Make out in an Iowa City graveyard and drop dead
There is this thing that I have for graveyards; I like them, a lot. As someone who loves history and most especially family history, I find them peaceful and interesting. I am also superstitious. Once, I have had a black cat cross my path and admittedly did not walk in a circle 13 times, walk backwards over the place that it happened while chanting bible verses, because I did not want to look unusual, but then bad things happened, three of them including a bad fall off of my bike and an incident with the garage door and a truck. And this is why it took me so long to cross this “Odd things in Iowa” and “Weird US” destination off of my Iowa bucket list. Well that and I don’t live in Iowa anymore.
Random fact, Iowa City is a UNESCO city of literature. U of Iowa was the first to offer a Master in fine Arts for creative writing, which is modeled throughout the scholastic world. Call me a skeptic but it is not surprising to me to that in a cemetery where there are Pulitzer Prize winners and poets that there are interesting legends.
Because I love history it is difficult for me not to expand upon this story but for the non history buff a shortened version. Among the many graves, there are three dead people buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. Mysterious Teresa Dolesal Feldertova, her son from her first husband, Eddie, and Nicholas Feldevert (Feldevertova). Teresa was a physician turned Midwife from Bohemia (Czech Republic). Cool, I can imagine that this made her stand out. She emigrated with her son Eddie to Iowa City. Eddie dies in 1891 of meningitis and Teresa marks his grave with a tree stump marker. She marries Nicholas Feldevert and moves to Oregon where he tragically dies and she brings his ashes back to Iowa City. Teresa hires a famous Chicago sculptor by the name of Mario Korbel, also from Bohemia, who then sculpts the glistening bronze Angel and sends it by rail from Chicago to Iowa City. Reportedly Teresa was unhappy with the statue as it did not follow her specification to include a replica of the tree stump which was on Eddie’s grave and refused to pay him $5,000. Korbel sues Teresa and wins. This is important to the story because it is unknown exactly when the Angel moves to the grave and may have been stored in a barn for six years, causing the later color change to black. What is known is that Teresa dies in 1924 and the Angel began to turn a more ominous black every year since that time and every attempt to restore the statue to glistening bronze has failed. Oddly, there is one story that I read that has Teresa in her wheel chair wheeling to the graves, and scraping at the statue. So get this, an eccentric Teresa wheels into the grass of a graveyard and can reach the Angel which is atop a four foot pedestal. I have been a Nurse and have had experience with women in wheel chairs; I can say that for sure she had power.
Seeing the statue in person, I must say, is pretty awesome. The statue itself is large, about 8.5 feet tall, stands upon a 4 foot pedestal. It is black, foreboding, ominous and certainly, capable of superstitious mischief. Her arms are outstretched holding up her large wings which tilt downward hovering over the graves which seems to suggest heaviness, as if holding the dead downward into the earth. This contrasts to the white stone angels with their wings uplifting towards heaven, which dot older Midwestern graveyards. Her gaze is eerie, solemn and downward. Many say that her eyes follow you as you walk. When looking at it for the first time it is truly breathtaking, which makes you pause and think of how you might lie in eternity with this angel over whatever it is that you believe is left behind. To me, only knowing the lore did I find it foreboding. Except that I actually had bad luck after looking at her eyes. But, I did not fully know about the hex and that should have precluded me from harm. It made me wonder, how the many legends got started from this beauty?
The stories of why the statue is black are numerous:
- Teresa was actually a witch, capable of evil powers, the Angel turned black to keep people away from her even in death
- Teresa murdered Eddie, in guilt commissioned the glistening statue only to have it turn black in a reminder of her sin.
- Teresa made a promise to Nicholas that she would never “have” another man. After taking a lover, the statue turned black due to her broken promise.
- There was a storm the night that Teresa died and lightening hit the statue which turned it black.
- Natural oxidative process possibly having been stored in a barn for six years.
- The Sculptor cursed the statue during the lawsuit. **To note, I started this rumor.
Exactly what will happen when you find yourself involved with this Atra Angela varies.
- touch or kisses at the statue’s feet by moonlight, will be struck dead, unless that person is a virgin.
- The statue will return to its glistening state only if the above happens at moonlight. This is six of one, (and) half a dozen of another since legend also has it that with a kiss, death will come within six months.
- That if a pregnant woman walks beneath the Angel’s wings, she will miscarry.
- That if one man foolishly kisses the statue, death will come instantaneously by cessation of heart beat.
- Gazing upon her eerie eyes at midnight will cause harm and death, talk about looks that could kill.
- That if on Halloween, she is touched, one will die within seven years and that each Halloween the statue turns darker because with each killing that it has caused.
- That just the mere touch of her, or looking directly into her eyes, will curse you with incurable and mysterious diseases.
- A young man who cut off a finger of the angel and ended up insane and found dead in the Chicago River and the finger turned up at the foot of the angel.
- A group of young men went to the statue; all of them urinated there and of course were met with a fiery car accident on the way home. So call me a skeptic but who lived to tell this story?
The inscription upon the Angel is in Bohemian and speaks of a life journey under sun and clouds, of days which are good and bad with everlasting reward after hardship. The inscription upon Eddie’s grave speaks to life coming to an end abruptly and without mercy, without time to bid adieu, yet at peace in a cool grave. When reading up on this legend, I learned that there are actually two black statues in Iowa, the other located in Council Bluffs and that the legends have been a bit mixed together. However, in my reading, I note that the Council Bluffs Angel was involved in positive spiritual apparitions. So there is that. To me, this Bohemian Angel that oxidized in an otherwise Protestant American cemetery, is simply a striking contrast and is truly beautiful and unique. Weddings have been held at this statue, I don’t get that but that’s cool weird stuff in Iowa and who knew? I can’t help but think how great it would be to photograph in all seasons, in the daylight and by moonlight. Apparently,quite a party on Halloween and hopefully not further defaced. The Angel and her lore was one of the most beautiful markers that I have ever seen and will remain etched in my memory as I ponder life and death at other grave visits in the future. I would want her protective wings over my grave. Definitely worth the “trip”
*Disclaimer. Although this dress may appear to hold a baby, there were no babies harmed while writing this blog.