Many may be familiar with Disney’s rendition of the gargoyle archetype from the cartoon version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”: singing and dancing demonic effigies befriending social pariahs from cathedral roofs.
This is a rather campy view of these figures, which are normally used to ward off other creatures that go bump in the night with their own unsightly appearance. Nevertheless, it’s an example of how these demon look-alikes are taking a warm place in our hearts.
A more local example: a six-inch stone gargoyle perched between two telephone poles on Orchard and Blake streets, near Porter Square. It rests eight feet from the ground on a block of wood holding the poles together. Walking down Orchard Street, the gargoyle is easy to miss; once you notice it, it is impossible to pass by without at least a furtive glance.
The sudden appearance of the gargoyle sparked a lot of local curiosity, but not much local legend. “I wait for my carpool on that corner,” said one passer-by. “I’ve looked at it every morning and wondered about it.”
Another observer, seeing the gargoyle for the first time, claimed, “It’s kind of disturbing… [it’s a] demonic symbol. It seems kind of like ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’”
It was a rare negative comment. Most said the gargoyle was a great addition to the neighborhood. One Somervillian said, “It must be guarding the neighborhood. [I wonder] if it only guards the Cambridge side — we need one in Somerville.”
Katy Petersen, of Orchard Street, said, “Spontaneous art like that — I really like it. I think we need more of it.”
Residents who lived close to the perch were able to fill in the gaps of the gargoyle’s history. According to neighbor Sherry Oliver, Tim Fahey and wife Eileen lived in the corner house. Cantabrigians for almost nine years, the Faheys moved to Connecticut in August but didn’t want to give up their ties to the Porter Square neighborhood so abruptly.
They decided to contribute to the community something that had adorned their front stoop for many years: the gargoyle.
“Tim wanted it to sit up really high, but I guess that was the tallest ladder he could find,” a neighbor said.
The gargoyle has remained untouched for more than two months. Is it doing its job, deterring dark forces from the streets of Cambridge? Very possibly.
At least it’s more “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and less “The Incredible Journey.” The gargoyle hasn’t yet followed its family to Connecticut.