Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City is home to local legend Black Angel, which is a massive 100-year-old burial monument for the Feldevert family.
Needless to say, a very large (nearly 9-feet and atop a pedestal) black figure isn’t a common sight in American cemeteries and urban legends have sprung up by her feet. Ask a local and you’ll learn that kissing the angel will result in a 24-hour death watch. Two people kissing near the monument could cause the angel to briefly return to a brilliant bronze, but only if the kissing couple are virgins. And, in the long run, it probably isn’t worth the display since both will be cursed to die within the next six months. You get the idea… moonlight and the black angel should not mix, don’t look directly at the black angel, avoid the black angel’s eyes, don’t touch the black angel and definitely don’t deface or disrespect the black angel. (Although, sadly, some idiots have broken her fingers… no doubt in an attempt to test the legend.)
The scientific reasoning for her color is that the monument was done in bronze, which oxidizes with time. So, it is true that the angel grows a bit darker each year — but not necessarily on Halloween and due to the lives she’s taken in the previous 12 months. Her unique pose of face and wings down is likely due to a cultural difference since a European artist was commissioned to complete the piece.
The monument was commissioned and erected by Teresa Dolezal Feldevert, a midwife physician who had immigrated to the U.S. from Strmilov, Bohemia. She had lived with her son, Eddie Dolezal, in Iowa City until 1891, when Eddie, then 18, died of meningitis. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery and Teresa had a tree stump monument erected over his grave.
After Eddie’s death, Teresa moved to Eugene, Oregon where she married Nicholas Feldevert, who died tragically just a few years later in 1911. In the wake of this loss, Teresa returned to Iowa City and she hired Mario Korbel, a Bohemian artist in Chicago, to design the angel that would hover over the body of her son and the ashes of her husband. The angel arrived on a railroad flatcar in Iowa City in November 1912.
There is local speculation on if the monument was immediate installed after its arrival or if a legal battle between Teresa and the artist delayed the installation, but it was, of course, ultimately placed in the cemetery and the bronze began to change. Eddie’s grave and headstone was moved to the angel’s location and the ashes of Nicholas were placed in the base of the angel. Teresa died several years later in November 1924 and her ashes were also placed beneath the monument. To this day the stone carries no date of death for Teresa, which has also fueled local lore regarding the circumstances behind the evil that must live there.