The Darth Vader grotesque is one of many grotesques that are part of the National Cathedral's rain control system. The grotesques deflect rainwater by bouncing it off the tops of their heads and away from the stone walls.
In the 1980s, during the construction of the northwest tower, Christopher Rader won third-place in a National Geographic World magazine contest for children, with his drawing of Star Wars villain Darth Vader. The fierce head was sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and the stonecarver was Patrick J. Plunkett. The Darth Vader grotesque is difficult to see with the naked eye, and binoculars are generally needed to spot it.