Commonplace Book Entry: St. Patrick & the Pagan Corpse

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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 Manualofprayers-016c-patrickcompelled 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.

Haunted Cemetery Statues in the United States

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Not haunted, but a girl can dream.

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)

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)

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Image Credit: Ian MacQueen // CC BY-SA 3.0

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)

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Image Credit: Pinterest

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)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

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)

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Image Credit: Billwhittaker // CC BY-SA 3.0

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)

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Image Credit: Pinterest

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.

Commonplace Book Entry: Cemetery Cats

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.

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Image Source: Daderot / CC0 1.0

“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 

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Image Credit: Brett Hammond / CC BY 2.0

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)

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Image Credit: Bart Everson / CC By 2.0

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.

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Barney the Cat, Imaged Credit: Guernsey Press

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.

My Cemetery Bucket List (Ongoing)

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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.

  1. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
  2. Stepp Cemetery, Martinsvile, Indiana
  3. Gypsies Cemetery, Crown Point, Indiana
  4. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, Crestwood, Illinois
  5. Stull Cemetery, Kansas
  6. 100 Step Cemetery, Brazil, Indiana
  7. Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
  8. Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
  9. Westminster Burying Ground, Baltimore, Maryland
  10. Saint Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
  11. Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
  12. Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Dayton, Ohio
  13. Unitarian Church Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina
  14. Forest Park Cemetery, Brunswick, New York
  15. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
  16. Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
  17. The Burying Point, Salem, Massachusetts
  18. Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
  19. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
  20. Howard Street Burial Ground, Salem, Massachusetts
  21. Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, Illinois
  22. Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  23. Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona
  24. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
  25. Athens Mental Hospital Cemetery (The Ridges), Ohio
  26. Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio
  27. Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland, Oregon
  28. Union Cemetery, Easton, Connecticut
  29. Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois 
  30. Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts 
  31. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California
  32. Key West Cemetery, Florida 
  33. Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia 
  34. Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina 
  35. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  36. Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
  37. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts
  38. Cypress Lawn, Colma, California
  39. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island
  40. Sunset Hills Cemetery, Flint, Michigan
  41. Central Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
  42. St Roch Cemeteries (1&2), New Orleans,  Louisiana 

Check me out in Dirge Magazine!

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I was able to talk to some amazing experts on death about how we bury and memorialize the homeless. The obvious answer: we can do better.

How We Bury and Memorialize the Homeless 

Terror and Tomes: Haunted American Libraries

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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

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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).

One Year Later: A Reflection

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The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited. – Stephen King, Bag of Bones

One year ago today, I wrote my first post for Notebook of Ghosts. People always ask where the name of the blog came from. I have always kept commonplace books about the occult and wanted to translate this very personal activity to a rather public blog. I am so glad I did. I have been introduced to so many online communities: the folklorists, the death positive advocates, and young adult horror writers. My writing has appeared on sites I admire: Dirge Magazine and Death and The Maiden. Twitter has also been supportive and welcoming. Thank you so much for a wonderful, spooky year.

Before I start 2017 with a new post, I wanted to look back on some of my favorite posts!

Favorite Posts

Favorite Cemetery Visits (Indiana)

What’s Next?

This year, I have several blog-related (and personal) goals, including:

  • Sharing more images from my commonplace book (on the blog and Instagram)
  • Writing more substantial (and maybe less frequent) blog posts
  • Visiting more cemeteries (and hopefully Salem, MA)
  • Reading as many ghost stories in literature as possible
  • (Maybe) Bringing back my Pinterest page

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.

 

Check me out in Dirge Magazine!

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Where did the name Notebook of Ghosts come from? My love of commonplace books! I’m talking all about the tradition on Dirge Magazine!

Before Bullet Journals, There Were Commonplace Books 

Check me out in Dirge Magazine!

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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. 

The Television Legacy of “The Lottery”