Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lewisburg's Angel of Death

The topic of Lewisburg's Angel of Death statue is one that I had heard several times in passing, usually connected with the ghost tours of the town.  Unfortunately, I was never able to find much information online and with the tours only being conducted in the fall, I just never found the time to go on one of them, either!

Luckily, I have acquired a new book to add to my WV Paranormal Library:  Ghosts of Greenbrier County, by Nancy Richmond.  In this slender volume lies the tale of the Angel of Death, as well as plenty of other goodies that I'll be blogging about in due time.

Anyway, according to the book, the Angel of Death statue is a cemetery marker that can be found in the Old Stone Church Cemetery, located on Church Street.  The marker belongs to a young girl named Maud Mentague (Montague) Mathews.  Some misspellings in the text of the book led to a long, drawn out search for more information, but luckily, there are two photos of the monument found in the book as well, one which offered the correct spelling of the girl's name, as well as the addition of the last name Mathews, which was also left out of the text.  Once that was cleared up, I was able to find the girl's records online.

Maud was born on October 2, 1876 to Alexander R.F. and Laura G. Mathews.  She died on May 30, 1888 at the tender age of 11 years, 8 months.  The legend goes that Maud died from influenza, an illness which caused her lungs to fill with fluid and lead to her untimely death.  Her death certificate officially lists the cause of death as pneumonia.

Needless to say, Maud's parents were grief-stricken over the loss of their young daughter, and erected a beautiful carved angel gravestone to mark her final resting place.  A small ceremony held to commemorate the placing of this angel was attended by two of Maud's best friends, a set of cousins around 14 years old.  As the angel was set in place, each girl kissed a cheek on the angel in memory of their lost friend.

However, shortly after the ceremony, one of the young girls fell ill herself.  She had allegedly contracted the influenza virus and died of fluid on the lungs, eerily similar to the way Maud had died.  It wasn't long after that the second girl died; she was involved in a carriage accident and suffered broken ribs.  The broken ribs punctured her lungs, causing them to fill with blood.  Three friends had now died from similar lung issues, less than a year apart.

From then on, the sweet little angel statue meant to memorialize a child taken too early, has taken on a sinister reputation.  Locally, it is known as the "Angel of Death."  Legend states that anyone brave enough or foolish enough to kiss the statue will die within a year.   Other mentions of the statue online claim that the angel also has the ability to foretell the deaths of certain visitors to the site, although details are left out concerning just how this is done.

When I visited this cemetery in 2009, I distinctly remember seeing this statue, and thinking how creepy it was.  Little did I know, that THIS was the dreaded Angel of Death I had heard mention of, but never could find!  Unfortunately, without a name or even a better time frame, I cannot verify the deaths of the two young friends...a blind search is literally like looking for a needle in a haystack, and I simply do not have the time to back it up.  So for now, enjoy the tale for what it is worth...and if you REALLY want to see something creepy, visit the Find-a-Grave site linked below for the most horrifying close-up photo of this statue that I have EVER seen!

Photo property of Steve Kirby of Find-a-Grave


  1. Here is a link to my other ghost book, it has some really detailed accounts of ghost stories from Lewisburg :)
    Nancy Richmond

    1. Thanks, Nancy! It's already on my wishlist!

  2. Florence Vane Mathews was a sibling of Maud Montague Mathews. Florence was born 2 Feb 1879 and died 8 Nov 1889. Perhaps she was one of the girls who kissed the angel and died later.

    1. Thanks! That sounds like a distinct possibility.

    2. Florence was the sister to Maud who died a year later. The angel was not put down on the gravesite for at least five years following the death of Florence in Nov. 1889 who died from a nervous affliction--not a lung issue. Another sister died in childbirth Nov. 1897 following childbirth and in her obituary it says she was laid to rest by her sister angels and it is highly unlikely if anything had happened to any other children in regards to the statue, it would have been portrayed in such a positive light. The angel is an amazing piece of funerary art and is the a memorial for two beloved daughters!!