Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here Lies Linc by Delia Ray

You may need a lot of imagination for this, but back when I was a 6th grader, my social studies teacher had us go on a field trip to a cemetery. She took us to Kinkaid Cemetery, the one named after Alexander Kinkaid and the person the town of Alexandria, MN, happens to be named after. The field trip was part of our Minnesota history unit, and if I remember right, the assignment was to take some chalk and paper so we could rub an etching of the year of the oldest gravestone we could find.

If we had taken our assignment more seriously we probably would have noticed some of the symbols chiseled on the gravestones and monuments as well. It’s not uncommon to see symbolism on gravestones, but if you’re like me, you probably have never really thought about what the symbols mean. Here are a few examples: [show pics]

Thistle – sorrow, or the crown of thorns


Upside Down Torch-a life extinguished

Wreath – victory over death

Sunflower- devotion

In this week's book, a boy named Linc, which is short for Lincoln, has ridden his bike in the local cemetery for years and has often noticed the symbols carved on the gravestones. He frequents this place so often because his house is right next door to Oakland Cemetery located in Iowa City, IA. Although he acts like the cemetery is his backyard, Linc has always shied away from one monument in particular: the monument known as the Black Angel.

Oakland Cemetery is an actual place in Iowa City, and the Black Angel can be found there. On the night of Halloween, kids will go to the cemetery and dare each other to kiss her. According to local legend you might be struck dead if you do. Who knows what would happen if you kissed her on the night of a full moon.

Well, Linc is worried he might just find out. His teacher, Mr. Oliver, has assigned the Adopt-A-Grave Project in 7th grade history. Each student has to do an etching of a gravestone of their choice and investigate the history of the person who is buried there. Maybe to prove something to himself, or someone else, Linc chooses the Black Angel. [gather around the Black Angel]

(Thanks Mrs. Lange for making the Black Angel!)

The Black Angel wasn’t always black. The bronze memorial gradually darkened over time, maybe as a result of a curse placed upon it. One of the stories about the curse involved three college students. Not only did they kiss the Black Angel, they even sawed off three of her fingers. (Did they happen to play their prank on the night of a full moon?) As the story goes, each of them later experienced a horrible accident. One lost a hand at a sawmill he was working at that year. Another had a stroke on his 21st birthday and was left with a paralyzed arm. The third one thought he got away unscathed but on the day of his graduation he happened to nick his hand with a pocketknife. The cut got infected. When the doctors at the university couldn’t stop the infection gangrene set in. The only solution was to amputate. Did you notice a pattern?

As Linc studies the information about the deceased family on the angel memorial the mystery only deepens when he notices what appears to be an inscription written below in another language. In order to read it better Linc pours some flour over it. As he blows the excess flour away a strange text is revealed:

STRASTTEBE OCEKAVA (“Suffering awaits you.”)

Is it a warning, or is this the curse of the Black Angel?

Linc also notices that there is no date of death for one of the people on the memorial. It says that Theresa Feldvert was born in 1836 but there is no date of death. What happened to her? Where was she buried if not in Oakland Cemetery?

The more Linc finds out the more he begins to worry. Does suffering await only those who damage the monument? Or, was the message meant for anyone who dared to dig too deeply into the mystery of Theresa Feldvert? Wasn't the story of the Black Angel just meant to keep kids out of the cemetery, or is the curse for real? If it is what could happen to Linc?

If you like books about graveyards, if you like a good mystery, then check out Here Lies Linc, by Delia Ray.


  1. This post is lucky! It was posted on 11/11/11 to bad you didn't post it at 11:00 am


    A student from CLMS


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