Birch Hill Cemetery, Fairbanks, AK

Date of Discovery/Date of Establishment & Haunting

Sightings of apparitions within the Birch Hill Cemetery have been happening since the 1930s.

Name & Location

Birch Hill Cemetery houses at least one apparition, the most notable of which is the White Lady.

Physical Description

Gwich'in Elder Grave at Birch Hill Cemetery
Gwich’in Elder Grave at Birch Hill Cemetery

The Birch Hill Cemetery is a prominent geographical feature in Fairbanks, it rises on the north slope of the city and faces the Steese Highway. It is a peaceful cemetery that is surrounded on three sides by dense woods and the overlooking hill to the city displays seven planters that are in the shape of the Big Dipper–the symbol on the Alaskan flag. It is a very unsuspecting location for a haunting, it’s a beautiful location.

The White Lady appears in an early 1900s era dress and a fancy hat–something that would have been worn during the early pioneering days of Fairbanks. Aside from the White Lady, the apparition who appears most often, there have been reports of a little girl and a little boy who haunt the cemetery on their own.

Origin

The Birch Hill Cemetery officially became the main cemetery in Fairbanks after the Clay Street Cemetery began to quickly fill up–it covers approximately thirty-two acres of the southwest side of Birch Hill and there are still plots available today.

Mythology and Lore

The White Lady has been sighted since 1938 when the cemetery was officially established, along with two apparitions of children.

In 2001, Fairbanks paranormal investigator by the name of Jessie Desmond obtained an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), but states that they are not necessarily “the result of intentional voice recordings.” He also stated that Paranormal Explorers of Alaska (PEAK) uses this particular cemetery for training and to see if they can capture more information about Birch Hill Cemetery’s resident ghosts. They occasionally capture orbs in their pictures and would hear movements that have no known origin.

In May of 2012, Jessie Desmond collaborated with Neelie Lythgoe and Tony Hernandez members of Investigators of the Paranormal in Alaska (IOPIA) from the Anchorage region; it was during this investigation that they were able to capture a few EVPs as well as a picture of what they believe was an apparition.



Is there anything we missed about Birch Hill Cemetery? Let us know in the comments section below!

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El Campo Cemetery, San Diego, CA

El Campo Haunted Cemetery

This Catholic cemetery was founded in 1849 and remains today as a state landmark in California. The site is said to have around 477 tombs however in 1851 the site was desecrated when a streetcar path was constructed through the graveyard. There are around 18 graves that were paved over in order to create the pathway. This upset many who had loved ones buried at the site and also the spirits themselves. After the site was disrupted stories of ghosts and strange occurrences began. There are stories of car alarms going off for no reason, an unexplained icy chill coming over guests, a ghost of a Native American or possibly Hispanic man has been seen as well as the spirit of a woman wearing 18th-century periodic clothing.

The site has also experienced issues with grave robbers and a fire that destroyed the chapel.

After local petitions occurred there were markers added where the gravesites had been paved over. At first, just crosses were painted in the street but eventually, the city created proper grave markers for the graves that had been displaced. Walter P. Temple filed a lawsuit against the city preventing any further desecration of the cemetery. In 1917 he purchased the land the graveyard was on to begin restoring it.

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Punishment for Grave Robbing Epitomized in Short Horror Film, Toe (2020)

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror

The culture of robbing graves isn’t as big of a topic these days as it probably should be, but there is something about the entire topic that is just strangely unsettling. Robbing graves has been and is still a problem that plagues every culture–from the Pharaohs who attempted to take their earthly possessions with them into the next life, to ghost marriages in Chinese culture, there always seems to be a reason why certain people want to disturb the dead, but are there any common themes?

One common theme is the fact that these grave robbers are invading the space of the dead, either to acquire an object that belonged to the deceased or the body of the deceased. Indeed there are varying reasons why a grave robber might disturb those laying in their eternal rest. One strange reason can be credited to the extreme fringe practitioners of Santería, where the corpses of deceased babies and still-born fetuses are excavated and used in ritual magic. While it’s not a common practice, it has reportedly been a problem in regions where the practice of the religion is prevalent.

Curse of the Pharaohs

The tombs inside of the Pyramids have a history of causing people to be uneasy, whether it’s due to the legend of the Curse of the Pharaohs, or the simple fact that it’s a tomb and tombs are just pretty creepy in general. It seems there are many movies about mummies but in the case of ancient Egyptian horror, the true story is often more frightening than the movies have captured.

Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.

