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The Eerie Legend of Graceland Cemetery’s “Eternal Silence” Statue

Meredith Francis
The Eternal Silence sculpture, pictured here in 1977. The black-and-white image shows a hooded sculpture set against a slab of black granite. Image: ST-40001541-0009, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum
The Eternal Silence statue, pictured here in 1977. Image: ST-40001541-0009, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum

Graceland Cemetery on Chicago’s North Side is the final resting place of Daniel Burnham, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marshall Field, Potter and Bertha Palmer, George Pullman, and others. It is also the location of a Lorado Taft sculpture with an eerie mythology. 

Taft designed the 10-foot bronze statue, Eternal Silence, in 1909. It is located at the grave of Dexter Graves, an early settler in Chicago. Graves brought thirteen families to Chicago from Ohio in the 1800s before Chicago was officially incorporated as a city. Though Graves was initially buried at another cemetery since he died before Graceland Cemetery was founded, Graves' son later stipulated in his will that his family's plot—complete with a monument—be located in Graceland Cemetery. 

The haunting sculpture features a cloaked figure with a hood draped low over its head, standing before a black granite slab. It is sometimes called “The Statue of Death.” The common legend about the sculpture is that if a person looks into its eyes, they will see their own death. Others have said that they have seen the statue’s arms go up and down.