Local legends: The Black Angel, Coe College’s ghost and the haunted Edinburgh Manor

The Black Angel in Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City. — photo by Jordan Sellergren

The Black Angel

The Black Angel is a foreboding presence in Oakland Cemetery: a nearly-nine-foot-tall figure on a four-foot monument with outstretched wings and arms, a downturned face and helmet hair. Vandals have lopped off most of her fingers, an act that, according to legend, leads to death. Non-virgins who dare kiss the statue are also assured an untimely demise, especially on Halloween.

Folklore aside, what makes the Black Angel so­ — weird? Well, it’s not the ethereal image Americans are used to seeing at gravesites. The sculpture was the brainchild of two Czech-Bohemian immigrants: artist Mario Korbel and commissioner Theresa Dolezal Feldevert, who wanted the piece to look down upon the grave of her late son Eddie (buried under the statue of a tree stump to the angel’s right).

The Black Angel presides over the graves of midwife Theresa Dolezal Feldevert, her second husband Nicholas Feldevert and son Eddie Dolezal. The pedestal reads ‘Rodina Feldevertova,’ Czech for ‘the Feldevert family.’ — photo by Jordan Sellegren

The Black Angel, originally bronze, cuts a dreary figure common in Eastern Europe cemeteries in the 1910s, though even Feldevert allegedly found it a little off-putting. Still, she and her second husband Nicholas are buried at the Black Angel’s feet.

Its transition to black has been attributed to everything from Feldevert’s rumored infidelity to murders committed by the angel itself. The less superstitious would tell you it’s the natural result of bronze oxidization. During Halloween season, we’d rather believe the former.

— Emma McClatchey

The ghost of Voorhees Hall

Helen Roberts wasn’t famous until she was dead.

A student at Coe College in Cedar Rapids in 1918, Helen lived in the nicest dorm on campus, Voorhees Hall (“Voorhees Hall exemplifies something new in the construction of girls’ dormitories,” complete with laundry facilities and a pool, according to a 1915 newspaper story). It’s also where she died.

Helen has become Coe’s ghostly mascot. Judging by the stories, Helen is less of a spectral menace and more of an annoying roommate. Generations of students have claimed Helen slams doors, stomps up the stairs, pulls off blankets and plays the piano in the dark hours before dawn.

But if ghostly Helen’s half-hearted poltergeisting isn’t particularly terrifying, what happened to the real flesh-and-blood Helen is.

Helen was one of the victims of the great influenza pandemic of 1918. The details of her death aren’t recorded, but that doesn’t matter — she died the same way the other victims did. It started with a sudden fever. A few days later, her lungs began filling with fluid. It became harder to breathe. Helen slowly drowned as she lay in bed. Less than two weeks after falling ill, Helen Roberts was dead.

The 1918 pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide, according to most estimates. That era’s medical science was largely powerless against it. And there’s no reason to feel safe just because medicine has advanced in the last 99 years. Experts agree that another lethal flu pandemic is almost inevitable, and that whatever flu strain is able to spread worldwide will be resistant to current treatments.

Just something to think about this Halloween, as you read about funding cuts for science.

Image: A grandfather clock dedicated to the memory of Helen Roberts is said to be permanently broken. It allegedly once stopped at 2:53 … the time at which Roberts died.

— Paul Brennan

Edinburgh Manor

This Jones County attraction is a ghost hunter’s playground, literally.

Edinburgh Manor is a large Victorian building located in Monticello. Prior to the manor’s construction, the site was home to the County Poor Farm, where impoverished, insane and disabled locals could earn housing and food in exchange for farm labor. From 1850 to 1910, more than 80 deaths were reported on the property.

By 1911, the farm was replaced by Edinburgh Manor, which served as a community care home for the insane, poor and elderly until 2010. There are reports (or, at least, rumors) that the asylum staff severely mistreated residents throughout its history, leaving them sitting in their own filth for days and subjecting them to dehumanizing exams and living conditions — the kind of trauma from which the most infamous hauntings arise.

Though medical documents are still scattered throughout the building, Edinburgh Manor has been open to paranormal investigators since 2012, including TV’s Ghost Adventures. These overnight visits have yielded a handful of evidence videos and audio recordings and dozens of reports of loud noises, humming, cold spots, disembodied voices, spontaneous mist and shadowy figures.

Those looking to organize a truly ghostly sleepover can book a night at the manor for $200, or $40 a person for groups of five or more. Make sure to pack a camera.

— Emma McClatchey

[gravityform id="17" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper your-village-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_17' ><a id='gf_17' class='gform_anchor' ></a><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_17' class='your-village-form' action='/local-legends-the-black-angel-coe-colleges-ghost-and-the-haunted-edinburgh-manor/#gf_17'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_17' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_17_7' class='gfield gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3 style="font-weight:800; font-size:34px;">Let's get started</h3> <p style="font-size:18px;">Fill out this form and we'll contact you with information about marketing with Little Village!</p></li><li id='field_17_4' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' for='input_17_4_3' ></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name gfield_trigger_change' id='input_17_4'> <span id='input_17_4_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_4.3' id='input_17_4_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='2' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First name'/> <label for='input_17_4_3' >First</label> </span> <span id='input_17_4_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_4.6' id='input_17_4_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='4' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last name'/> <label for='input_17_4_6' >Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_17_5' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_5' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_17_5' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='6' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_17_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_3' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_17_3' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='7' placeholder='Your email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"/> </div></li><li id='field_17_8' class='gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_8' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_8' id='input_17_8' type='text' value='' /></div><div class='gfield_description'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_17' class='gform_button button' value='SUBMIT' tabindex='8' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; jQuery("#gform_17").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=17&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='17' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_17' value='WyJbXSIsIjlmNzc1YTEyZmZjNmYyODk5Mzk0NDM3ZjRlOGYyZDNmIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_17' id='gform_target_page_number_17' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_17' id='gform_source_page_number_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_1" name="ak_js" value="170"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_ajax_frame_17'>This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.</iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 17, '' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_17').load( function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_17');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_17').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').offset().top); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_17').val();gformInitSpinner( 17, '' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [17, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_17').offset().top);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [17]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_17').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> if(typeof gf_global == 'undefined') var gf_global = {"gf_currency_config":{"name":"U.S. Dollar","symbol_left":"$","symbol_right":"","symbol_padding":"","thousand_separator":",","decimal_separator":".","decimals":2},"base_url":"https:\/\/\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope","number_formats":[],"spinnerUrl":"https:\/\/\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope\/images\/spinner.gif"};jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 17) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, 1]) } ); </script>