Saturday, December 19, 2015

Blood Stained Crypt

St. Luke's and
Craigmile's crypt.
Behind St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee, sits the Craigmiles family mausoleum.

This crypt is known because mysterious red streaks appear on its white Italian marble surface.

These stains have often been cleaned, but they continue to appear. This has attracted quite a bit of attention over the years.

John Henderson Craigmiles made his fortune in the shipping business—he sold food and other materials to both sides during the Civil War.

In 1860, he married Adelia Thompson, the daughter of a local doctor. In August of 1864, the couple’s first daughter, Nina, was born.

Nina was a beloved child, spoiled by all. She was Dr. Thompson’s favorite grandchild. The two were often seen rapidly traveling around in the doctor’s buggy as he did his medical rounds.

The doctor even let the seven-year-old Nina sometimes take the reins—they both liked to whip the horse to go faster.

Tragically, on St. Luke’s Day-August 18, 1871-the doctor steered his buggy in front of an oncoming train. He was thrown clear, but little Nina was killed.

The family still grief-stricken by their loss-- 3 years later had St. Luke’s church built downtown to honor Nina’s memory—this building was completed on the anniversary of her death.

The family then had a beautiful white Italian marble mausoleum built behind this church.

This crypt has four feet thick walls and a spire that is topped by a cross that is thirty-seven feet off the ground. Nina’s remains were moved to a marble sarcophagus in the center. Six shelves were built along the walls to await other deceased family members.

Soon after Nina was placed in this crypt the bloodstains first appeared.

John and Adelia experienced another loss—their newborn infant son died. He was placed in the family crypt. The stain darkened in color.

Nina's sarcophagus.
Soon after, in 1899, John died of blood poisoning—a euphemism for a bad infection that enters the blood—after he fell on an icy street. The stain on the arch darkened once more.

In 1928, while crossing Cleveland Street Adelia was struck by a car and killed. Locals by now had washed off these stains on the mausoleum wall repeatedly, but they appeared again—even darker.

It has been determined that vandalism is not the cause for these stains. A more recent chemical analysis—defied the experts--it did not show what these stains are or why they appear—so they remain an intriguing mystery.

Bloodstains on the crypt.
Click to enlarge,
A legend states they appear because Nina is “crying tears of blood over the deaths of those she loves.”

The Craigmiles family also commissioned a sculpted bust of Nina out of white Italian marble. They intended to place this bust in an alcove in St. Luke’s called Nina’s Niche.

But the sculptor shipped this bust on the HMS Titanic so this alcove is traditionally filled with flowers instead.

This church also has a connection to Tennessee Williams. His grandfather was a rector at St. Luke’s, and the playwright spend his childhood summers there.

The town of Cleveland is located in southeastern Tennessee. It is just north of Chattanooga.

No comments: