|Bianca, by Mike Spak|
|Photo by Mike Spak|
William S. Burroughs (1914 – 1997), is the American beat writer famous for his 1959 counterculture novel Naked Lunch. He is interred in the Burroughs family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. I have always felt guilty for not reading Burroughs, though I am a big fan of Jack Kerouac, another beat writer. Quite a bit of Kerouac’s novel On the Road is based in Denver, and I did feel a bit of that vibe walking down Larimer Street, which is where Kerouac hit town in 1947 when this area was the town’s skid row.
|The “Black Angel of Council Bluffs;" photo by Mike Spak|
The angel resides in Fairview Cemetery, marking the grave of Ruth Ann Dodge. The bronze sculpture holds a bronze basin of running water and appears to be standing in a granite boat. After Dodge died in 1916, her two daughters commissioned the memorial to be made by Daniel Chester French, who is best known for creating the white marble statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. According to the website, www.prairieghosts.com, the young women “had strict criteria for French as to how the angel was supposed to look. They wanted it to be a likeness of an angel that had appeared to their mother during a series of visions that she had before her death.”
Interesting. Many such sculptures are created either from a mold or from a live model. This one appeared to be created in the likeness of an actual angel. According to www.prairieghosts.com, Dodge’s dreams were realistic and overwhelming visions about which her daughter Anne stated: “We realized this was no dream, no ordinary occurrence, but an apparition such as appeared to those saints of olden times, who were spiritual seers, holy enough to penetrate the fleshly veil and view spiritual things hidden from the worldly minded.”
|Photo by Mike Spak|
Excerpt from “Iowa’s Mysterious Black Angels:”
“The young woman was clad in a glistening white garment that fell in long folds from her shoulders to her feet. Her hair, which reached to her shoulders, looked like spun gold, forming a halo around her head. Her eyes were bright and seemed to look at Ruth, and yet through her, and were filled with an expression that was beyond description.”
"Ruth had the same vision three times and on the third time, she drank from the water that the angel offered her. A few days later, she died. On her deathbed, she told her daughters that the angel offered her the “wonderful water of life. I drank from it and it gave me immortality.” (ref.)
To the best of their abilities, and based on Ruth’s physical description of the supernatural being in her visions, her daughters had the “black angel” sculpted and placed over their mother’s grave. They must have assumed it was an angel, since their mother never mentioned wings. The angel is standing in a granite boat and is carrying a vessel with water that continually runs. I never really thought about fountains in cemeteries. The angel may symbolize immortality, but then so might running water. The water of life ....