A Career Made of Fiberglass, Foam, and Fun

06 Feb.,2023


[Gotta get back into the online rhythm again after a couple days off… digging out the draft of a post I’d meant to put up some time ago…]

If I had my own personal MacArthur Foundation-like setup for rendering “genius grants” to people in all walks of life, I would give one tomorrow to Mark Cline. (Today’s, of course, I’d give to myself.)

I first learned of Cline in a post on the io9: Strung out on science fiction blog, where I encountered a post with the arresting title “The Alternate History Theme Park Where Dinosaurs Fought in the Civil War.”

At right is one of the photos used in that io9 post. From the text which accompanies it:

…roadside attraction creator Mark Cline has imagined an entirely different kind of Civil War science fiction. His fiberglass creations tell the tale of a group of Union soldiers who discover a lost valley of dinosaurs in Virginia and plot to use them as weapons against the South.

The attraction, called “Professor Cline’s Dinosaur Kingdom,” imagines a lost chapter from Civil War history. It supposes that in 1863, a group of paleontologists inadvertently stumbled upon a valley of live dinosaurs. The discovery comes to the attention of the Union Army, who, recognizing the destructive power of the giant lizards, decide to capture them and unleash them on the Confederate Army. Naturally, it results in Jurassic Park-inspired carnage.

(I encourage you to visit the io9 post to see more photos.)

Cline, as it happens, has had what can safely be described as a career with an interesting arc. From his Web site:

I couldn’t swear that I’m not nuts, naive — yes. Looking back I have to wonder what was going on in the head of a 19 year old who thought he could just go and open a monster museum and make a living at it. I had no training, no business sense, no connections, and no money. But I did have enthusiasm and lots of it. The ‘talent’ was raw but the sincerity was, and still is genuine.


I’ve been in business for 25 years because I’ve never cheated anyone, given it the best I had, kept up with and stayed ahead of the market, never tried selling something I didn’t feel would benefit the customer and always communicated with the customer so he would be abreast of every aspect of the job. But mostly, I’ve enjoyed making smiles with my work. Smiles turn to laughter, laughter heals, healing is healthy and everybody wants that!

In addition to his “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Civil War” exhibit, Cline’s roadside attractions include Foamhenge (at left) — yes, a replica of Stonehenge, carved of foam — and a “monster museum,” sort of a souped-up version of the Halloweeen haunted houses run by schools and charities in October (except that Cline’s operates year ’round.)

Indeed, every Halloween-time, Cline apparently beefs up the monster museum a bit just to honor (you might say) the intensity of the season. He calls this version “Halloscream”: “I do a macabre stage show by cutting off pieces of volunteers and throwing them into the audience. Sometimes I electrocute them.”

Contemplating a road trip? Within driving distance of Clines various stomping grounds in Virginia?

You could do a lot worse, it seems to me, than to visit the “office” of someone so relentlessly dedicated to the creation of twisted, one-of-a-kind tableaux.

Just one question, Mr. Cline: Where should I mail the check?