2008-10-30 / Local & State

This Jack-In-The- Box Will Make You Jump

By SLOAN BREWSTER MIDDLETOWN PRESS

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) - With a huge clown head popping out of the top of an old silo, Bill Ziegler proves he is just as nutty as ever - a thought that makes the owner of Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center smile happily.

"We really feel that this is gonna be a destination for people, crazy people, just like us that need this kind of thing in their lives,'' Ziegler said while watching artist Chris Hausbeck of Buffalo, N.Y., put the finishing touches on an enormous jack-in-the-box in the back yard of Wild Bills.

The creation, titled "Inside Hausbeck's Head - Keeshan Delight number 9,'' consists of a 600-pound clown head that will pop out of the 33-foot high silo, which has been on the lot for about 150 years.

Ziegler thought it was a waste to let the silo sit unused, so when a super-sized clown head once belonging to Bob Keeshan - known to many as Claribel the Clown and to others as Captain Kangaroo - became available, the store owner bought it.

"Bill had seen this head that I had from photos and he thought it would be a neat thing to have around here and I thought, what better place than to have it come out a grain silo,'' Hausbeck said. "It just seemed a natural thing to do.''

Hausbeck, who made the sculpture in front of the parking lot, Globe Luxation of the Stars, came up with the jack-in-the-box idea. He wanted to continue creating unique pieces to decorate the wacky property.

The artist also created a sculpture in the store from old animal leg traps that Ziegler's father, Clifford Ziegler, used for a part-time job he held when Ziegler was growing up.

"He trapped animals,'' Ziegler explained. "He actually did. A lot of the traps were beaver and otter.'' Some of the traps still contained traces of fur from when they were in active use, Hausbeck said.

For the artist, making art from the traps had an additional meaning.

"Finally put those to rest,'' he said.

Hausbeck has a knack for putting old junk to good use. He used a lot of unusual items to make the counter weight for his colossal creation, including whale vertebrae, elk antlers and World War II mortars of different sizes.

"It's going to have to weigh as much as the head, which is 550 to 600 pounds,'' Hausbeck said.

Attached to thick chain link pulleys, the weight will make the head go up and down.

Before the clown was ready to be transformed into a jack-in-the-box, Hausbeck and his assistant, Dawn Exton, also of Buffalo, had to restore it.

"The clown head is almost 60 years old - was in rough shape,'' Hausbeck said, explaining it was in nine pieces when he began the project.

With 300 square feet of fiberglass cloth and five and a half gallons of epoxy, he and Exton put the pieces together. Then the pair repainted the face to look like its former owner, Claribel. Next they used a crane to lift a telephone pole into the silo and to hoist the head on top.

It has taken 10 weeks to build the oversized contraption. When all is ready, the smiling clown head will be revealed from the top of the silo in minute-long cycles.

Hausbeck and Ziegler are convinced it is the biggest one in the world. "Because I Googled the crap out of it, and there was nothing even remotely close to this,'' Hausbeck said. "There's nothing in the Guinness Book of World Records as far as jack-in the-boxes, so I win.''

Ziegler plans to petition Guinness to add a category for largest jack-in-the-box.

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