Inez Clarke, the haunted statue of Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery that lives again whenever there is a thunderstorm
At Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, a statue stands out among the tombstones, protected behind glass. But this statue, as ordinary as it may appear, is unlike the others.
Some say, for example, it’s afraid of thunderstorms.
Who’s afraid of lightning? Although death by electrocution is not among the most frequent phobias, about 1,000 people die every year in the world, and probably not even Inez Clarke was afraid, before her untimely death.
Legend has it that the six-year-old girl, was struck by lightning in the late 1800s. A terrible thunderstorm had broken out while she was on a picnic with her parents, and she died just before their eyes.
They were devastated, so they had a life-sized statue made in her likeness to remember her: a little girl sitting on a wooden chair, a subtle smile on her face, holding an umbrella in her right hand. A sad fitting monument to a life ended too soon.
Or maybe not?
In cases like these, history is not history but is something that looks like a legend, and the certainties about the causes of the her death have been handed down orally for almost 150 years.
Many versions report that Inez died of tuberculosis, a common disease during the 1800s, while others say that she was killed yes, by lightning, but why she had been left out as punishment, and that she would have died from the inability to find shelter.
In any case, Inez Clarke died very young.
At the base of her statue is the name “INEZ”, and also the signature of its creator: “A. Gagel, sculptor, 1881.” The statue was made by Andrew Gagel, born in Germany in 1846 and emigrated to the United States in 1872, who lived on West Farwell Avenue, not far from the Graceland cemetery, until his death in 1938.
Under the statue there is a plaque that identifies the little girl:
J.N. and M.C. Clarke
Born September 20, 1873
Died August 1, 1880
And below the names of John N. Clarke, 1839-1910, and Mary C. Clarke, 1856-1912.
But…who was Inez Clarke? All we know for sure is that Inez was 6 years old at the time of death. She died struck by lightning or from tuberculosis, and a funeral statue of rare beauty was dedicated to her. The certainties, however, end here.
Ironically, there’s no “Inez Clarke” in the records of the cemetery, and not even in the historical register of Chicago, according to the 1880 census. The Graceland Cemetery files also contain an affidavit issued in 1910 by Mary C Clarke stating her daughter from her marriage to John N Clarke was still alive and neither she nor her husband had any other children.
According to a research by cemetery historians Helen Sclair and Al Walavich in an article in the Chicago Sun-Times in 2007, an Amos Briggs is listed as being buried under the statue, next to the alleged brother named Delbert Briggs.
It seems that Inez Clarke came out of nowhere, leaving behind only a marble testimony. Some have theorized that the statue was carved by Andrew Gagel, as a sample of his work in order to elicit business, but this does not explain the inscription under the statue.
A reasonable explanation for this is that the girl’s name was actually Inez Briggs, not Clarke, and is in fact the person buried beneath the statue.
Based on extensive research it is now all but certain that the girl is actually Inez Briggs, the daughter of Mary C. Clarke from a previous marriage. No one named Inez Clarke died in Illinois prior to 1916. However, an Inez Briggs died in Chicago of diphtheria on August 1, 1880, the same day listed on the monument of Inez Clarke and the “Amos Briggs” noted on the record card. Inez might sound like Amos when spoken, and Amos may have been accidentally written on the cemetery record. There are no record of anyone named Inez Briggs buried there, hence she is not buried anywhere in the cemetery and, moreover, no Amos Briggs is listed in the Illinois death records before 1916, which adds credence to theory that the name is an error in transcribing the record.
In any case, for decades the true identity of the girl and of the actual person buried here have been in question, and no one will ever know for sure where Inez is actually buried or if the little girl ever existed in the first place. The mystery will probably continue to haunt visitors for years to come, and these questions have fueled several rumors about paranormal apparitions.
Even in the afterlife, so it would seem, young Inez Clarke remembers, too and her spirit is still afraid of thunderstorms. They say, when the night is dark and a storm is raging, the statue’s glass case will be found empty.
There’s, in addition, an urban legend about the cemetery involving an old night watchman. He’d been out walking during a thunderstorm and, when he reached the grave of Inez Clarke, he found its glass box empty. The statue inside was gone.
According to the legend, the night watchman never again returned to the cemetery, but by the next morning the statue had mysteriously reappeared behind its glass. Others have claimed to have briefly glimpsed a small child in 19th-century dress wandering through the cemetery.
To this day, the statue is visited, and people often leave gifts for Inez. There are still stories, too, that if you listen quietly, sometimes you’ll hear the sound of a young girl crying near the statue.
Her grave remains popular today, perhaps due to the high quality of the likeness, and one cannot visit the cemetery without making a stop to see it. The 140-year-old image remains in perfect condition thanks to its protection from the elements.
To be honest, maybe we shouldn’t get too bogged down in the details. Enjoy the story for what it is. There’s no harm believing in ghosts, anyway…
Images from web.