Baltimore has its spooky folklore Creepy: Perhaps you've seen a young woman in a sequined dress, or seen the eyes of Black Aggie light up in the cemetery.

Way Back When

October 31, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

A "Way Back When" article in yesterday's Today section misspelled the name of Civil War Union Gen. Felix Agnus.

The Sun regrets the errors.

It's that time of the year when a barking dog late at night is listened to a little more closely than usual.

Eerie shadows give a start and the mere rattling of shutters by the wind forces the mind to race ahead and contemplate things that go bump in the night.


It's Halloween, that time of the year when regiments of costumed ghosts, goblins, witches and Frankensteins take to the streets to go trick or treating or crowd into church halls for parties. But just as much a part of Halloween is the telling, and re-telling, of the carefully crafted ghost stories.

Despite the narrators' propensity for hyperbole, these tales from the crypt and the nether world of restless spirits, can still raise the hair on the listener's neck no matter what their age.

Two Baltimore chestnuts that no doubt will be whispered around darkened rooms and flickering fireplaces tonight will be the tale of the blond hitchhiker named Sequin and the tale of "Black Aggie," the statue that once marked the grave of Gen. Felix Angus and his wife in Druid Ridge Cemetery near Pikesville.

"Along Route 40 East, if you should see a tall, pretty blond hitchhiker wearing a low-cut, blue-sequined cocktail dress, don't surprised. She is the subject of one of Baltimore's best-known tales of the supernatural and she has been with us for many years," reported The Evening Sun in 1976.

It was a tale told by an East Baltimore Sunday-school teacher about a "thin blithe girl with violet eyes and blond hair," who used to wait outside of church and pick up teen-age boys. "The whole community gossiped about her and people said she was completely immoral," said the newspaper.

One Sunday, she sat in the last pew because she heard that the pastor was distributing clothes for the poor and her dress was soiled and old. As the pastor opened a barrel and removed a blue-sequined party dress, she walked down the aisle and removed it from his hands.

"Thereafter, she never wore anything but that party dress, in all kinds of weather night and day," said the newspaper.

Later that winter, the woman was found frozen to death on a back street wearing the blue-sequined dress.

Ten years later, two City College students were driving to a dance along Route 40 when they spotted an attractive blond girl wearing a blue cocktail dress trimmed in sequins. They stopped and picked her up and took her to the dance. She told everyone her name was Sequin and she was never without a dance partner.

After the dance, the two boys drove her back to her East Baltimore home. When she complained of the chilly night air, one of the boys removed his topcoat and draped it over her shoulders.

Forgetting the coat, they returned to the house the next day and were greeted by an elderly woman.

"Sequin? You must be old friends -- she's been dead 10 years," she told the stunned boys.

Thinking they had the wrong address, the woman reassured them that it was indeed the right address and a girl nicknamed Sequin once had lived there.

"Her real name was Betty, and she's buried in the old cemetery six blocks away," she said.

Entering the cemetery, they quickly found the young woman's ** grave.

"They found the small stone where the woman said it would be. On it was engraved simply 'Betty.' And folded across the mound in front of the stone was the boy's topcoat," reported The Evening Sun.

Da-da! Cue the spooky organ music.

As early as 1950, newspaper accounts related tales of nocturnal visits by teen-agers to "Black Aggie," a copy by sculptor Edward Pausch of Augustus St. Gaudens' "Grief," which marks the grave of Mrs. Henry Adams in Washington's Rock Creek Cemetery.

"There are lots of stories about it," a Pikesville policeman told The Evening Sun in 1950.

"The kids say its eyes shine in the dark, and things like that. But that's a lot of who-struck-John."

Or was it?

Before Angus' descendants removed "Black Aggie" from the cemetery and donated her in 1967 to the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian Institution, a visit to the "jet-black, shrouded angel that kept her grief-stricken watch over the lonely cemetery" was almost obligatory for 1950s-era Baltimore teens.

"Black Aggie was looking for them, too," reported the newspaper.

"Unseen by the visitors, her eyes glowed briefly red, and a beckoning hand moved slightly on the arm of her throne. For the intruders, it was a rite of passage: Anyone brave enough to spend the midnight hour in Black Aggie's lap was man enough to join their fraternity, and the new-brother-to-be joked bravely as his companions returned to their houses, leaving him in Aggie's chilly embrace."

Other legends claimed that no fertilizer known to mankind could grow grass in her shadow. "Persons who have returned the gaze of those glowing eyes have been struck blind; young mothers who walked too close by at midnight have suffered stillbirths; countless strollers have quickened their step at the sound of wails of pain and clanking chains," reported The Sun.

John Hitchcock, who was born and raised in the cemetery and whose father had been superintendent there, told The Sun in 1966: "I have patrolled the cemetery hundreds of times and walked right by the statue at midnight. It has never moved or rolled its eyes or done anything unusual."

The reason the grass wouldn't grow, he explained, was due to the hordes of teen-agers who trampled it.

"Anyone who goes out there to look at that grave at midnight is out of his ever lovin' mind," he told the newspaper.

Or were they? Da-da! Cue the spooky organ music.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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