Legend Has It: Black Aggie
A strange statue stands over the grave of a civil war general in Pikesville, Maryland. The statue is made of bronze and depicts a young person, encased in a shroud. Their eyes are shut as if in deep meditation. If not for the thick miasma of urban legends surrounding this figure, its stance would be peaceful. What is it about this statue that has attracted so much gruesome lore? Let’s explore.
There are a ton of variations in this legend, but I will retell the one I see popping up most here. The legend goes that the statue is haunting and bloodthirsty, its eyes glowing red in the darkness of night. The legends grew and spread to the local teenagers, who would visit in hopes of seeing the statue move or its murderous eyes glowing. Local fraternities and sororities then began to involve the statue in their hazing rituals. They would dare their new recruits to spend the night with the statue to prove their bravery.
That was all well and good until one sorority initiate was dared to spend the night curled on the statue’s lap – and was found dead in its arms the next morning. Some versions of the story claim that this initiate was somehow related to Marian Adams, and her vengeful spirit killed the girl as some generational revenge. Other versions of the legend say the girl was just an unfortunate person unconnected to the overarching story of the statue, which insinuates it’s willing to kill anyone, rather than targeting those related to its own tale.
Origins of the Statue
Before we get into this, I have to preface by saying that there are two statues – one in Maryland and one in DC. The statue in Maryland stands over the grave of Felix Agnus and was installed in 1926, after Agnus’ death in 1925. It was made by Edward Ludwig Albert Pausch, who copied the statue without permission – which seems disrespectful on a good day, let alone when placing it over someone’s grave. That’s just asking to be cursed. The original statue is in Washington DC, and was sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens to stand over the grave of Marian Adams, who completed suicide in 1885. Their grave is located in Rock Creek Cemetery and is known as the Adams Memorial.
As the legends grew more and more prolific, however, people flocked to the Agnus grave to visit it. This, of course, brought unwanted elements. The surrounding area was damaged, there was litter, and people even broke into the cemetery after it closed to see if the tales were true. Fed up that their ancestor’s resting place was being disturbed, the Agnus family donated the statue to the Smithsonian. The institution maintains an authorized duplicate of the Adams Memorial, and allowed the Agnus Duplicate to be moved to the Dolley Madison House in Washington DC, which is a historic house that is now used by the federal courts. Agnus’s grave marker is still an empty pedestal to this day.
Origins of the Name
While the origin of the Aggie seems pretty self-explanatory – seeing as the statue stood over a grave bearing the name Agnus – the origins of the name are very interesting. Let’s examine the folkloric figure called Black Annis. She is a witch or hag figure known to have a blue face and metal claws. Her legend states that she sought to kill wandering children, whose skins she tanned and wore after murdering them. She was used as a sort of boogeyman to get children to behave and go to sleep at night. I think it’s possible that immigrants brought her legend over from England, where it originates from, and it stuck to this statue because the surname was so similar.
The other explanation I can come up with for the name is the association between the color black and evil – this has a lot to do with the idea that “white” is “pure” and anything that sullies the “whiteness” of something diminishes its “purity.” Of course, this idea has deep, DEEP roots in racism, but it is worth mentioning when considering how the black aspect of the name came into play.