Is it a poltergeist, prank or something else?
She stands mostly ignored. A busy intersection full of Kansas City traffic moves blithely past her. A former trolley track that has been dismantled and converted into running and bicycle path crosses right by her yet, those on the path usually never stop to look at her. But for the observant, this is no ordinary statue. For the past few years, the statue located in the Kansas City neighborhood of Brookside has been mysteriously adorned flowered leis and at the base of the statue, people have been leaving ceramic birds. None of the locals knew who was leaving these seeming gifts or just why. The collection of birds would often change their configuration and new birds would be added or removed. Even when someone from the city’s parks department would collect the birds, within no time new birds would appear.
The statue is of Hebe the goddess of youth in Greek mythology and was installed in the early 1980’s very little is know about the statue prior to its installation. Those who lived in the Brookside neighborhood seemed to not be able to recall when exactly the birds began to appear just that it had been going on “for years”.
The statue’s location is near the University of Missouri at Kansas City campus. In fact, most of the homes directly around the statue are either students or faculty. Many locals assumed it was just an ongoing college prank or perhaps the students were honoring their own youth by paying homage to the statue.
While I was researching this story, I told several of my friends about the statue and they all pretty much responded the same. They all said “Put a bird of it” and laughed. Apparently, the phrase “Put a bird on it” is from the Television comedy “Portlandia” and has become a bit of a meme. They all said they thought the college students were just pranking based on the bit. The episode in question is from 2011 and if that were the case you’d thought everybody would have just moved on by now.
A local radio station began running facebook posts and did a podcast to help get to the bottom of the mystery. The information they received only deepened the mystery. The statue is a geocache.
A geocache is like a worldwide scavenger hunt. It is a game where you use a Geo-positioning device to find objects. Like treasure hunting, you use the GPS coordinates to locate objects from clues given, Most geocache locations feature a small weatherproof box where people can leave their name to show they have found their cache. The statue doesn’t contain a logbook so it is thought people would leave an item such as a bird to show they have successfully located their quarry.
Geocaching I must regret to say is entirely new to me. As I researched this I became aware just how popular and developed this recreational activity has become. There are national and international communities and thousands of participants. Worldwide, there are over three million geocaches. Non-geocaching individuals like myself are called “Muggles”. I feel like I have really been out of the loop.
Interestingly enough, the statue hasn’t been an active geocache for several years, yet the birds have never stopped. It may be a case where a tradition has been created and now is just running on its own steam. So all is speculation and the mystery continues. But as the song goes sometimes it is best to “just let the mystery be”.
So if you do come to Kansas City bring your ceramic gift and come see the statue. just don’t forget to “Put a bird on it”