Plano phantoms

The figures sit shrouded in fabric complete with frozen wrinkles.

Some are hunched over. Multiple sit on public benches. One leans casually to one side. A close look reveals that each lacks a face or any other semblance of human form.

“We call them our phantoms,” said Michelle Hawkins, arts and events manager with the city of Plano.

The phantoms, eight in total, have once again arrived in downtown Plano to mark the Halloween season.

“I think in October, people are looking for something different to do, and it's just something unique and different,” Hawkins said.

For the artist, Dallas resident Brad Stewart, the idea for phantom sculptures came after traveling to Italy.

“There's a castle over there in Italy, (and) that's where I kind of got my inspiration,” he said. "They do something very similar to this over there.”

When he returned home, Stewart began creating his own sculptures with a personal twist. Eventually, he had enough to fill up his front yard for Halloween. When passers-by began walking up into his front yard to take a picture with them, Stewart said he knew it could go beyond a front yard decoration.

Since then, Plano has purchased multiple sculptures. Hawkins said the phantoms are used to promote the downtown area and tie in to the city’s annual Apparition Expedition, a “haunted” walking tour of the area. While the event has gone to a virtual platform this year, the sculptures have still made their way to multiple benches around the city’s historic downtown district.

Stewart said a unique element of the phantoms is the fact that many people feel drawn to interact with them. Of course, many tend to be startled at first.

“But then they tend to walk right over and maybe touch it and then sit down and take a picture with it,” Stewart said, “or they're intrigued to look inside of it a little bit.”

Those brave enough to look inside might find a QR code resting among the void inside Stewart’s phantoms leading to the artist’s Instagram account. While multiple statues have retained their natural coloring inside, many are painted black internally, he said.

“I feel that when you paint the inside of it black, it lends to your imagination really wanting to fill that void,” he said. “Even more so than normal.”

A stroll around downtown Plano will feature the ghostly figures, each looking highly realistic. That’s because they’re all created through a plastering process that involves real people — most of them are Stewart’s friends and family.

While Stewart’s wife has posed for multiple sculptures, viewers might also come upon statues based on his mother-in-law, his nephew and his sister-in-law. Stewart said one creation was modeled after Plano’s own Mary Jacobs, the author of “Haunted Plano.”

“She's reading her own book, but she is actually the author, and she actually is the phantom,” Stewart said.

For Hawkins, the statue’s lack of context is a large part of its intrigue.

“We've talked about putting our social handle on there or a hashtag, but at the same time I think there's some mystery about them, like ‘What is this? Where did it show up?'” Hawkins said. “So if we put something next to it saying what it is, then I don't think it's as cool.”

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