Behind The Legends: Weird & Haunted Chicago
A lot of us
were taken in by it, weren't we?
Was the tale that was created around the Inez Clarke monument simply a case of an urban legend gone berserk? A story of ghost enthusiasts wanting an account to be so desperately real that the truth was ignored? An example of outright fiction and deceit? You'll have to decide that for yourself
For more than a decade, tales have surfaced that claim people have been encountering a little girl in Graceland Cemetery. Were these real accounts or fictional embellishments? Was it merely a case of wishful thinking on the part of those who swore they saw her? Perhaps, for there is one thing we can be sure of, they were not seeing the ghost of Inez Clarke --- because Inez Clarke never existed at all!
Graceland Cemetery, on Chicago's north side, came about thanks to the closure of the old Chicago City Cemetery around 1870. This earlier burial ground was removed after fears of epidemics and water contamination convinced city leaders that it should be closed down. The City Cemetery was located close to downtown (in fact, exactly where Lincoln Park rests today) and impeded Chicago's growth. The remains buried here were slowly removed from the burial ground and new cemeteries were established to the north of the city. They included Rosehill Cemetery and Graceland.
Graceland was started in 1860, just one year after Chicago officials announced the closure of the City Cemetery. It was created by real estate developer Thomas B. Bryan and it was located far away from the city proper along North Clark Street. Over the years, a number of different architects have worked to preserve the natural setting of its 120 acres. Two of the men largely responsible for the beauty of the place were architect William Le Baron Jenney and another architect named Ossian Cole Simonds, who became so fascinated with the site that he ended up turning his entire business to landscape design. In addition to the natural setting, the cemetery boasts a number of wonderful monuments and buildings, including the cemetery chapel, which holds city’s oldest crematorium, built in 1893.
There are a number of Chicago notables buried in Graceland, including John Kinzie, Marshall Field, Phillip Armour, George Pullman, Potter Palmer, Allan Pinkerton, Vincent Starrett, writer and creator of the "Baker Street Irregulars", architect Louis Sullivan and many others.
Walavich also found a letter dated in 1910 from the woman who was supposed to have been Inez's mother that stated that the Clarkes had two daughters, both of whom were still living at the time. Perhaps the most damning bit of evidence against the existence of Inez Clarke is correspondence between the family and the cemetery, where the Clarkes were asked about the statue and the grave. They had no idea who Inez might be but noted that "it was a lovely statue". Cemetery records show that an 8 year-old boy named Amos Briggs is buried at the site marked by the eerie monument.
So, why would the statue be placed at Graceland? Walavich believes that it may have served as an advertisement for a Scottish monument maker named Andrew Gage, who completed the statue in 1881. It may have been placed in a section of the cemetery that was particularly active at the time and was simply never removed. Of course, creating a legend.
Did someone purposely create the legend to fool legions of gullible Chicagoans? Despite what some might believe (including cemeteries with strict no-ghosts policies), probably not. The stories about the Inez Clarke statue have been around for quite a few years, although have gained popularity in more recent times. I confess that I was fooled by the tales that had been recounted and many other writers have been, as well. Perhaps we all wished a little too hard for this particular Chicago ghost story to be true!
Troy Taylor / October 2007