At first glance, you might be tempted to think of Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City as nothing more than your average suburban graveyard, but don’t be fooled. Tucked away inside its iron gates sits the Black Angel statue, a winged figure so menacing that anyone who dares to touch it is said to fall victim to one hell of a curse.
The sorrowful, eight-foot-tall statue watches diligently over the Feldevert family plot near the center of the cemetery, and according to the countless legends that surround the grave marker, if you fail to heed the warnings and touch the faded black figure, you will die, no questions asked. The curse is one that has scared late-night thrill-seekers for decades, and while it might seem fitting to affix such a legend to a statue so eerie, the Dark Angel of Iowa City was once a beautiful monument to one woman’s sorrow.
The elaborate statue was commissioned by Teresa Doleful Feldevert as a symbol of the sadness she had experienced during her life due to the loss of both her young son and husband. The angel, then a shimmering gold statue, was officially installed on November 21, 1912. When Teresa died in 1924, her ashes were brought to the grave and placed with her family members, and according to the legend, this is where things started to take a turn for the strange.
A few years after Teresa’s passing, the bright golden statue suddenly began to turn black, starting with the eyes. Slowly, the blackness overtook the head of the angel and crept its way down until the once beautiful statue began to melt away and a spine-tingling black visage was left in its place, staring menacingly out into the cemetery.
Many theories about the statue’s strange color have cropped up over the years, with some claiming that Teresa was secretly a witch who was changing the color of the statue as the curse took hold. Others have whispered about a promise that Teresa broke while she was still alive, one in which she swore that she would always be faithful to her husband, even after his death. When she allegedly failed to keep that promise, the curse was cast on the angel.
As you can imagine, the statue has become a favorite Halloween destination for Iowa City residents, who gather around the Black Angel at midnight to test their luck by touching, or even kissing, the statue. Rumor has it, the only way you can survive such a feat is if you’re a virgin. The rest? Well, they drop dead.
One of the most famous stories revolving around the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery involves a young woman who visited the statue on a full moon and kissed her feet. Locals say that she dropped dead within six months. Another tale tells of a skeptical man who visited the statue with a group of friends, boasting about how he didn’t believe in the legends. His friends dared him to touch the statue, and when he did he died on the spot, victim of a massive heart attack. Even more morbid stories involve pregnant women who have miscarried after walking beneath the Black Angel’s wings.
For obvious reasons, countless paranormal investigators have visited Oakland Cemetery with the hopes of capturing some of the strange activity associated with the Black Angel. They’ve often surprised themselves by walking away with some interesting audio recordings of ghostly voices, and many have captured strange light anomalies that are quite often seen floating around the cemetery of their own accord.
Several years back, Devin Marble and Jaél de Pardo, stars of SyFy Channel’s Haunted Highway, visited Iowa City’s haunted Oakland Cemetery to test the Black Angel’s paranormal powers for themselves. In the end, neither of them risked touching the statue, but managed to capture strange temperature fluctuations with thermal cameras, indicating that the statue’s temperature had risen dramatically, during their investigation, even though it was a cold winter night.
Should you believe the harrowing stories behind the Black Angel’s dark curse? That’s up to you, but the nice thing about the Black Angel is that you can test its paranormal claims out for yourself – the cemetery is open to the public. If you dare to put the legend of Iowa City’s Black Angel curse to the test, grab a digital recorder, put fresh batteries in the FLIR, and head to Oakland Cemetery. But whatever you do… maybe you should keep your hands to yourself.