Inscription reported to have been carved on an Egyptian royal tomb

There is a lot of history attached to the tombs of the Pharaohs and there is a lot of legend surrounding the so-called curses that befall those who disturb the tombs of these mummified kings of the past. While a curse may seem like a mystical and superstitious method to keep looters and thieves at bay, the Egyptians were famous for placing warnings of curses to ward off these would-be intruders. Those who did not heed the warnings would live a short while to regret their actions.

Ghost Brides Within Chinese Culture

While the practice of trading corpses to use for ritual spirit marriage has been outlawed since 2006 within China, it has led to the uptick of graves being robbed. These robberies aren’t an attempt to find some valuable possession left with the deceased, but to steal the corpse of the deceased itself. In 2015 it was reported that fourteen female corpses had been stolen from their graves to be sold as ghost brides for the ritual ghost marriage practice that is still practiced by some families to this day. For this reason, families of individuals who pass away while single will encase the coffin with cement to make it more difficult or impossible to steal their loved ones from their graves. These robberies continue to plague families of single women who have passed, whose corpses are worth at least $3,000 to the family of a single man who has passed.

ALTER Presents Toe (2020)

One thing that you should do, if you’re a horror lover, is take a look at the animated horror short films that are available on YouTube–they’re not as prevalent as the regular live-action ones, but they’re often spookier and elicit a deeper sense of fear. We highly suggest you take a look at this stop-motion animated short film entitled, Toe which came out a little earlier this month.

This horror short warns us that even starving children are not immune to the punishments that come to those who disturb the graves of the dead.

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Stull Cemetery: A Gateway to Hell

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Since the mid 90s, Stull Cemetery has been connected to legends involving paranormal hauntings, satanic rituals, witchcraft, the devil himself, and of course, the infamous, “Gateway to Hell.“ Legend has it Lucifer once used the Stull church located within the cemetery (now destroyed) as his own personal doorway from Hell. It was in Stull where he would awaken the spirits buried inside the gates of the cemetery. He’s only able to pass through the gateway twice a year, at midnight on the Spring Equinox and Halloween.

Hundreds of eye-witnesses have claimed the roofless church that once stood in the graveyard would always remain bone dry no matter the weather conditions. The legend goes that rain refused to land inside of the church, as if an invisible force surrounded the church. These supernatural happenings were attributed to the town finally tearing down the church. The once standing church was said to be the center for most of the supernatural happenings in Stull Cemetery. It even had stairs below notably leading directly to the underworld. 

Stull Cemetery Church pictured above before the demolish

Stull Cemetery has been the focus of many in the paranormal community. It’s even said the Pope himself refuses to fly over Stull, Kansas. One of the most famous stories reportedly happened in 1993 when Pope John Paul II was flying to Colorado. According to legend the Pope had said that the ground in Stull Cemetery was so unholy, that he ordered his plane to detour away from the graveyard and Stull because even the air above Stull was too evil to fly through.

A further allure of Stull Cemetery, aside from all of the lore and legends, are the townsfolk themselves. The people of Stull have seemingly done their best to keep paranormal enthusiasts away from the cemetery. Whether it’s abundant “no trespassing” signs, local law enforcement keeping people at bay, or denying the media access, it seems the people of Stull want to keep something a secret. These activities bring even more lore to the Stull Cemetery legend, some saying the town itself is a cult tied into the undocumented witchcraft and satanic rituals that are believed to have taken place in Stull.

From a gateway to the underworld, to townspeople being apart of a mysterious cult tied to it, Stull Cemetery has more legends and lore than most paranormal locations throughout the United States. With limited accessibility to the cemetery, the legend of Stull will continue to remain just that, lore. We may never know for sure what Stull Cemetery holds. 

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Urban Legend: The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Cemetery Angels

Loss has a way of striking us where it hurts most—our experiences shape who we are, as well as how we interact with and see the world around us. As a result of varied cultural and religious preferences, there is a symbolic connection between angels and death. It is popular, especially within religious traditions, to erect angel statues alongside the traditional headstone. Angels represent the symbolic connection between heaven and earth, but their additional meaning of strength, peace, faith, protection, and beauty can be comforting to those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Angel costumes and art are associated with Christmas and other popular holiday celebrations. However, a certain black angel in an Oakland cemetery has become renowned for darker supernatural reasons.

Angelic Symbolism

The many different poses that these angels assume also contribute meaning to their presence over their respective graves. Angels represented in prayer signify the deceased’s devotion to god, an angel pointing upward can act as a symbolic guide for the soul to find its way to heaven. A weeping angel shows immense grief over the death of a loved one and an angel with their head bowed can symbolize the mourning of a sudden or unexpected death. Although angels are most commonly made from granite, they are often created from bronze as well—a granite angel would have less of a reaction to environmental factors, whereas bronze statues can come with unexpected consequences.

The Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City

In 1839, before the Iowa Territory became a state, its capital was located in Burlington; Governor Robert Lucas decided that the capital ought to be closer to the center of the territory and so the legislature created Iowa City. When the capital of the territory was finally moved there, two years later, the tiny hamlet had blossomed into a small city, at which point they recognized a problem arising—they had no place to put the dead. By 1843, the legislature deeded the Oakland Cemetery to the people of Iowa City.

The Truth Behind the Legend

Terezie (anglicized as Teresa) Karásek was born in Strmilov, Bohemia, in Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic) on October 14, 1836. In 1865, at the age of thirty, she married František Doležal, a doctor from Moravia. After two years of marriage, Teresa birthed their first son, Otto who died when he was two weeks old. After the loss of her first child, Teresa became a midwife; she obtained her certificate in Vienna and moved back to Strmilov where she became a prolific midwife, delivering nearly one hundred children.

Immigrating to the United States

Closer to her forties, Teresa had her second son, Eduard (anglicized as Edward)—by the time he was four years old, Teresa left her husband and moved to the United States in 1877 with her son. It’s unknown why she left her husband, although it was fairly commonplace at the time for immigrants from Bohemia and Slovakia to find themselves living in Iowa, working on the railroad, and taking jobs at farmsteads.

In many tellings of her history, Teresa is said to have been a physician that turned to midwifery once she arrived in America, whereas others maintain she was a midwife her entire career. Either way, Teresa’s son Edward had planned to follow her example and enter the medical field as a doctor and in his late teens, he worked at a drugstore. Unfortunately, Edward contracted meningitis around the age of 17 or 18 and passed away in 1891, at which time he was buried in the Oakland Cemetery. Over his grave, she erected a monument of a tree stump with an ax sticking out of it in his honor—it is generally assumed that this was intended as a metaphor for his life being cut short.

Loss of A Second Son

Soon after Edward’s death, Teresa is said to have moved around a lot, having lived in Chicago, and even marrying her second husband, Joseph Picha, in Minnesota. When that marriage didn’t work, her travels landed her in Eugene, Oregon which is where she met and married her third husband, a German rancher by the name of Nicholas Feldevert. The two were married on March 20, 1897, by Justice of the Peace A.E. Wheeler in the parlor of Wald House in Eugene, Oregon. Nicholas had also been married twice before and had experienced the death of his only daughter whom he had seen die as a child.

Back to the Family Plot

Her husband, Nicholas, died in 1911; it was around this time that she moved back to Iowa City and brought her husband’s ashes along to put to rest next to her son. In memorial to her late husband, she commissioned Mario Korbel, a Chicago-based Czech sculptor to create what has come to be known as the locally famous monument the Black Angel.

The Black Angel in Oakland Cemetery is not to be confused with the Black Angel in Council Bluffs, Iowa—which is considered to be a great work of art sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the same artist who created the seated Abraham Lincoln inside of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Minutemen in Concord, Massachusetts.

While there is a disagreement on the timeline of the commission and when it was delivered, it is believed that the statue was commissioned between 1911 and 1913 and that it was delivered to Oakland Cemetery between 1912 and 1915. Without historical documentation to lend as evidence of its commission, completion, and delivery it’s difficult to say, with authority, the exact dates.

Teresa’s Philanthropy

 When Nicholas died he left behind no heirs and by default left his estate estimated at $30,000 (more than $800,000 by today’s inflation rates) to his widow, Teresa. Teresa sold the ranch and began to send money back to Strmilov as a patron for students and public welfare—scholarships and community projects benefited from her generosity in this respect. As her years dwindled, she made a point to spend her husband’s wealth since she also had no immediate heirs to leave her money to. Projects in Bohemia, including a grade school in Strmilov, benefited from her generosity.

The Angel’s Appearance

At one point, the statue that watched over the Feldevert family plot in earnest was a glorious golden-bronze monument that represented the love and grief of Teresa at her many losses in her lifetime. The 8.5-foot sculpture took Korbel months to create and being cast out of bronze, it wasn’t exactly a cheap commission. The story that we’re told is that the statue was not immediately installed, as Teresa was said to have been unhappy with the final result. This is another source of conflicting accounts—as some versions of the story insist that it was immediately installed upon arriving via train; others believe that the statue sat in a barn for six years while Teresa pursued a lawsuit. When she inevitably lost the suit, it’s assumed that she paid the artist the $5,000 he was owed, then eventually installed the angel atop a four-foot pedestal where her husband’s ashes were interred and moved the monument of her son to stand alongside the angel.

