Guest Article: Black Aggie ~ retold by S. E. Schlosser

black-agnes

When Felix Agnus put up the life-sized shrouded bronze statue of a grieving angel, seated on a pedestal, in the Agnus family plot in the Druid Ridge Cemetery, he had no idea what he had started. The statue was a rather eerie figure by day, frozen in a moment of grief and terrible pain. At night, the figure was almost unbelievably creepy; the shroud over its head obscuring the face until you were up close to it. There was a living air about the grieving angel, as if its arms could really reach out and grab you if you weren’t careful.

It didn’t take long for rumors to sweep through the town and surrounding countryside. They said that the statue – nicknamed Black Aggie – was haunted by the spirit of a mistreated wife who lay beneath her feet. The statue’s eyes would glow red at the stroke of midnight, and any living person who returned the statues gaze would instantly be struck blind. Any pregnant woman who passed through her shadow would miscarry. If you sat on her lap at night, the statue would come to life and crush you to death in her dark embrace. If you spoke Black Aggie’s name three times at midnight in front of a dark mirror, the evil angel would appear and pull you down to hell. They also said that spirits of the dead would rise from their graves on dark nights to gather around the statue at night.

People began visiting the cemetery just to see the statue, and it was then that the local fraternity decided to make the statue of Grief part of their initiation rites. “Black Aggie” sitting, where candidates for membership had to spend the night crouched beneath the statue with their backs to the grave of General Agnus, became popular.

One dark night, two fraternity members accompanied new hopeful to the cemetery and watched while he took his place underneath the creepy statue. The clouds had obscured the moon that night, and the whole area surrounding the dark statue was filled with a sense of anger and malice. It felt as if a storm were brewing in that part of the cemetery, and to their chagrin, the two fraternity members noticed that gray shadows seemed to be clustering around the body of the frightened fraternity candidate crouching in front of the statue.

What had been a funny initiation rite suddenly took on an air of danger. One of the fraternity brothers stepped forward in alarm to call out to the initiate. As he did, the statue above the boy stirred ominously. The two fraternity brothers froze in shock as the shrouded head turned toward the new candidate. They saw the gleam of glowing red eyes beneath the concealing hood as the statue’s arms reached out toward the cowering boy.

With shouts of alarm, the fraternity brothers leapt forward to rescue the new initiate. But it was too late. The initiate gave one horrified yell, and then his body disappeared into the embrace of the dark angel. The fraternity brothers skidded to a halt as the statue thoughtfully rested its glowing eyes upon them. With gasps of terror, the boys fled from the cemetery before the statue could grab them too.

Hearing the screams, a night watchman hurried to the Agnus plot. To his chagrin, he discovered the body of a young man lying at the foot of the statue. The young man had apparently died of fright.

The disruption caused by the statue grew so acute that the Agnus family finally donated it to the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.. The grieving angel sat for many years in storage there, never again to plague the citizens visiting the Druid Hill Park Cemetery.

You can read more Maryland folktales and ghost stories in Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser.

Review: Enon ~ Paul Harding

EnonThe next novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers, in which a father’s grief over the loss of his daughter threatens to derail his life.

Powerful, brilliantly written, and deeply moving Paul Harding has, in Enon, written a worthy successor to Tinkers, a debut which John Freeman on NPR called “a masterpiece.” Drawn always to the rich landscape of his character’s inner lives, here, through the first person narrative of Charlie Crosby (grandson to George Crosby of Tinkers), Harding creates a devastating portrait of a father trying desperately to come to terms with family loss.

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If you are looking for a read that is full of plot twists and turns, feel good characters and a happy ending, then you would be well advised to give this tragic book a miss.  If you are prepared to dive into its pages, you may be surprised at the emotions it evokes in you.

Without revealing spoilers, this novel is a journey into hell via the grief and anguish of one man.  We see how this duo enables his year-long addiction to alcohol and drugs, alienates those he loves and are trying to support him, and generally takes him on a downward spiral few of us could imagine going on. This novel takes the reader to the brink of the character’s madness, as we are trapped inside his head during his periods of hallucinations and flashbacks while he struggles unsuccessfully to come to grips with the destroying loss he has suffered.

To pull no punches, this is a grim and almost depressing book, but the Author has written it beautifully and with great assurance; bringing to the page something that needs to be read to understand that we, although of the same species, do not cope with grief in the same way.  The book is written in the first person narrative, and this style is  very effective in making this novel believable as we drift with the main protagonist further from his hold on reality.

I did find in some places that the book was a little disjointed and rambling, whether or not this was intentional on the part of the Author to play into the whole mind of the main character I don’t know, but it was a little distracting at times and pulled away some of my enjoyment in this read.  Also, not being a voyeur, I found this book to give me an uncomfortable feeling as if I were intruding in a place I really should not have been, and this again detracted from my enjoyment.  The unending flow of misery and isolation really began to pull me down in the end, and I was relieved when I finally turned the last page and was able to set this aside.

Although the book was definitely not for me, I gave it a three thumbs rating because of the way in which it is written.  It is rich in prose and the visual landscapes of settings and emotions the reader encounters as they ‘journey’ through the book, were written in such a way as to demonstrate the command of the pen this Author appears to have.

If you enjoy reading about another’s pain, be it self-induced or inflicted on them by forces beyond their control, this is probably a read you would enjoy, other than those in this area I really couldn’t recommend this novel to readers of any one particular genre.

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