Belly of the Bob

Enter Bob Cassilly's mind (really!) at the City Museum's newest attraction

Oct 15, 2003 at 4:00 am
Most "haunted house" attractions startle prodigiously but fail to haunt. Startling involves strobe lights and chainsaws; haunting, however, entails merely the suggestion of the pernicious/bizarre: faint echoes, light brushes on the skin, a fleeting glimpse of a face in the ceiling, the lingering suspicion that something is awry.

Enter City Museum creator Bob Cassilly. And his haunted brain. No, literally, you can.

The new "Haunted Caves" exhibit at the City Museum, which will be especially spookified October 17 through November 1, seems to instantiate Cassilly's very subconscious: As you descend deeper through these caverns in the bowels of the museum, as you pass faces, scales, teeth and tails that lack obvious owners, certainty dissolves, illogic reigns, things appear and vanish. Was that stalactite...wincing? Are you fingering a wall for balance, or is it some giant amphibious belly? Are you negotiating a path, or maybe something's tongue?

"Every hole goes somewhere," Cassilly says of the complex network of tunnels throughout his exhibit, which he has been preparing since 1997. "The feeling is that you can go along forever, that there's no end to it."

He counts among his creative muses "adult knowledge of natural laws" as much as formalist knowledge of abstract art (reflected in the cave structure "if you squint at it"), but most importantly a "subliminal regression to childhood" -- and specifically to his first date, which took place in Cliff Cave Park (FYI, there are at least two female figures haunting these dank subcellars...).

Rather than cater solely to rowdy late-nighters, museum director Elizabeth Parker welcomes all ages, insisting the caves be "shown in the right context: in the core of the building -- the center of Bob's soul...these creatures in this huge beast of the City Museum can't help but ooze magic and wonder, and to deny access to a wider audience would be a shame." Prepare ye thus, one and all, for a subterranean scare.