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The Legend of Black Aggie & The Birth of Druid Hill

A plot of land acquired several times by corrupt means, in an area full of bloodshed.

The suicide of a grieving daughter.
A statue made by a dying man's hand...
 and a soul torn from it's form to dopplegang another.



The tale begins in 1925 when Union General Felix Agnus, the publisher of the Baltimore American died and was laid to rest at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, just a few miles outside the Baltimore City limits. Over his grave was a very unusual statue...a large, black mourning angel.
What was to become known as "Black Aggie".
See, General Felix Agnus was an admirer of the original statue, "The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding", created by artist  Augustus St. Gaudens, in 1891.
Agnus wanted a copy of the original for his own gravesite, so upon his death, sculptor Edward L.A. Pausch, recreated the mourning figure and christened it "Grief". It's an unauthorized copy of the memorial statue at the grave of Marion "Clover" Adams. In 1886, Clover committed suicide by drinking potassium in a fit of depression over her father's death.
She was the wife of Henry Adams, president John Quincy Adams' grandson.

The story goes that Henry Adams commissioned Mr. St. Gaudens,  to create a monument to replace Clover's simple headstone.St. Gaudens was a well known American artist at the turn-of-the-century, and his works included "Diana" at Madison Square Garden and other reknowned civil war monuments such as those of Lincoln and Sherman.
St. Gaudens accepted, and created the statue, and it was placed over Clover's grave in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, St. Gaudens was also dying of cancer, which would eventually consume him in 1907.

It's said that Henry Adams never publicly spoke about Clover's death, nor did he ever officially name the monument or authorize an inscription.
The monument remained hidden behind an overgrowth of trees and shrubs until, according to local belief, Mark Twain visited in 1906, and being emotionally moved by the piece, called it "Grief."
Within a few months of the statue being placed at Clover's gravesite, someone made an illegal casting of the statue, which eventually made it's way into the hands of Eduard L.A. Pausch. The casting was only a partial, so to the best of my knowledge, the statues are not identical.
It is this stolen copy that became "Black Aggie".

One morning in 1962, a watchman reported that one of the statue's arms had been cut off during the night. The missing arm was later found in the trunk of a visitor’s car, along with a saw. The culprit’s defense was that Black Aggie had cut off her own arm in a fit of grief and had given it to him. Apparently, the judge didn't believe him and sent the man to jail.
After the trial, people began flocking to Druid Ridge Cemetery to catch a glimpse of the statue.
The number of nightly visitors had become unmanageable during the late 60's, and the Agnus family decided it best to have the statue removed and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Erie tales began to circulate about the statue. No grass ever seemed to grow in it's shadow.  It's eyes were said to glow red at the stroke of midnight and no one dared stare directly at it. Spirits of the restless dead were said to gather around Black Aggie once the cemetery was closed and, if anyone was brave enough to sit on the statue’s lap, it was rumored it would crush them in it's dark and cold embrace.

Legends state that anyone who Dares to repeat her name three times into a mirror meant she would drag your soul to hell.
A local fraternity decided to use a fright night with Black Aggie as a mode of initiation. Candidates were told to sit all night alone, with their backs to the statue. One night, the cemetery's caretaker heard  screaming and ran to investigate. When he arrived at the statue, he discovered the young man's body in front of the statue. He had apparently died of fright.

The stories are endless. Vivid imaginations? Maybe. Hysteria? Perhaps.

After the statue was donated in 1967, it remained in storage for years until it finally found a home in the courtyard in Lafayette Square, at the back of the Dolley Madison House, where it has remained...just minutes away from the original that rests upon Adams Memorial.

Even though the statue itself was moved, rumors still circulate about a statue that would come to life during the midnight hour. This other statue is  "Clotho", named after the the youngest of the Three Fates or Moirai.

So you see...there are 3.

This third, "Clotho", is the "Black Aggie" from the 80's slumber party stories. This is the statue that my generation would go to see, sit on the lap, and run away screaming. This is the statue that resides in the cemetery not more than 10  minutes from Rosewood state hospital, which you've seen in my artwork... and the place I call my home.

The truth is there are more stories that uphold the terrors of the statues, and the cemetery itself, than refute it.

Perhaps the truth of the matter goes back to the land itself in regard to mayor Swann? or perhaps to old man Rogers? Maybe it goes back deeper and further still.
Maybe its the fear itself and the stories that have given life to "she who talks within the stones".

From statue to statue...something seems to lurk at Druid Hill.

For more information on Druid Hill, read "Druid Hill Park: the heart of historic Baltimore"  By Eden Unger Bowditch & Anne Draddy

photos courtesy of ©2006-2020 Mizdimma DeSade. All rights reserved

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