The Black Angel and Co-eds




Like a bud just opening,

Commenced my life to be,

But death came without mercy,

without pity

The Lord had sent for me.

I was not granted time to bid adieu.

Do not weep for me, my dear mother.

I am at peace in my cool grave.















According to the Oakland Cemetery Website, this Bohemian inscription translates to:

The sun and clouds stood above my journey

There were tough and joyful days in my life.

You did my work just to make the world better.

You fold your hands and your head goes down.

Your spirit flies away where everlasting reward

Is waiting for you after hardship.


Iowa boasts two black angels.  One is in Council Bluffs at the Fairview Cemetery, erected to the memory of Ruth Anne Dodge and her visions of the angel of death offering her a drink of the water of life.

The second black angel is in the Oakland Cemetery at Iowa City, Iowa.  This black angel has darker stories surrounding it which probably began to swirl when the bright bronze statue turned black.  Instead of oxidation being the reason for the color change, rumors began to emerge about the “mysterious” woman buried beneath the angel.

Teresa Dolezal and her son, Eddie, emigrated from Bohemia to America where she continued her practice as a midwife.  Eddie died at the age of 18 with meningitis and was buried underneath a tree-stump gravestone in the Oakland Cemetery.  After her son’s death, Teresa moved to Eugene, Oregon, where she met and married Nicholas Feldevert.  Not long after their marriage, Nicholas died.  Teresa moved back to Iowa City.

Teresa hired Bohemian artist, Mario Korbel, of Chicago, to create an angel for her husband’s grave.  She also gave instructions that the angel was to hover over the body of her son’s grave, too.  Korbel created the angel with one wing spread open over Eddie’s grave.  Teresa died in 1924 and her ashes were placed underneath the grave ledger next to her husband’s remains.

No one remembers for sure when the angel turned color but that is when the rumors started.  The stories about the reasons why range from fanciful to evil and suggest that the color change was due to the nature of the woman buried beneath the angel.  One story goes that on the dark and stormy night of Teresa’s burial a lightning bolt struck the angel and turned it black instantly.  Another rumor suggests that the angel itself portends of the evil—most graveyard  angels, they say, look upward with their wings lifted toward Heaven, but this one looks downward.  Ominous.

Stories emerged that Teresa had sworn to her husband that she would remain faithful to his memory until his death and that the angel turned black was proof of her infidelity.  Others were more dire even, saying that the angel turned black, because it was not meningitis that killed her son, but Teresa herself even though the records tell a completely different story.  The black angel, then, was a reminder of her deed and a reminder to all of what evil can do.  The black angel was a beacon to remind people to be good.

Leave it to a college town to turn the stories of evil into a reason to challenge the mysterious circumstances behind the color change of the sculpture and even build upon them making it a place for college co-eds to kiss!  The Iowa City college students created even more fanciful myths.  They say that if a college girl is kissed in the moonlight near the black angel, she will die within six months.  They also say that if you kiss the black angel you will die instantly.  Or touching the black angel at the stroke of midnight will bring death within seven years.  They also say if a virgin is kissed in front of the black angel the curse will be lifted and the angel will turn back to its original bright bronze color.  Hawkeye co-eds have performed many experiments of the kissing nature in front of the black angel and the sculpture is still black.  No deaths have been reported either as a result of the efforts of the college students—yet the rumors are retold with vigor and enthusiasm.


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4 Responses to The Black Angel and Co-eds

  1. Tacitus says:

    I think the Iowa City black angel figures into a story by Ray Kinsella called The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. Not great literature but by the man who wrote the remarkable Field of Dreams.
    who collects Tree Shaped Tombstones
    Keep up the good work.

  2. There are natural enough explanations for the Black Angel. It’s black, scientists tell us, because it’s old — the statue was made in 1912 — and because it’s bronze, which has oxidized (Most outdoor bronze statues turn black, but bronze isn’t often used in cemeteries). It looks so un-angel-like because it was commissioned by Theresa Dolezal Feldwert, a Czech-Bohemian immigrant. In other words, it’s not an AMERICAN angel. And it droops its head because it’s looking at the grave of Eddie, Theresa’s son, who’s buried at the foot of it, under a monument that resembles the lower half of a tree with its top blown off. Another cheery Eastern European touch.

  3. They say that if you touch or look directly into the eyes of the Black Angel, you will be struck down by a mysterious and incurable illness. Any girl who is kissed at the black angel’s feet in the moonlight will die within six months. If you touch the angel statue on Halloween night, you will die within seven years. If you kiss the black angel on the lips, your heart will stop beating and you will die instantaneously. Anyone who attempts to vandalize the statue will also be killed swiftly.

  4. Jean W. Whitaker says:

    Others claimed the angel turned black after a freak thunderstorm on the night of Teresa’s funeral. According to this, the angel was struck my lightning and this is what caused it to turn black.

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