Recently, I have been filling my commonplace book with notes from The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters (edited by Scott G. Bruce). In the section “The Discernment of the Saints,” Bruce shares three stories about saints that compelled the dead to reveal their identities and reasons for their unrest (pg 34). The following is one story about St. Patrick (summarized).
While traveling, St. Patrick made it a habit to visit every standing cross along the road. At the end of the day on one trip, the chariot driver told St. Patrick he had missed a standing cross. St. Patrick left his guesthouse and went back to find the cross.
Upon finding the cross he realized it was a grave. He asked, “Who is buried here?” The corpse answered, “I am a wretched pagan. While I was alive, great pain wracked by soul and I died and then I was buried here.” St. Patrick asked the corpse why he received a Christian burial as a pagan. The corpse explained a woman mistook the pagan’s grave as her son’s and placed the cross like so. Then, St. Patrick said, “This is why I passed this cross by, for this is a pagan grave.” With his Christian corpse radar still impeccable, St. Patrick moved the cross to the correct grave. The end.
For more St. Patrick’s Day reading enjoy last year’s post on The Banshee.
In elementary school, our music teacher played a 1980s PBS cartoon set to Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre” on Halloween. The cartoon began with a statue of a cloaked skeleton coming to life after sunset, using his instrument to summon skeletons from their graves. Since then, I have always imagined the statues I see in cemeteries becoming animated at nightfall.
In an article about haunted objects in Collectors Weekly. Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society said, “[…] anytime you have a human figure, people are likely to think it holds some kind of invisible force, because of our propensity to believe in the afterlife and that humans carry a soul.” What better place than a cemetery, then, for stories about statues coming to life? They are so close to death, bodies, and souls.
The following are cemetery statues believed to exhibit characteristics of the living: moving, bleeding, crying. Some of these statues are also a gateway to the afterlife, having the power to predict or even cause death.
Inez Clarke and Eternal Silence (Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL)
Image Credit: Find A Grave
Image Credit: Pinterest
In Graceland Cemetery stands a memorial with the statue of a young girl behind protective glass. Legend says this young girl, Inez Clarke, was struck by lightening in the 1800s. On stormy nights in the cemetery, the statue is said to disappear (hiding from fear?), leaving an empty glass case. She then reappears in the morning. There’s an excellent detailed description on Find A Grave (also to be credited for the image).
The Eternal Silence statue (aka “The Statue of Death”) in Graceland Cemetery is, on its very own, very eerie and spooky. The statue memorializes Dexter Graves, who in 1831 led 13 families from Ohio to, what would become, Chicago. The hooded bronze statue, a version of the Grim Reaper, was designed by Lorado Taft.
Supposedly, if you stare into the eyes of Eternal Silence, you will see a vision of your own death. There have also been many reports of the statue raising and lowering its uplifted arm. Further, the statue (up until the 1970s) could not be photographed, “stemming from amateur photographers reporting malfunctioning of normally cooperative cameras, or inexplicable destruction of camera film” (Atlas Obscura).
The Haserot Angel (Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, OH)
This statue, named “The Angel of Death Victorious,” is a life-sized bronze statue of a seated angel. She holds a extinguished torch upside down, which represents a finished life. Some visitors believe that the statue is crying black tears, but could it just be the effects of aged bronze?
The Bleeding Statue (Forest Park Cemetery, Brunswick, NY)
I discussed a haunted mausoleum in this very cemetery in an earlier post. According to urban legend, this cemetery is a gateway to hell. One day when the mausoleum/receiving tomb was opened, it was revealed that the bodies were missing. So, already a creepy place.
The cemetery also has a headless angel statue with a bleeding neck. One popular theory is that the blood is just moss. Moss is boring though. Let’s go with blood.
Black Aggie (Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, MD)
The Black Aggie is a name given to a statue that once resided on the memorial of General Felix Agnus in Druid Ridge Cemetery. The statue was moved because of damage caused by visitors, and eventually ended up in a courtyard behind the Dolley Madison House in Washington, D.C.
When Black Aggie lived in Druid Ridge Cemetery, there were many scary stories attached to it. According to legend, the dead of Druid Ridge would gather around the statue at night. The statue was also believed to cause blindness and miscarriages (Source).