At the End of a Long Life

Teresa died of cancer on November 18, 1924, at which time her ashes were placed beside her husband’s and although the monument displays her birthdate, she did not leave any money behind to inscribe the monument with the date of her death. As such, her remaining estate was appraised at $1,393.21 and since she had no immediate heirs, she willed $500 to a monument for fallen soldiers in Strmilov, $500 in books for the town’s public library, and whatever was leftover to be used for scholarships for two or three boys in town that were deemed worthy of the aid.

The Reputation of the Black Angel

The Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery has been a destination for those looking for paranormal thrills for literal decades; with all of the creepy legends surrounding it, how could those who have a thirst for the paranormal stay away? It’s likely that the stories about the monument are based less on fact than on fiction, with the tendencies of writers to embellish for the sake of a good story. As seen by the story of Teresa and her family’s life there was no immediate reason for the Angel to be haunted or cursed—loss happens, but there was no infidelity to speak of, no one committed suicide, nor was anyone murdered. So, why has the monument become part of such a famous urban legend?

The wild myths and legends that surround this monument were spawned primarily from the unsettling appearance that the monument took on after Teresa’s death. While the truth remains that the statue was forged in bronze and has oxidized over the years due to environmental factors—but that’s kind of a buzz kill isn’t it? The truth is, the creepiness of the blackened bronze isn’t lessened when people are eager to believe in the paranormal. To those who don’t do a deep dive into the true story behind the Black Angel, it’s clear to see how its reputation could make even seasoned investigators quake in their boots.

The Myths that Fuel the Superstition

Teresa Feldevert was, in life, a mysterious woman which led to many believing that she was in fact a witch—whether she ended up cursing, possessing, or simply haunting the statue is a source of some debate. Had she called some nameless evil to inhabit the Angel? Or was it simply her evil nature that caused the Angel to turn black as a reminder of the sins of her family? Was there really a severe storm that raged the night following Teresa’s burial, where a bolt of lightning struck the Angel and turned it black?

The myths become even more outlandish from there, based solely on rumors that make no sense after looking into the legend. Some believe that a man erected the monument upon his wife’s grave, but that his wife had been unfaithful throughout the marriage which caused the Angel to turn black due to her infidelity. Others maintain that a preacher buried his son beneath the Angel but it turned black because the preacher had actually murdered his son.

It’s believed by some that the Angel darkens every Halloween in recognition of the people that have been killed by the evil curse upon the statue. It doesn’t help that first-hand accounts from visitors report ghostly voices and strange anomalous lights floating around the statue. So what should you do (or not do) to avoid becoming the next victim of the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery? We’ve compiled a list of simple rules to survive your encounter with the Black Angel.

  1. Never touch or kiss the Angel—to do so means instant death (unless you’re a virgin).
  2. Never kiss a girl near the Angel in the moonlight, or else the girl will die within six months.
  3. Never touch the Angel at midnight on Halloween, to do so means you’ll die within seven years.
  4. If you’re pregnant, never walk beneath the statue’s wings, otherwise, you’ll risk a miscarriage.
  5. If you happen to be a coed of the University of Iowa, then tradition states you must be kissed in front of the Black Angel.
  6. If a virgin is kissed in front of the Angel then the Angel will return to its original Bronze color and the curse will finally be lifted.

The Statue Vandalized

Throughout the history of the Black Angel, it has been noted that the black covering has never worn off to reveal the original bronze. The monument has, however, changed colors over the years when vandals have tried to paint it. One particular incident was recorded as having happened on a cold day in January of 1965 when the angel was painted a silvery gray—due to the weather, it remained that color until it was warm enough to reduce the risks of damage from the repairs. It’s also known to have had several fingers removed with hammers and hacksaws on a separate occasion, a bold move considering the alleged story that defacing the Angel will bring death.

Sources:

https://www.goiowaawesome.com/iowa-city/2018/03/2670/tales-from-iowa-city-the-black-angel-of-death

https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/16409

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/black-angel-of-oakland-cemetery

https://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/ghosts-hauntings/black-angel-oakland-cemetery

https://www.thegazette.com/life/time-machine-teresa-dolezal-feldeverts-black-angel

https://www.thegazette.com/life/time-machine-teresa-dolezal-feldeverts-black-angel/#?secret=txk88YPIGy

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