For example, consider the Green Mount cemetery in Montpelier, Vermont. The ghost of a small girl is rumored to haunt the walkways of this burying ground, searching for the gravesite of her mother. Green Mount is also home to Black Agnes, a funerary monument with an unsavory reputation.
Black Agnes is actually a large statue titled Thanatos (which means "death" in Greek). Sculpted by Karl Bitter, Black Agnes/Thanatos marks the grave of John Erastus Hubbard (1847 - 1899), a wealthy Montpelier businessman.
According to the legend bad things will happen to anyone who sits in Black Agnes's lap. Depending on who tells the story, the unlucky person will:
Encounter three strokes of bad luck
Have an uncountable amount of bad luck
Die within seven days
There are some variations of the story. Some say that sitting in Agnes's lap will just bring bad luck, but actually lying down on the statue will bring certain death. Others say that death will only come if you sit on Agnes during the full moon. Hmm. I say just avoid the statue altogether.
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?
|Black Agnes photo from T.M. Gray's More New England Graveside Tales.|
I first read about Black Agnes in T.M. Gray's More New England Graveside Tales. Ms. Gray says locals claim John Hubbard was murdered, which is why his monument is charged with supernatural evil. She also says this story isn't true - records indicate he died of liver cancer.
Gray's book and these two websites also note that the Black Agnes statue actually represents a man, not a woman. I suppose Agnes could be his nickname or drag persona, but I think something else is going on here.
According to Snopes.com the Black Agnes story is actually found in many different parts of the country, including the Washington, DC area and in the Midwest. Snopes claims the original Black Agnes statue was in a cemetery in Baltimore, but was ultimately moved to the Dolly Madison House in DC because too many frat boys and sorority sisters were breaking into the cemetery for terrifying late-night initiations on Agnes's lap.
The Black Agnes statue in DC is of indeterminate gender but gets its name because it marked the grave of Civil War soldier Felix Agnus (1839 - 1925). Over time Agnus became Agnes, and in some places the statue is now simply called Black Aggie.
I'm not sure how the legend moved from Baltimore to Montpelier, but even if the Snopes explanation is true I don't think it lessens the power of this legend. Looming behind the narrative details of foolish teens and murderous statues is the very ancient idea that the dead have power and shouldn't be mocked. Sitting on a gravestone or a funeral monument is disrespectful to the dead - should we be surprised that they retaliate?
Like Midnight Mary, Black Agnes is another of those spirits who instructs us in how to show proper etiquette towards the dead. After all, when we've joined them on the other side we won't want obnoxious teens sitting on top of us either.