The last time Mary Plaster saw Prince, he was lying on the ground at stage right in the Duluth Public Library's pavilion. The puppet had been set aside during Friday's All Souls Night celebration in downtown Duluth. At the end of the ninth annual event, Plaster, an artist and activist, noticed that the popular puppet's papier-mache head was missing.
"I had a sense of dread," Plaster said on Monday.
The puppet - 8 feet tall, topped with black hair and dressed in Prince's signature purple coat with a puff of white blouse at the lapel - was created for Minneapolis' Black Lives Matter. He was part of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's MayDay Parade and spent the summer touring events in the Twin Cities - without incident, but with much fanfare.
"It was an honor (to make him), I took it seriously," Plaster said. "It was kind of like magic. It became a thing, like a statue in church, which has never happened with a puppet of mine."
Prince's head is about 2 feet tall, 18 inches wide with big eyes and a shade of facial hair. It disappeared before 9:30 p.m. Friday in full view of the crowd at All Souls Night.
Plaster is asking that the puppet be returned to the Depot or the Duluth Public Library - no questions asked.
There were more than 525 people - many in makeup or costumes - at the event that pays tribute to ancestors, features music and dance, and ends with fire dancers and attendees exorcising the bad things from the past year. All Souls Night has drawn a mix of people looking to ease the pain of loss and those who lean carnivalesque, Plaster said.
There's irony, she noted. While the fire spinners were creating positive energy and hope, someone was walking off with Prince's head.
Plaster hasn't decided whether to hold the event next year.
"Is this a sign?" she asked.
This is the most significant loss from the event, which had its highest attendance this year, according to Plaster. Last year a T-shirt was stolen and a few years ago she stopped passing the bucket for donations.
The Prince puppet was scheduled for return to Lutheran Social Services, where it is part of a collection that includes David Bowie, Brandon Teena, Walt Whitman and Frida Kahlo that is kept by Together for Youth.
While Prince is a relatively new addition, he was among the most photographed at Duluth Superior Pride.
"The emotional intensity is still there and very much on the surface," said Kathy Hermes, program coordinator for the LGBTQ group. But now: "We've got his purple torso in the Ordean building, with just a stick where his head should be."