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The mysterious comings and goings of the mermaid

A sign near Scituate’s Humming Rock Gifts pleads for a stolen mermaid’s return — but what’s that behind it? A sign near Scituate’s Humming Rock Gifts pleads for a stolen mermaid’s return — but what’s that behind it? (Tom Harding)
By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / January 13, 2011

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This is a story about a missing mermaid, a probable crime, and a mystery that has yet to be solved.

The mermaid in question is something of a quirky local icon in the Humarock section of Scituate: It’s a faceless wooden nymph that had lounged in front of Humming Rock Gifts the past 10 years, her golden locks flying in the wind, wearing nothing but a white banner that says “Humarock.’’ An oval-shaped space was cut out where her face should be. Countless children and adults — and even dogs — have pressed their own faces into that spot — and why not — since it always made for a funny picture.

Funny, that is, until Labor Day weekend, when the unthinkable happened.

Christina Brown, the shop owner, arrived on the morning of Sept. 4 and discovered her beloved mermaid was gone, apparently stolen.

“She had been snapped off at the base,’’ said Brown.

At first, the shopkeeper wondered whether someone was playing a prank. After all, it was Labor Day weekend and everyone was getting ready for the “Horribles Parade’’ — an annual tradition in Humarock — and the participants always dress up in costumes. Maybe the mermaid would turn up there, Brown thought.

“I half-expected to see her in the parade, as a prank,’’ she said.

But no such luck.

Brown told people in town and began spreading the news. Her friends wrote on Facebook: Have you seen the mermaid?

The human life-size, custom-made mermaid was a well-known landmark. It was painted by Laura Harvey, a South Shore artist and manager of the North River Arts Society in Marshfield.

Brown put it in front of her shop to provide a humorous photo opportunity to anyone passing by, and some have used their mermaid pictures on greeting cards. Last month, Brown received a Christmas card featuring a golden retriever named Sugar posing in front of the store as the mermaid, flying golden locks and all.

As word of the missing mermaid spread through the community, Brown held on to hope that someone, anyone, had seen the mermaid, or knew what happened to her. “I thought, I’ve been here for 27 years, somebody’s going to squeal,’’ she said.

When November came, and the mystery remained unsolved, Brown commissioned a local sign maker, Jeannine Wilkins, to create a black sign with bold white letters that said: “Missing Since 09.04.10: THE HUMMING ROCK MERMAID. Please bring her home. No questions asked.’’ Brown put the sign in front of her shop.

And then it seemed everyone was talking about the mermaid mystery. Customers and passersby stopped to inquire about the mermaid’s whereabouts. Some rested their head on the “Missing Since’’ sign and took pictures with it.

Whodunit?

Over the New Year’s Day weekend, the mermaid came back, just as mysteriously as she disappeared four months earlier. Brown found her leaning on her side outside the shop on Jan. 2.

“I was so stunned,’’ said Brown. “I never expected to see her again.’’

The mermaid was in good shape — “the exact same condition,’’ she said. But there was no note, no clue.

“I wish I knew where she has been,’’ said Brown, happy nonetheless. “It’s very exciting for us.’’

Scituate Police Chief Brian E. Stewart said Monday there were no suspects in the caper, and anyone with information about the incident is welcome to call his department.

“At least there was a successful conclusion to this. . . . It’s back — that’s the important thing,’’ said Stewart. “I’m sure it’s a pretty familiar sight to people who go by there. I’m sure the kids are glad.’’

Brown said she was surprised at how many people cared about the mermaid’s whereabouts.

“It’s so funny,’’ she said. The mermaid “really touched so many people. They felt this mermaid was part of our community.’’

She thinks there’s perhaps a good children’s book here. Perhaps the mermaid wandered off to look for her face — and ultimately decided to come back.

After all, said Brown, “in Humarock, she has many faces.’’

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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