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Monday, January 27, 2014

Black Agnes



This statue is one of Vermont's most desirable haunts, particularly at night.

The story of the curse of the statue that was told to me was: "If you lay in her arms at midnight, during a full moon, you will die within 7 days, and 7 of your friends will die, too."  

Another version is if you sit on her lap, you will have 3 strokes of bad luck.   

"One story claims that three teenagers sat on Black

 Agnes during   the full moon, trying to show how

 brave they were. They all drove home safely that

 night and thought they had escaped the curse. But

 within a week one was in a serious car accident,

 one fell and broke  his leg, and the third drowned

 when his canoe capsized in the  Winooski River.

 Just coincidence or the malevolent power of 

 Black Agnes? " -newenglandfolklore.com

John Hubbard bronze statue (shown wrapped in a shroud) was commissioned by Austrian sculpture Karl Bitter in 1899

For anyone believing that this beautiful statue is a statue of "Black Agnes" may want to read the actual memorial of the person that is actually buried here.  And if you are silly enough to believe that you are laying in the arms of a woman....you may want to actually look at the statue itself.  Your first hint might be that this individual is not a she (has no visible breasts), your second hint is that he is not black.

"Black Agnes" - to which this statue is commonly referred, is actually John Hubbard.   John Hubbard lived a relatively short life (1847 - 1899), leaving this world at the young age of just 52.  During his life, however, one of his Aunts died, leaving him a rather large sum of money that was intended to be used for the public good - one of which was the Kellogg-Hubbard Public Library.  Here is the skinny on that story, from kellogghubbard.org:

"The saga of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library began in 1889, when Martin M. Kellogg, a New York City real estate magnate born in Barre, died of a heart attack, followed three months later by his widow, the former Fanny M. Hubbard, a Montpelier native. The couple had agreed their $300,000 estate should be given to the city of Montpelier to construct ornate entrance gates for the Green Mount Cemetery and to build a public library.

But Fanny's nephew, John E. Hubbard, contested her will. After signatories to Fanny's will testified at a probate court hearing that they hadn't realized they were signing a will, the judge ruled in Hubbard's favor and declared the will void. Town fathers filed a counter suit, and after three years of dispute — with local residents taking sides — John Hubbard agreed to build a library."

But what of "Black Agnes" a.ka. "Black Aggie" a.k.a. 'Black Annis"?  From where did this curse and urban legend come?  

Well, you might as well jump on the band-wagon, because there are many trumpeters here to join you.  Researching this has been very informative and interesting.  It always amazes me how stories are started, and how they evolve into urban legend.

In Maryland:

Original statue before it was removed and replaced with a bronze statue
"Black Aggie is the folkloric name given to a statue formerly placed on the grave of General Felix Agnus in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland. It is an unauthorized replica, rendered by Edward L. A. Pausch, of Augustus St. Gaudens' allegorical figure, popularly called Grief, at the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The statue shown above is of a seated figure in a cowl or shroud. 

Beginning with its installation in 1926, the statue was surrounded by many urban legends, principally that someone spending a night in its lap would be haunted by the ghosts of those buried there; that the spirits of individuals buried at Druid Ridge would annually convene at the statue; that no grass would grow on the ground where the statue's shadow would lay during the daytime; or that the statue would animate itself during the night, whether by physically moving or by showing glowing red eyes.

These urban legends led to much unwelcome attention toward the statue; many people were caught breaking into the cemetery at night to visit it, and the pedestal was frequently vandalized. The Agnus family, disturbed by the attention the statue received, donated it to the Smithsonian in 1967. It sat for many years in storage at the National Museum of American Art (later named the Smithsonian American Art Museum) where an authorized recasting of the original Adams Memorial statue now sits.

"Black Aggie", today in bronze
 Black Aggie was moved from her previous home at the museum to a courtyard behind the Dolley Madison House on Lafayette Square[disambiguation needed] in Washington, D.C. where she currently stands. The bare, blank pedestal remains at the statue's former home at Druid Ridge Cemetery." -wiki

In West Virginia:

"Black Agnes is a statue located in a cemetery in West Virginia, she is a very famous statue of a seated lady, with her hands outstretched. Is believed to be in the memory of Felix Agnus (1839-1925), a General from the Civil War.

Another version of the legend behind this statue (and most popular) says that in this grave, lies a woman who died from a broken heart, but let me tell you why is this statue famous: One of the legends says that at midnight, if you dare to look at her eyes, they will burn bright red and then they will turn you blind, or even kill you with her gaze, but there is another legend.

A teenager girl it's in a slumber party with her girlfriends playing truth or dare, when one of her friends dare her to go to the cemetery and sit on Black Agnes' lap. The young girl accepts the challenge and makes her way to the cemetery.  After some hours, she never made it back to the party, all of the girls thought she got afraid and just went to her home, and all of them decided to call it a night and went to sleep.

