And I started in Iowa.
I’m not sure why except someone had sent me a press release about a monster book from the state, which I really didn’t intend to read, and I heard something on the news about someone from Iowa. It seemed like a good place to start because, like most of the country, I am completely ignorant to its geography and its complexion. I can gather from the name it must have a strong Native American heritage, but other than that, I draw a blank. In fact, it may have appealed to me because what I know of it exists for me as little fragments of facts that I’m not sure are correct. I can make a strong argument that is exactly what a legend is.
So, week one is Iowa, and here is what I think I know. Captain Kirk was raised there. One of its colleges, I believe Iowa State, has the best writing program in the country. I remember a friend of mine applying to graduate school to the wrong one and nearly collapsing when she discovered her mistake. There is farming there, or ranching, and it might be in the middle of the country.
At some point, I’m hoping someone thinks this is quaint. Are we always patting the student on the back who’s not afraid to ask the dumb question and admit they don’t know something? I do not know about Iowa, blame my parents or the school system. I am sure a few of the people I get in contact with will look me up to see if they should respond. If you work under the assumption that this is my way to stick pins in the places across the country I’m ignorant to, does that mean I should be commended for asking and forgiven for not knowing. Again, at some point, I’m hoping they think this is quant.
Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery and its legendary Dark Angel were the most common response to my inquiries, although I need to admit most of the people I contacted were from state commissions and agencies. I was leery at first because I am trying to avoid hauntings, but I discovered something a bit different there. I avoided their links to paranormal sites and went to the source itself. According to the Iowa City Government site, the statue, erected under the direction of a grieving mother and wife of Bohemian descent, has a history with the University of Iowa and the surrounding community because:
- No University of Iowa coed is a true coed unless they have been kissed in front of the Black Angel.
- Any girl kissed near her in the moonlight will die within six months.
- If a girl who is innocent of men and the world is kissed in front of the Angel, the Angel
- will return to its original color, and the curse that turned it black will be lifted.
- Touching the Angel at midnight on Halloween means death within seven years.
- Anyone who kisses the Angel will die instantly.
- Every passing Halloween causes the Angel to turn one shade darker as a reminder of the people she has killed.
Automatically, I’m taken back to other cemetery legends I’ve heard. I’m reminded of the Graveyard Wager legend where someone, on a dare, has to spend the night in a local cemetery and dies because they become scared and accidentally fall or hit their head. When the cemetery in your town has a particular monument or statue or unusual grave, it increases the likelihood of this kind of story. Of course, the death become part of the lore of the story, and their spirit becomes part of the reason people go there on a dare themselves. This also takes me back to the story of Rockadundee Road and its ghostly gazebo.
As is often the case, the figure is a magnet to the local college area and its connection to love and sex can’t be ignored. It is a right of passage to kiss in front of the Dark Angel, but if you do, you risk dying. Only the pure woman, like in modern horror stories, can break the curse and stop the killing. The Angel has been there for over a hundred years, which leads me to believe she has incredibly high standards or there aren’t many pure young ladies on the campus of the University of Iowa. The college embraces the legend, and in a weird twist has students translate the inscriptions and markings, which I’m sure adds to the oddness of the location. The connection to Halloween, along with the references to rites of passage, also remind me of the famous Session House hauntings at Smith College.
Why did the angel turn black? I’m going to allow you to read some of the reasons and find the one you like the best, and instead offer up another question. Why are we so quick to condemn and accuse? In my limited research, I have found nothing, accept the court case mentioned on the site, to taint the woman who patronized the Dark Angel. Yet she has been accused of witchcraft, been involved in murder plots and adultery, and had her family members reputations smeared to try and explain the anomaly.
There is the hitch though. We need that mythology to explain that which defies our understanding. It’s no different than Zeus in the lightning and God behind the flood. Angels don’t just become Dark Angels without some evil behind it, and if the village didn’t do it, an individual must have. Throw in an outsider, and I’m not totally sure what people from Iowa would consider at outsider, and you know where the blame is going to fall. These stories don’t just tell us right from wrong. They also firmly place those who tell them on the side of the just and those who don’t heed the moral firmly in the dark.
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