Waiting for the tram at the Universal Studios tour, we filed past a statue of Lon Chaney in the old silent classic, Phantom of the Opera. It was almost lifelike in its detail— sunken eyes, jagged teeth, black cape. We admired it and passed it by.
Our hearts all skipped a beat, so you can imagine the child’s terror, her scream piercing the waiting area.
A small crowd gradually arrived, waiting, chattering. A father and his small child stopped in front of the statue. The father was explaining who Lon Chaney was when, suddenly, the statue came alive, snarled, and swooped menacingly at the child. Everyone jumped back, startled; our hearts all skipped a beat, so you can imagine the child’s terror, her scream piercing the waiting area. The actor set down a tip jar, then turned to the girl, cajoled her, gave her a sweet, until, safe in her father’s arms, tears drying, she asked him how he could stand so still for so long. At that moment the tram arrived. We boarded and the actor reassumed his pose for the next round of victims.
Thirty years later, I have long forgotten what else we saw at Universal Studios. But after witnessing stone turn to flesh, I understand that anything, no matter how inert, might merely be awaiting its moment to awaken into life.
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.