Nightmare Fuel: Black Aggie

NightmareFuel

Hello Addicts,

This week I take you on a tour of a cemetery in Baltimore, MD in search of a particular statue known as Black Aggie. It is a statue with a bit of history to it, and a legend that makes it Nightmare Fuel.

Our story begins with the death of a woman named Marian Adams. She was married to Henry Adams, the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, until her death by suicide in 1885. Distraught by the loss of his love, he traveled to Japan in June 1886 in search of comfort. Upon his return home, he sought out famed American sculptor, Augustus St. Gaudens, and commissioned a statue from him to replace his late wife’s headstone. It took four years, and when finally finished was regarded as “the most powerful and expressive pieces in the history of American art.” While the piece itself was never officially named, it is commonly referred to as the Adams Memorial, although its nickname is Grief.

Strangeness surrounded the original statue. Henry Adams never spoke publicly about it or his wife’s death, even refusing to acknowledge the artwork’s nickname. His family heritage intensified the public’s curiosity, but it took hiding the statue behind walls of trees and shrubbery to capture the people’s fascination. It became a popular site to find, even though the piece was described as unnerving to see. Perhaps it was the public’s enthusiasm for it that inspired another artist, Eduard L. A. Pausch, to produce a copy, later dubbed Black Aggie.

The statue was a near identical copy of Grief, although differing in some details. Instead of being made of pink granite, Aggie was grey. It was also missing the bench and the original stonework of the original. Also, inscribed at the base of the statue was the name Agnus, the family name of the replica’s owner at the time, General Felix Agnus.

General Agnus was a war hero during the Civil War, who retired from the military to take over his father-in-law’s position as publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper until his death in 1925. The legend of Black Aggie began with the General’s body being buried at the statue’s feet.

A statue by day, stories began to spread of the stone woman moving on its own and dead spirits gathering around her on some nights. If your eyes met hers, you risked blindness. Pregnant women who passed through Aggie’s shadow faced possible miscarriages. While it’s easy to attribute these stories to fear and superstition, it’s the ones that followed that frightened people even more.

A local college fraternity took to including Black Aggie in their initiation rites, with the pledges being made to spend the night on the statue’s lap. One anecdotal case mentions that the stone woman came to life and squeezed the life out of the young man. Another instance reported by a night watchman was of a boy found frightened to death at Aggie’s feet. Other reports are of red glowing eyes at night and people dying after disrespecting the statue.

Due to the popularity of the statue and the damage caused by the people coming to see it, the decision was made to donate it. After several years where its whereabouts were unknown, the statue is now on display in the rear courtyard of the Dolly Madison house in Washington, D.C. After its removal areas of grass that refused to grow while it lay in Black Aggie’s shadow have begun filling in once again.

Is there something to this tale, or is it just an urban legend? Who can say? Perhaps these stories are as anecdotal as they sound, but what if there may be some factual evidence to back it up? Regardless, I hope this provides some fuel for your nightmares.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

 

Interview with John DiDonna of Phantasmagoria

_BDK2979-Edit

We’ve all seen horror on the big screen but have you ever seen a live Victorian Horror show?  I recently had a chance to interview  John DiDonna, the creator of Phantasmagoria Orlando who has been bringing live horror to audiences for seven years.

 

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger's Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger’s Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

What is Phantasmagoria?

So many words to describe. . . it is a Whimsically Macabre Victorian Horror Circus!  We bring stories of horror to life in “Phantastical” dance, live music, explosive stage combat, large scale puppetry and enthralling storytelling!  It has also been described by many as a “Graphic Novel come to life!”

What is the legend behind Phantasmagoria?

The legend goes back to the ancient storytellers of Greece who wandered the countryside, . . never knowing that they were immortals born of the story. They wandered alone, till one day two came upon each other and they realized they were a race differing from mortal humans, and they travel through the centuries finding each other, and bringing the stories to horrific life!

 

When did Phantasmagoria start?

7 years ago – it was brought together for one show and has continually built upon itself with all newPhantasmagoria wicked0079

shows each year, and eventually to a 12 month a year ongoing theater troupe!

 

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have spent my entire life loving horror, but most especially literary horror. The dread of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic writers who brought these stories to feverous minds.

 

What were some of your past performances?

We have performed our large mainstage show for the entire month of October for the last seven years at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.  Over that time we have performed close to 60 stories of the macabre, all culled from literary horror, mythology, legend and folklore (all adapted from the public domain into our own style of storytelling)  With that we also have two touring shows, and a myriad of special event style shows that we perform 12 months a year that range from fire performance, to dance, to storytelling to even children’s shows of the whimsically macabre.

Phantasmagoria wicked0107

How long does it take to put a performance together, including set design, writing of the script and finding the right actors?

Oh my. . . for the script? About a year of research, story reading, inspiration, adaptation, edits, etc. Then for rehearsals about 2 – 3 months for developing a mainstage show. The puppets are the big design element, sometimes as large as 20’ long and 14’ high.

The troupe itself is ongoing so the actors are already here for the most part, though we add new people through our yearly auditions.

What do you look for when someone wants to be a part of your organization?

Ensemble. Collaboration. Energy. And a multitude of skill sets from movement to dance to stage combatPhantasmagoria wicked0089 to acting to puppetry etc.

 

How many performances do you put on per year?

Between mainstage and special event/appearances probably topping 50 at this point in time!

 

When is your next performance?

Coming up we have our touring show “Wicked Little Tales” in Baltimore, Maryland from March 17 – 20th, then we perform a series of mini shows upon our return, and then our second touring show opens for the Orlando International Fringe Phantasmagoria wicked0039Theater Festival in May 2016. The summer is filled with appearances and children’s shows, and then this fall we premiere Phantasmagoria VII “The Cards They Are Dealt” for the month of October!

 

What can people expect at the show?

To be enchanted, to be frightened, to be overwhelmed with all the senses. . . to become PART of the show as the audience IS the show, they share in these adventures with us, trapped as we are in the same room with

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

these stories. We have heard many a scream, many a gasp, many a laugh. . . and even some loving tears throughout the years.

 

What does Phantasmagoria have planned for the future?

To keep touring and growing! We have mini troupes planned now for further performances and we want to bring the stories to as many people around the globe as we can! We are experimenting with some interesting technologies right now too to bring that to the world through this little computer screen.

Check in with us at:

www.facebook.com/PhantasmagoriaOrlando

PhantasmagoriaOrlando.com

https://twitter.com/PhantasOrlando

_BDK2984-Edit-Edit

Phantasmagoria wicked0065