Sunday, October 12, 2008

Inez Clarke: The Ghost a Girl That's Never Been

It's one of the most famous ghost stories in Chicago: Inez Clarke, the poor little girl who was locked out of her house in an electrical storm (or something like that) is, to this day, haunting Graceland Cemetery, around the spot where she is immortalized by a statue in a glass case. The statue, it is said, disappears now and then, and the ghost of poor Inez is seen playing around the graveyard, especially during storms.

There's one big problem, though: there was never any such person as Inez Clarke.

Cemetery officials at the time this blog post was originally written stated that the person buried there was one Amos Briggs, and that the statue was jsut an advertisement for a sculptor. 


This is not a new issue in the ghost hunting world - there are plenty of ghosts of people who never existed (or who aren't actually dead yet) being hunted out there. Similiarly, plenty of people have spent time investigating the vacant lot where a haunted building once stood, not realizing that the real building is still standing across the street. Quite a few people spend a LOT of time getting the ghosts of kids killed in long ago train accidents to push their cars over railroad tracks - but some research would generally tell them that there was never any such crash on the site.

I always feel like a real grinch when I have to write this sort of "debunking" stuff, but there's no point in looking for ghosts that we know aren't real - there are a lot of sites out there that aren't haunted, but were said to be so that ghost tours would have an excuse to go there. Believe me.

But the good news is that, despite a big outcry about Inez being fake, it turns out that there really WAS an Inez. Her last name simply wasn't Clarke.

In 2007, the Sun Times ran a big story about it pretty conclusively proving that Clarke never existed (it involved some pretty hardcore proof - signed affidavits and everything!) The piece alleged that Ursula Bielski had invented the story (or at least spread it around without doing her homework), but this was sort of unfair. The story had been going around for years, and it's far from the only story going around where the available info is pretty scant. That's ghost stories for ya.

And the cemeter's story never quite rang true for some: after all, if there was no Inez, why did the name "Inez" appear on the statue, and why did the plaque beneath say "daughter of M.C. Clarke?" John J. Binder, a local author, was able to establish that they were partially right - the girl was Inez Briggs (the name "Amos" probably came from a hasty transcription of the name "Inez" - write them both down in sloppy cursive and you'll see how the mistake could be made at once). "Clarke" was her mother's married name. The death certificate for Inez Briggs says that she died of diphtheria, and that she lived in what is now Uptown.

6 comments:

wsidejack said...

The little girl buried there and in the statue is Inez Briggs, the daughter of Mary Clarke by her first marriage. Take a look at my research on this, published in the Sun-Times in October 2009, by googling "John J. Binder" and "Inez Clarke"

Adam Selzer said...

Thanks, John. DId you find out anything about the story about her being killed in a lightning storm or anything like that?

Anonymous said...

Adam:

The death certificate lists diptheria as the cause. So there's no substance to the lightning or tuberculosis legends.

John Binder

wsidejack said...

She died of diptheria, according to the death certificate.

Adam Selzer said...

Thanks John - great work! I'll get an updated post ready soon.

Anonymous said...

I have found Graceland's records do not reflect the names on the plot gravestones. This is also true at other old cemeteries. One family plot for my ancestors there has 12 stones with names, and only 1 of them is listed on the plotcard in the office, not to mention the 4 others supposed to be buried there who have no gravestones. It wouldn't be impossible that she was in there but not recorded.

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