The legend of the statue reached me through an old acquaintance which had several relatives of his buried in Dried Ridge Cemetery. His concern was for the sanctity and safety of his family’s final resting place. It seems that in the course of time, rituals and legends have grown up around the statue and it was becoming a morbid obsession with the local population. The cemetery was receiving unwanted attention from tourists and the seekers of the curious anomalies of the underworld. Rituals had been performed before the tomb and the trampling of tributes and chipping and desecration of the statue was being done on a regular basis. The Cemetery was even forced to hire a security guard to monitor the damage being done as either a prank or some bizarre ritual.
Now the discipline of Psychology tells us that the sanctity we often feel towards and about graveyards is based upon the repulsion we feel towards all things dead. As living beings this is the natural antithesis of what we are. As the only living being (that we are currently aware of) with the foreknowledge that we are going to die, it has led us to build up within ourselves a mythology and a practice of rituals, not to honor the physical remains of the deceased, but rather to honor our distinctive personal memories of those who have passed on. The graveyard is not for the dead, but rather for the piece of mind of the living. It allows us to keep a psychological veil over the foreknowledge of our own eminent future.
In describing the reasoning behind many of the unusual accounts of human behavior, I am trying to lay out an understanding of some of the causes that may lead to the accounts that were reported to me. I however, can only surmise whether or not these things are in fact the cause since it would take extensive counseling and interviewing of all the participants involved to determine a true psychological cause for their actions. Mass psychology or human behavioral sciences are still regrettably in their infancy as a discipline. The algorithms used to determine such behavioral patterns are still somewhat sketchy and unreliable.
My associate met with me at the entrance of the cemetery and proceeded to lead me up to the statue. Since it was the only thing of its kind in the cemetery, I spotted it a ways off and eased into the transition of the magnitude of the image cast before me. It was indeed a powerful symbol of grief and evoked a real sense of emotion, much to the credit of Mr. Augustus St. Gaudens for his depiction of this monument.
My first order of business was to photograph the statue from multiple angles to document any particular anomalies that may have caused unwarranted claims of the occult, lights, wires, mirrors, and any assortment of tricks to play upon the limited visual representations observed by the human mind. Color for instance does not exist as an independent concept, but it is in fact our projection of the different values of energy radiating off a given object. Color only exists in our minds because we are have too narrow a visual spectrum of reference to observe the minute molecular fluctuation.
My next course of action was to take a small scraping of the alloy from which the statue was cast. This does inflict one with a sense of desecration since I am defiling a monument made to honor former living beings, but in the efforts of science my scrapings would be modest and hardly noticeable since all I needed were a few filings. I took them from the back end of the statue which was pressed up against the base of the foundation. I did leave a few scratch marks, but nothing that would be noticed and it would wear into nothing in due time.
My reasoning for this was mainly meticulous. I wanted to dismiss any line of reasoning based upon the metallurgy of the statue. Bronze is in fact a compound alloy composed of copper and tin. However, many artists use other alloys to infuse into the medium to allow it to be more pliable or more resistant to wear as it is exposed out in the elements. One of the most common metals used to harden the alloy is phosphorous and enough of this element in a single deposit can reflect or even illuminate an area of the statue and give credence to the idea that it is alive or that the light of a soul inhabits it.
The method of making bronze dates back to 3000 B.C. and is one of the definitive distinctions in the evolution of civilization. The compounding of elements to make tools and weapons of greater strength and accuracy is a massive leap forward for the advancement of any civilization.
Bronze art also uses many methods of finishing after the work is cast to highlight details and add supportive strength to delicate details and to fend off erosion and protect the features in the volatile atmospheric conditions it may be exposed to. This can also lend itself to explain mysterious lights and tricks played upon the eyes at certain times of day. Enameling, inlaying, gilding and engraving can cause a parallax distortion when viewed from certain angles under changing light conditions.
The final thing I did was to mount several cameras on stop motion timers to photograph the statue from different angles at different times of the day and evening from varying distances. All of these measures were designed to preclude that nothing unnatural was present and the fascination of Black aggie was due more to its extravagant novelty in the cemetery rather than any supernatural claim. Upon presenting the facts before the commission responsible for the oversight of the cemetery, my study would then lead to a petition to the descendants of the family to have the statue removed from the cemetery or compensate the commission for the expense of the added security. This was already a foregone conclusion, but my involvement was also to try to document some of the weird rituals and trespassing done to further make the legal claim should the family refuse to comply with the petition. I document here the notes taken directly from my notepad regarding the events of that evening:
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