The statue too became an attraction for local teens seeking a thrill. One story about Black Aggie describes a fraternity ritual where initiates have to spend the night at the foot of the statue. For one pledge, this method of hazing led to his death. From Spooky Maryland:
What had been a funny initiation rite suddenly took on an air of danger. One of the fraternity brothers stepped forward in alarm to call out to the initiate. As he did, the statue above the boy stirred ominously. The two fraternity brothers froze in shock as the shrouded head turned toward the new candidate. They saw the gleam of glowing red eyes beneath the concealing hood as the statue’s arms reached out toward the cowering boy.
With shouts of alarm, the fraternity brothers leapt forward to rescue the new initiate. But it was too late. The initiate gave one horrified yell, and then his body disappeared into the embrace of the dark angel. The fraternity brothers skidded to a halt as the statue thoughtfully rested its glowing eyes upon them. With gasps of terror, the boys fled from the cemetery before the statue could grab them too.
Hearing the screams, a night watchman hurried to the Agnus plot. To his chagrin, he discovered the body of a young man lying at the foot of the statue. The young man had apparently died of fright.
The Black Angel (Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City, IA)
In Oakland Cemetery stands a 8.5-foot bronze statue of the Angel of Death, which was erected in 1913 and marks the grave of Teresa Feldevert. Like the Black Aggie, there are many thrill-seeking games involving the eerie statue. On Halloween, young people dare their friends to touch or kiss the statue. Touching or kissing the statue, rumor has it, will strike you dead (unless you are a virgin). And, like Black Aggie, this statue allegedly causes miscarriages.
Little Gracie (Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA)
Behind a private iron fence sits the grave of Gracie Watson marked by a statue of Gracie sitting on a tree stump. In 1889, Gracie (age 6) died of pneumonia, leaving behind her grief-stricken parents. Her spirit still lingers in her parents’ hotel. Hotel staff have reported Gracie’s disembodied voice in the back stairwell, a place she once hid in during her parents’ parties.
Many visitors to Gracie’s memorial leave small toys and gifts. It is said that if you remove gifts from the site, she will cry tears of blood. Visitors to the cemetery have also reported seeing a young girl in a white dress skipping through the property, only to vanish into thin air.
My current obsession is looking up photographs of cats in cemeteries, a marriage of my two obsessions. I am not sure what happens after death, but I like the idea of a cats hanging out near my grave (maybe even howe sitting on it). As I have explored in a past post, cats are associated with death and the supernatural, so cats and cemeteries are not an unlikely pair. Why are there so many photographs of cats in cemeteries? Are they trying to steal corpses? Comfort mourners? Sun bathe and chill?
In the following post, I recreate a entry from my commonplace book on this topic. So, it is a collection of sometimes unrelated pieces (texts and images) rather than a linear narrative.
“In European and American tradition […] it is commonly believed cats must be kept away from corpses, because they will attack them. In fact, according to medical examiners I have spoken to, this is occasionally observed–cats are carnivorous, after all” (27). – Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial, and Death
Montmarte Cemetery in Paris is home to a rather large community of cats. “No one is quite sure where they came form, but dozens and dozens of cats live amongst the mausoleums, quietly sunning themselves on the marble tombstones and keeping watch over their long forgotten inhabitants” (Atlas Obscura)
Kasha: In Japanese folklore, Kasha is a monster cat that steals corpses out of their coffins. “Kasha are occasionally employed as messengers or servants of hell, in which case they are tasked with collecting corpses of wicked humans and spiriting them off to hell for punishment. Other times, they steal corpses for their own uses — either to animate as puppets or to eat” (Yokai.com). They live among humans as average cats, but can grow into sizes larger than humans and are sometimes accompanied by fire.
At St. Sampson’s Parish Cemetery on the island of Guersney (off the coast of England), Barney the Cat roamed the cemetery for 20 years and comforted mourning visitors. When he passed in 2016, he was buried in a special place and memorialized with a plaque and bench in the cemetery. Many took to social media to share their personal stories about Barney. More info (and stories): Buzzfeed.
Kira Butler from The Midnight Society recently posted her cemetery bucket list, which inspired me to create my own list in my commonplace book. My list is strictly American cemeteries (for now), because mama is broke.
Below is my list, which is always growing. Many were chosen because they are reportedly haunted (of course). Am I missing any must-see cemeteries? Let me know in the comments.
