Maryland’s most famous haunted statue is no longer in Maryland. An empty pedestal stands in Druid Ridge Cemetery where, for years, “Black Aggie” lured thrill seekers and ghost hunters out to visit at night. It was said that if you sat in her lap, she would wrap her cold arms around you and crush you to death. Or if you stared into her eyes, she would strike you blind. No grass would grow in her shadow. But that was probably because so many people were walking up to the statue to sit on her lap or place coins in her hand for luck. Visits to the statue became part of fraternity hazing rituals, and one night the statue’s arm disappeared. It was later found in the trunk of a car, along with a masonry saw. The owner of the car claimed that the statue cut her own arm off and had given it to him. That may be about the time the family who owned the plot that was home to the infamous statue said “enough.” They had the statue removed and donated to the Smithsonian, who promptly lost it.
But they wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. “Black Aggie” was an illegal, poorly made copy of a statue by the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. The original statue stands today in Rock Creek Cemetery and attracts very little attention. I used to jog through that cemetery when I was in college at Catholic U (and I also brought a guy there as a first date–but in the daytime). I seem to recall the statue, but honestly, there were so many unsettling statues that’s it’s hard to say for certain whether I particularly noticed this one. (What always struck me most about that cemetery was the virtual town layout of mausoleums, like a Fischer Price Village for dead people.) Anyway, it’s odd that the original attains notice today only because of the attention paid to the copy.
The original statue marks the grave of Marian Adams, a young woman who poisoned herself in 1885. Her husband, grandson of John Quincy Adams, commissioned the statue and was later buried under it himself. He refused to speak of her death or the monument, and would never give it a name. Because of the Adams family connections and his silence about the whole thing, the statue became quite popular to visit. But no one ever claimed it was haunted. And after a while, people stopped paying attention.
In the early 1900s, a local artist snuck into the site and made a quick casting of the statue, not even bothering to clean up his mess. The statue was sold to a Civil War general, Felix Agnus, who set it up in Druid Ridge for his family plot. He discovered that it was a forgery when the original artist’s wife called him a “barbarian” for making such a crummy copy of her husband’s work. Agnus sued the artist who’d sold him the statue, but he didn’t have it removed.
And after a number of years, the stories began. Even though the statue was removed in 1967, people still come to the cemetery to see the platform where Black Aggie used to sit.
But now she sits by a Federal Court building in Washington, DC. She was donated to the Smithsonian, but was never put on display. Now, instead, they have an authorized copy of the St. Gaudens original, which is really the one that should be haunted anyway. Black Aggie is supposed to be the restless spirit of a disturbed young woman, not a Civil War general who lived to a ripe old age.
Spirits aren’t logical, that’s for sure.