One of the most well-known and mysterious cemetery markers in the Chicagoland area, as well as a personal favourite of mine, is the grave of six-year-old Inez Clarke (1873-1880).
Located in Chicago’s historic Graceland Cemetery, her parents commissioned a life-sized statue, which was completed a year later by a Sicilian sculptor, and placed over the headstone. Later, a transparent plexiglass box was added to protect her likeness from the elements.
According to local legend, a night watchman, making his rounds during a storm, came across Inez’s grave and saw that the box was empty. He fled, never to return. The next morning, the statue of the little girl was back in its usual place. Others have claimed to have briefly glimpsed a small child in 19th-century dress wandering through the cemetery.
Inez’s grave remains popular today, perhaps due to the high quality of the likeness, and one cannot visit the cemetery without making a stop to see it. The nearly 135-year-old image remains in perfect condition thanks to its protection from the elements. Gifts of flowers and toys can often be found at the base of the glass box. But that’s not the end of the story.
For decades the true identity of the girl and of the actual person buried here have been in question. Based on extensive research it is now all but certain that the girl is actually Inez Briggs, the daughter of Mary C. Clarke from a previous marriage. But according to records there is no one by the name of Inez Clarke or Inez Briggs buried in the cemetery. An Amos Briggs is listed as being buried under the statue. Amos sounds like Inez, and Amos may have been accidentally written on the cemetery record. According to an 1880 census, no one living in Chicago at that time was even named Inez Clarke. Some have theorized that the statue was carved by the sculptor, Andrew Gagel, as a sample of his work in order to elicit business. No one will ever know for sure where Inez is actually buried or if the little girl ever existed in the first place. The mystery will probably continue to haunt visitors for years to come.