Black Aggie

Black Aggie Copy of a famous grave memorial popularly called Grief sculpted by Augustus St. Gaudens, associated with haunting activity.


The original St. Gaudens Grief was made for Marian “Clover” Adams, the wife of Henry Adams, the grandson of President John Quincy Adams. After the death of her father in 1885, Marian fell into a dark depression and committed SUICIDE by drinking potassium in December of that year. Adams buried her in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Initially, her grave had a simple headstone. Adams went traveling abroad to relieve his grief, and when he returned, he commissioned St. Gaudens to create a memorial. St. Gaudens spent four years on the piece, a mournful-looking seated woman carved out of pink granite. Powerful and compelling, the memorial drew the curious to Marian’s grave.

St. Gaudens’s statue was copied by another sculptor, Eduard L. A. Pausch, who sold his copy in 1905 to General Felix Agnus, the publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper, who was constructing a family burial site in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville. The widow of St. Gaudens found out about the copy and came to see it herself. She was appalled at the poor quality. Agnus claimed he was not to blame because he was the victim of fraudulent art dealers. Mrs. St. Gaudens told him to sue the art dealers and surrender the forgery. Agnus did sue and won—but he kept the phony statue. Agnus’s wife died in 1922 and Agnus died in 1925. Both were buried with the replica Grief at the family grave. It soon became known as “Black Aggie.”

The gravesite quickly gained a reputation for mysterious phenomena. People came at night to see if the stories were true; some defaced the statue. By 1966, the descendants of Agnus decided to get rid of the source of the problem by donating the statue to the Maryland Museum of Art. Somehow the deal fell through, and in 1967 the statues went instead to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian gave it to the National Museum of American Art. It languished in storage and then was placed in the back courtyard of the DOLLEY MADISON house in Washington, where it remains today.

Haunting Activity

Agnus’s grave was reported to be haunted soon after his death in 1925. The focal point of the activity was the weird Black Aggie. Oddly, grass never grew around the statue. Nocturnal visitors claimed that Black Aggie’s eyes glowed in the dark, and if a person returned her gaze, he would be struck blind. Spirits were said to rise up out of their graves and gather around her in adoration on certain nights. Pregnant women who crossed the statue’s shadow were certain to miscarry.

A fraternity made pledges spend a night in the embrace of Black Aggie. According to legend, one unfortunate initiate was crushed to death when the statue came to life. A sheet metal worker cut off one of the statue’s arms in 1962 and hid the piece in his trunk. It was discovered, and the man was brought to trial. He told the judge that Black Aggie had cut off her own arm and given it to him. The judge sent the man to prison.

Black Aggie continues to inspire stories of strange phenomena.

Further Reading:

  • Taylor, Troy. “Black Aggie: The Haunted History of One of America’s Most Mysterious Monuments.” Available online. URL: html. Downloaded October 21, 2006.

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley  – September 1, 2007

Haunted Washington D.C.

Back to Haunted Washington D.C.

Haunted Washington D.C.