SPANISH FORK — The history of the weeping lady tombstone in Spanish Fork City Cemetery is as curious as the legend that surrounds it.
Eternally carved in stone, the weeping lady has been kneeling over the grave site of Laura Daniels Ferreday of Payson since Ferreday died in 1929. One hand of the weeping lady presses against a wall, her face buried in her other arm.
Ferreday's husband, Horace, was laid to rest beside her in 1972.
According to a decades-old legend, if you walk around the city cemetery with your eyes closed, you can hear the statue weep. Connie Swain remembers other children telling her the legend of the prominent tombstone when she was a child, but, like many other residents, she doesn't know much about it.
Chance Williams, who lives in nearby Woodland Hills, says he's been told by local teenagers that the legend of the weeping lady still lives.
Williams and his family have visited the grave site many times after Williams was struck by its beauty. He was so intrigued that he started researching its legend and history.
"It's just breathtaking," he said.
Indeed, while many residents are familiar with the statue and the legend that has survived the decades, the tombstone's history is more of a mystery.
"Everyone knows about the weeping lady in the Spanish Fork Cemetery, but no one has any details on her," Williams said. "I was shocked the 'old-timers' of the city would know nothing of her history, though they all know of the weeping lady in the cemetery."
Tim Moran, 87, remembers the family when he was growing up in Spanish Fork. He went to school with the Ferreday children. Horace Ferreday was a well-known plumber in Spanish Fork in the 1920s, Moran recalled.
In 1929 Laura Ferreday, then 32, died in Provo of an infectious tumor, according to city records. "I was in the sixth grade (when she died)," Moran said.
Her grieving husband had the statue erected in remembrance, his feelings lovingly etched beneath the weeping lady:
Warm summer sun shine kindly here
Gentle breeze blow softly here
Mother earth above lie light, lie light
Goodnight sweetheart, goodnight.
The poem bears striking resemblance to the final words in the poem "Annette" by 19th century poet Robert Richardson. Mark Twain also adapted the poem for his daughter's headstone. Ferreday relatives still live in Spanish Fork but were reluctant to talk about the tombstone.
Moran recalls that Horace Ferreday eventually packed up his family and business and moved to Idaho but later was buried next to his lady.
Moran has lived across the street from the cemetery for 44 years but scoffs at the legend. The only thing he hears from the cemetery is the nighttime screaming of teenagers who go in there to play.
"I've walked every street in there (during the day) and never heard a thing," he said.
His neighbor used to walk in the cemetery at night until a teen jumped out from behind a tombstone and screamed at him.
"That was the last time he ever walked in there," Moran said.
Weeping ladies are common in cemeteries around the United States and the world. One of the more prominent in Utah is the weeping lady in the Logan City Cemetery. The statue on the Cronquist family plot is popular with younger adults who visit during the full moon in response to legend that that's when they can hear her mourn her children.
The 10-foot tall statue was put up in honor of Julia Cronquist by her husband, Olif Cronquist, after she died. According to her great-granddaughter, Launa Murdoch, she had eight children but five of them died in childhood between 1889 and 1901. Two died the same night. Stricken with grief, Julia Cronquist would drive to the cemetery in her surrey daily and weep, Murdoch said. When she succumbed in 1914 at the age of 55, many people said she died of a broken heart.
Another weeping lady statue kneels over the late magician Harry Houdini's grave in Machpelah Cemetery, Queens, N.Y. Still another "grieves" over the grave of F.W. Blanchard at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in California. Blanchard developed the Hollywood Bowl.
A legend surrounding a Parkersburg, W.V., weeping lady tombstone says her ghost was known to stroll around DeSales Heights Academy. The school was razed three years ago.
The statues are particularly predominant in France, where the weeping lady statue in Logan was carved. In France they are called "Les Pleurients" (the weepers). A prominent one "weeps" at a tombstone in a Pere LaChaise cemetery.