate, legend dictates everyone from druids to Merlin and King Arthur as having a hand in its creation. Whereas to find the creator of Foamhenge, one would not have to look more than a few miles up the road to Enchanted Studios to find “The Entertainer” Mark Cline busily at work completing more unique fantastical creations. Working primarily with fiberglass, he has been known to create everything from the whimsical to the downright scary. His work can be seen in amusement parks, miniature golf courses, haunted houses and in front of restaurants, throughout the country. If you find that you “must have” a giant gargoyle for your front yard, he is the man to see. It takes a great dose of creativity to envision a bunch of ordinary Styrofoam blocks as “Foamhenge” instead of the packing material that the rest of us would have used it for.
Unlike its predecessor the “why” is much easier to answer as well. Cline’s sole purpose of his creation is to educate and entertain. While the idea behind “Foamhenge” is fairly clear-cut, the reason for its ancient counterpart continues to be a mystery. Everything from an astrological calendar, to an ancient temple composed of paganistic healing rocks has been attributed to function of Stonehenge.
Though much less mysterious in origin, the wonder of this creation lies in the fact that it is probably the fastest created “Stonehenge replica” known. The real Stonehenge was created in 3 separate phases spanning more than 1500 years utilizing the sweat and hard work of up to 1000 men. Whereas signs at “Foamhenge” boast that it only took Cline along with 4 – 5 assistants, 6 weeks to complete. However, Cline did have the advantage of using materials over 200 times lighter, as well as the benefit of delivery trucks as opposed to human-power for material delivery. Despite these shortcuts, the creation is nonetheless a fantastic monolithic structure.
If you are ever in the need to peer into the mysteries of mankind without having to purchase an airline ticket, a drive to “Foamhenge” in Natural Bridge, VA, may just be the break from reality that you are seeking. At the very least you will walk away with a bit more imagination, a much better sense of humor and a set of photographs your friends will find hard to believe.