Welcome to Mysteries over Martinis! This blog is a mix of unexplained phenomena and personal encounters served up with a mystery-themed cocktail. It’s a recipe for intrigue!
1 Part Cream
1 Part Dark Cacao Liqueur
1 Maraschino Cherry
Add all ingredients into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and say a prayer.
The Legend of the Black Angel
The Black Angel located in Oakland Cemetery
Every town has its local legend and lore. Usually one serves as a rite of passage for the resident teenagers. In my hometown of Iowa City, IA, it is the legend of the Black Angel. A bronze statue that mysteriously turned black after the woman who had it constructed passed away. The Black Angel, formally known as the Feldevert Monument, is located in Oakland Cemetery where it rests upon a granite pedestal. The nine and a half feet tall statue looms ominously over the grave site of Nicholas and Teresa Feldevert. The figure’s head bows sorrowfully. Her arms are outstretched with her right wing up and the left one slanted down. The tips of the left thumb and index finger are missing due to vandalism. The inscription on the front of the pedestal reads:
Nicholas Feldevert 1825 – 1911
Teresa Feldevert 1836 –
One legend says that Teresa was an evil woman. It’s also alleged that she may have been a witch. It is believed her wickedness tainted the purity of the bronze statue once it was set atop her grave. Another urban legend is that infidelity was the source of the Angel being consumed by blackness. One version is that the man who made the monument sculpted it over his wife’s grave. Because she was unfaithful to him, the statue turned black as an eternal reminder of her sin. The second tale is that Teresa herself committed adultery while married to her husband. When she was laid to rest, the statue transformed into the sinister statue we see today.
The superstition surrounding the Black Angel is that if you touch the Angel, you will die within seven years. Also, it is said that women who are kissed in front of the mysterious statue will meet an early death but those who are virgins will be spared. You may want to think twice about meeting her gaze because those who do will be cursed.
Many stories circulate to support the frightening claims. For example, one tale says that the young man who cut off her fingers with a hacksaw went insane and days later his body was discovered in the Chicago River. The cause of death was strangulation. Authorities said the only evidence left behind was a thumb print on his neck. Days later, the groundskeeper at Oakland Cemetery claims to have found the missing thumb of the statue situated at the base of the pedestal.
Another account tells the story of four young men who ventured into the cemetery after midnight to dispel the rumors surrounding the famous figure. They desecrated the grave by urinating on the monument. They all died in a car crash later that evening.
Some people have reported seeing balls of light drifting near the statue at night. Others report seeing an apparition of a woman walking near the monument. Many locals will not go near the statue out of fear that close proximity may cause turmoil in their life.
The Black Angel was even featured in W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe. The movie Field of Dreams is based upon this book. A good deal of the story takes place in Iowa City. Kinsella was a part of the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. He incorporated some of Iowa City’s folklore into his story, including the traditions surrounding the Black Angel.
Here are some facts regarding the burial monument and those who rest below it. The statue was erected by Teresa Dolezal Feldevert. She was born in Strmilov Bohemia in 1836. When she was 30 years old, she married Dr. Frantisek Dolezal. Soon after their wedding, he moved to Vienna where he worked as a surgeon. Teresa stayed behind and gave birth to a son. Two weeks later, he died of “infantile convulsions.” A short time later, Teresa moved to Vienna to be with her husband. She enrolled in a program at the University of Vienna to become a midwife. After graduating, she moved back to her home town and gave birth to another son named Edward (Eddie). Not much is known about the fate of Dr. Dolezal but 4 years later, Teresa and her son immigrated to the United States. They came to Iowa City, where she worked as a midwife.
Eddie planned to attend the University of Iowa to become a pharmacist. Unfortunately, in January of 1891, Eddie became very ill and died of meningitis. He was only 18 years old. His body was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery. Teresa had a tree stump monument erected over his grave to symbolize a life cut too short. It stands next to the Black Angel.
The death of Eddie devastated Teresa so she consumed herself in her work. Later that year, she traveled to St. Paul, MN where she met and married a Bohemian immigrant named Joseph Picha. The marriage fell apart only 2 years later.
Teresa moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1897. There, she met and married rancher Nicholas Feldevert. She was 60 years old and he was 72. While assisting Nicholas with making hay, Teresa was bitten by a rattlesnake. In order to save her life, her lower leg had to be amputated. She was confined to a wheelchair from that day on.
Nicholas died of apoplexy (most likely due to a stroke) in 1911. He was cremated and Teresa brought his ashes with her when she returned to Iowa City. She hired Mario Korbel to design the angel monument in honor of her son and 3rd husband. Korbel was an up and coming Bohemian artist located in Chicago. She gave him specifications regarding the angel and requested that a replica of Eddie’s tree stump be incorporated into the grand monument. The angel was shipped to Iowa City where it arrived on a railroad flatcar in November of 1912. A bitter legal battle ensued because the angel did not include the tree stump she requested. In the end, Teresa lost the dispute and paid the full $5000 owed to the artist.
Later, Teresa had a poem inscribed onto the side of the pedestal. It was written in Czech. This is a loose translation:
For me, the clouds concealed the sun. The path was thorny;
The days of my life passed without solace.
You always accomplished your work only for the good of the world.
You fold your arms, your head bows down, your spirit flies away into the distance,
Where, after your suffering, an eternal reward awaits you.
Teresa succumbed to cancer on November 18, 1924. Her ashes were laid to rest alongside her husband and son. Due to an oversight, she did not set any money aside for her death date to be engraved onto the monument so that is why it remains blank.
It wasn’t long after the Angel monument was erected in Oakland Cemetery that the bronze angel began to turn black. The scientific explanation is that the elements caused the metal to oxidize at a rapid rate. However, the strangeness of the appearance began to circulate rumors of witchcraft, infidelity and superstitious lore.
There is no evidence that Teresa was evil or a witch. However, she was described as a peculiar woman who was very independent. People have speculated that she murdered her husbands. Her eccentricities, frequent moves and tragic life have raised suspicion which have created the rumors and folklore.
We will most likely never know the truth behind the lore. However, there is something unrelated to the Black Angel that could explain why people sense activity in the cemetery. Hickory Hill Park surrounds a large section of the cemetery. In the late 1800s, Iowa City hospitals did not have the facilities to contain contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and small pox. “Pest Houses” were built in order to isolate patients suffering from these epidemics. Three different buildings were used at various times and all were located in the vicinity of Oakland Cemetery. One was located only 200 yards from the eastern edge of the grounds. Supposedly, those who died and were never claimed by family were buried in unmarked graves. It’s possible that the real source of the supposed haunting may be the souls of those who died in isolation. If you dare tempt fate and investigate the legend for yourself, be sure to leave a comment.
If you’ve had a mysterious encounter you’d like to share, please e-mail me and be sure to like the Mysteries over MartinisFacebook page. Weirdness is always welcome!
The foundation of a Pest House located in Hickory Hill Park, near the Black Angel.