Among the countless striking visuals in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey—the towering monolith, the space ballet, the staring red light of the HAL 9000—there are few as baffling as the “star baby” that pops up in the movie’s closing moments. Goggle-eyed, mysterious, and full of strange potential, the odd little doll has long stood as a metaphor both for man’s birth into the cosmos, and also for how easy it is to make babies look creepy and weird.
You don’t have to take our word for it, though, because the Star Child is still out there, freaking people out five decades after the fact. Atlas Obscura recently ran a piece tracking the history of the prop—actually a two-and-a-half long sculpture, commissioned after a real baby failed to meet Kubrick’s exacting specifications—from the film to its place now in the traveling Stanley Kubrick Exhibition.
The article is full of all sorts of cool little tidbits about ol’ SC—for instance, that its features were intentionally sculpted to look like those of the film’s star, Keir Dullea, and that the back of its head opens up, just in case it wasn’t already freaky enough. It also touches on the various influences that went into its creation—most notably, then-new advances in in-utero photography, which gave people at the time their first real glimpses of what a growing fetus looks like.
The Star Child is currently on display in all of our hearts, where it nestles gently like the glorious seed of a utopian, post-human future, and also more specifically in Frankfort’s Deutsches Filmmuseum film museum, as part of a 50th-anniversary celebration of Kubrick’s film.