The next morning all of the girls had to walk in front of the graveyard to go to school and noticed that one of the shoes of their friend outside and decided to see what happened. When they got to the statue, they screamed in horror when they saw their friend dead, laying on the arms of the statue.

There are various versions of this legend as I said before, sometimes is a girl that has to sit on the statue's lap as a sorority initiation dare, other version says that the girl is a descendant from the woman's fiance, and she finally had her revenge.

Also in some versions of the legend says that on the body of the dead girl, were found marks that looks if she was held by a superhuman clutch. But the legend of the killer statue its not only based on Black Agnes. There are various statues around the world that share the same legend, all of them having as an end, that the girl is found dead on the arms of the statue." -read-legends-and-myths.com

In England: 

"Black Annis, also known as Black Agnes, is a bogeyman figure in English folklore. She is imagined as a blue-faced crone or witch with iron claws and a taste for humans (especially children).  She is said to haunt the countryside of Leicestershire, living in a cave in the Dane Hills, with an oak tree at its entrance.

She supposedly goes out onto the glens at night looking for unsuspecting children and lambs to eat, then tanning their skins by hanging them on a tree, before wearing them around her waist.  

She would reach inside houses to snatch people. Legend has it that she used her iron claws to dig into the side of a sandstone cliff, making herself a home there which is known as Black Annis's Bower. The legend led to parents warning their children that Black Annis would catch them if they did not behave." 

The earliest written account of ‘The Old Hag’ which comes from a poem written in 1797 by John Heyrick, a lieutenant in the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoons (which later became 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussors). In the History of Leicester, Heyrick recalled this poem, and insisting it to be a true story.  It is understood that his honorable character meant that he could be quite trusted.  These six lines of Heyrick’s poem were the foundation to every tale and every description of Black Annis written since:

"Tis said the soul of mortal man recoil’d,

To view Black Annis’ eye, so fierce and wild;

Vast talons, foul with human flesh, there grew

 In place of hands, and features livid blue

 Glar’d in her visage; while the obscene waist

 Warm skins of human victims close embraced.

 Where down the plain the winding pathway falls,

From Glenfield Vill to Lester’s ancient walls,

Nature or Art with imitative power,

Far in the glenn has placed *Black Annis’ Bower.

An oak, the pride of all the mossy dell,

Spread its broad arms above the stony cell;

And many a bush, with hostile thorns arrayed,

Forbids the secret cavern to invade;

Whilst delving vales each way meander round,

And violet banks with redolence abound."

*Black Annis, also known as Black Agnes, is an evil witch-crone figure from English folklore.  Supposedly, she possesses a blue-face of a crone or witch and has iron claws with an appetite for humans - and especially likes children.   She is said to haunt the countryside of Leicestershire, England and lives in a cave in the Dane Hills.  Legend states that there is an oak tree at the entrance of the cave. 

In England, and earlier still....

There was a woman by the name of Agnes Scott, who in the "The Description of Leicestershire” is described as ‘Black Agnes.’ Agnes was a real person, in fact, she was a Dominican Nun, "is surmised to have lived in a cave near the Dane Hills and from there ran a leper colony."  She died in 1455 and was buried at Swithland church. An engraved brass plate memorializes her at the church, engraved in Latin translates:

The Swithland Church
"Enclosed in this tomb lies Agnes Scott, called the devout mother of Lady Ferrers. Whoever thou shall pass by pour out prayers, I beg. I am what thou shalt be. I used to be what thou art. Pray for me, I pray."

Scotland:  1337

"Agnes, Countess of Dunbar, was the daughter of Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, a close ally of Robert the Bruce. In 1337, while her husband was fighting in the north, ‘Black Agnes’ defended her home, Dunbar Castle, against an English siege.

Dunbar Castle
Black Agnes was named for her olive skin and black hair. She was outraged when the Earl of Salisbury besieged her home and she refused to surrender.

For months Agnes and a few servants and men held out against the English forces. The English earl brought mighty siege engines to batter the castle walls. Agnes and her ladies walked the battlements and dusted the walls where they had been hit with their white handkerchiefs.

Agnes stood on the walls of the castle and berated the English forces.

When the Earl of Salisbury brought a battering ram called ‘a sow’ to the castle, Agnes had a massive boulder - that the attackers had fired at the walls - dropped on the war machine, destroying it.

The English held Agnes’ brother John Randolph, Earl of Moray, captive. They put a rope about his neck and threatened to hang him. Agnes called their bluff telling them to go ahead as she would fall heir to the Earldom of Moray. The English relented and Randolph survived.

Eventually the English earl gave up and abandoned the siege. Black Agnes became a folk hero. A ballad, put words into the mouth of the Earl of Salisbury:"

"She kept a stir in tower and trench, 

That brawling, boisterous Scottish wench, 

Came I early, came I late, 

I found Agnes at the gate."