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This Museum’s 'Ghost Clock' Proves Looks Can Be Deceiving

You walk into the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. and glance at the famous ‘Ghost Clock’. It is everything but what it seems.


The Ghost Clock at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C.

At a first glance, the Ghost Clock looks like a Grandfather’s Clock covered with a protective sheet of cloth. Take a closer look.

The Genius of Wendell Castle
Considered the father of art furniture, Wendell Castle’s works have always puzzled people. Should they be using the art pieces at home or showcase them in a gallery for people to admire instead? A tough decision to make indeed, all thanks to the genius of Wendell Castle. Similar is the case with the Ghost Clock.

Let’s picture the clock: a white cloth draping an old Grandfather’s Clock tied with a rope. But what really stands in front of you is a masterful deception so convincing it has puzzled people for years.

Look at the plaque underneath and you get to know the hidden secret: there is no cloth. The entire installation has been hand-carved from a single block of mahogany wood. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Master Craft
Wendell sculpted the clock in wood and bleached portions white to create the illusion of the draping cloth. He had the clock base stained walnut brown, adding to the deception. Even the folds of the cloth have been masterfully crafted making the deception so real. Each and every intricate detail was carved meticulously enough.

The Ghost Clock is the last in a series of 13 clocks, which were crafted by Wendell. Unlike its cousins, it lacks an inner functional mechanism and represents the notion of eternity. It appears Wendell used the tools of silence and stillness to suggest the immortality and eternity of time, which drives life but is itself un-driven.

Time’s Immortal
Times will come and go, but, the draping silence of Wendell’s master craft, the Ghost Clock will forever remind onlookers of the stillness of the moment and the life that lies within. Time is above all, and as they say, waits for none.
Sculpted in 1985, the Ghost Clock is a marvel in art that still mesmerizes onlookers with its sheer magic. It has succeeded, after all, in forcing people to think about the notion of time though it itself lacks the ticking hands.

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