The Murphy’s Mill Mermaid

Published 11:25 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2009

With freshly mown grass at her sides, a giant mermaid twinkles in the yard of a Suffolk house as the mid-afternoon sun hits her bodice, covered in shards of glass.

Like a whimsical nautical disco ball, the mermaid is hard to miss.

Some people want to know what she’s doing there.

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“One of the Norfolk Mermaid statues is planted in front of a house on Murphy’s Mill Road,” one News-Herald reader wrote in an e-mail. “I thought it was a little out of place and caught my eye yesterday.”

A decade ago, the city of Norfolk launched its Mermaids on Parade program, through which community members could sponsor the creation of a 10-foot mermaid, which would then be decorated by local artists and placed around the city. It is still used as a fundraiser to support the city’s art and other non-profit programs.

“The community of the world has really embraced it,” said Bob Batcher, communications director for the city of Norfolk. He said there are mermaids all over the world, including Japan, Germany, England and, now, Suffolk.

Robbery was quickly ruled out after no reports for missing mermaids were filed anywhere in the region.

So, how did this mermaid appear in the middle of a Suffolk yard seemingly over night?

Ralph Nahra put her there.

Suffolk developer Nahra owns the land and uses the house on Murphy’s Mill Road as an office building.

“It’s perfectly legal,” Nahra laughed. “It wasn’t stolen.”

Nahra sponsored one of the mermaids, and had this particular one displayed inside a store in downtown Norfolk until recently, when the store’s owner said he no longer wanted it there.

“The guy who had it just asked me to move it,” Nahra said. “I thought I’d just put it on my property. About a week ago, I had two guys help me move it.”

Nahra also said he is probably going to put more mermaids out in the yard.

“I just like looking at them,” he said. “It’s very pretty out there. But it stands like there like a lonely mermaid all by itself now.”