My library is filled with used books, which can create a rather haunting atmosphere. Who had these books before me? How did they live? How did they die? The lingering fingerprints, marginalia, and dust from a distant house, bookstore, or library. It is as though each used book brings along its own trail of ghosts. In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson writes “Materializations are often best produced in rooms where there are books. I cannot think of any time when materialization was in any way hampered by the presence of books.” It seems, then, that the best place to look for ghost stories is at the library, which is full of used books.
Willard Library, Evansville, IN
The Lady in Gray has been haunting the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana since 1937. She was first seen by the night janitor around 3 am (witching hour, of course) in the basement. Several people since have reported her apparition, water turned on and off, the smell of perfume, cold temperatures, moved furniture and books, phantom touches, and odd items appearing from nowhere. You can see the ghost during a trip to the library, in-person or online.
The library has fully embraced their ghost, offering their space to ghost hunting groups and even placing ghost cams in multiple rooms of the library, which you can watch online. Visitors to the ghost cam site share their screen captures of the Lady in Gray on the site’s gallery.
Doris & Harry Vise Library, Cumberland Univ., Lebanon, TN
I am going to be straightforward and honest and say I’m including this library because there’s a ghost cat. Library director Jon Boniol once saw a phantom cat floating across the the library floor, disappearing behind boxes stacked under a table. Jon said, ” I did not see any legs or paws and no motion like a normal cat walking on a floor. The apparition was near the floor, about the right height for a cat, but it appeared to be gliding smoothly through the air instead of touching the floor. I couldn’t tell if it came in through the door or came from under my desk.” A former librarian also reported the ghost of a young girl that liked playing peek-a-boo behind the circulation desk (Britannica).
Peoria Public Library, Peoria, IL
The story goes that this library sits on cursed ground. In 1830, a very prominent citizen, Mrs. Andre Gray, lived where the library now stands. After the death of her brother, she took custody of his son.
Her nephew got into some trouble, so he hired a lawyer and took out a mortgage on the home (for security). The lawyer sued to foreclose on the home when Mrs. Gray’s nephew could not make payments. A very upset Mrs. Gray kicked her nephew out of the house.Shortly after, he was found dead and floating in the river (University of Illinois). Mrs. Gray cursed the house and anyone that would occupy it in the future. In 1894, the building became a cursed library: the first three library directors died under mysterious circumstances. The library was torn down and a new one stands in its place, but ghosts remain. People have reported their name being called in the stacks, cold drafts and the apparition of a past library director.
Julia Ideson Building, Houston Public Library, Houston, TX
A former library intern described an interesting evening at this library:
The Ideson Building is closed on Fridays, and the rest of the staff was either off for the day or out at a conference.
So at around 4:00PM that day I began to pack up the archival material I was working with when I heard the faint sounds of a violin playing a slow and slightly plaintive song.
“That’s….really weird…,” I thought to myself. The stone walls of the Ideson building are fairly thick, and there certainly wasn’t anyone else in the building who would be playing music! Needless to say, it was spooky enough that I packed up my stuff and went on my way. (Houston Public Library)
The phantom violin player was Jacob Frank Cramer, a former nighttime watchman. In the evenings he would play his violin on the roof before bedtime. He was found dead in the library in 1936, but his violin plays on.
Pattee Library, Penn State University, PA
According to legend, in the 1960s a graduate student was in the library doing research over Thanksgiving Break when she was stabbed and killed (Daily Collegian). People can allegedly hear her screams on the anniversary of her death. Other paranormal activity includes touching, moving objects (i.e. book carts moving on their own), transparent girls reading books, and disembodied eyes (Britannica).
Old Bernardsville Public Library, Bernardsville, NJ
The building itself wasn’t always a library and actually is not anymore. Built in 1790, the building was known as Vealtown Tavern during the Revolutionary War. During this time a woman, Phyllis Parker, found her lover’s body in a coffin awaiting burial inside the Tavern’s taproom . He had been hung for treason without her knowledge. This sight of her dead lover drove her mad and attached her to the building for eternity. While it was a library, visitors and staff reported voices, uneasy feelings, and the apparition of a woman (The Old Bernardsville News).
This blog, and the communities attached to it, will keep me going in the frightening political climate of America (to be frank). When I write, I hide; this year won’t be any different. I will savor the moments when I’m in my office with candles lit and a blank notebook page, ready for a new ghostly adventure.
Hey, all. I had the pleasure of writing about one of my favorite stories: Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” And, I got to explore it through two of my favorite television shows: The X-Files and Supernatural.