Paducah, Ky
Her Fingerless Hands: Stories of Della Barnes


Della Barnes was a lovely young woman of 23 looking forward to her wedding when she recieved word from her fiance' that he didn't want to marry her and he had found someone else. When he returned to Paducah to retrieve the engagement ring he had given her, she wouldn't give it back to him. He was very angry at first, but Della reasoned that she just wanted to keep the ring as a token of their former love and that she still loved him, even though he didn't love her anymore. This seemed to soften his mood and he decided to leave peacefully after a quiet dinner. Or so she thought.

At dinner, he poisoned Della, and as she lay dying, gasping for her last breath as her respiratory system shut down and bubbled within her, he tried to wrestle the ring from her death gnarled fingers. She would not unclasp her hand, for it was in a death grip, and in a fit of rage, he grabbed a knife from the dinner table and cut her fingers on her left hand off, picked the ring up and left. The murder was covered up as an accident. Her fiance's family were very wealthy and influential people after all....

Her father commissioned an Italian artist for a life-sized statue for her grave in Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah. But soon after the statue was placed there, the fingers fell off. They were'nt prone to fall off, being attached to the main part of her dress and a solid part of the statue, not sticking out where they would easily break off. But they kept falling off just the same. They were repaired over and over and over until her father gave up trying to repair them. Then the bleeding began. Blood would run from the stub of her fingerless hand down her dress. Sounds of weeping would eminate from the surrounding area and many people reported seeing a very sad young woman wandering in the cemetery late nights and still do to this day.


Della Barnes was a beautiful woman who was married to a very jealous and wealthy man. The reason is unknown but Della turned to prostitution as a form of income for the family. Being that her husband was so jealous she did her best to keep it a secret, but her husband found out ,and went into a jealous rage and killed  her. Before she was buried he cut off her ring finger to get the wedding ring back. Her father commissioned an Italian artist for a statue in her image to mark her grave in Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah.

Lore has it that every year, on the anniversary of her death, she would drop the rose in her hand, bend over to pick it up, and begin to cry.

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The story centers on a young woman named Della Barnes. She is, in fact, buried in a local cemetary.

As the story would have it, Della was engaged to be married. Just days before the wedding her fiance writes to inform her that he is calling off the wedding because he's found a new love. In a fit of despair, Della commits suicide.

Coming to request that she return her engagement ring, her fiance finds her dead body. He attempts to retrieve the ring from her body but to his dismay, rigor mortis has set in and her fingers are clinched. In a rage, the fiance is said to have callously chopped off all the fingers of both hands then grabbed the ring and left.

Legend has that her father commissioned an Italian sculptor to make a lifesized statue replica of his beautiful daughter so that it may grace her gravesite. The day after the statue was placed on the sight, the fingers were missing. The father supposedly sent the statue back multiple times for repair but each time it is placed on the site, the fingers fall off.

They say that at night you can see her fingerless hands clasping their concrete rose and blood flowing from them down her 1880s style gown.

I had heard this story my whole life and have even visited the monument at her grave. As a child, the statue did indeed stand fingerlessly guarding her grave. Unfortunately, over the years the statue has been vandalized to the point that only the waist down of the statue remains. At one point, I even asked the cemetary caretaker about the story and his version was remarkably similar to the one I'd heard all my life.

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Paducah - Oak Grove Cemetery - The spirit of a young woman named Della Barnes walks through this cemetery on certain nights. Documents claim she was accidentally poisoned by the doctor who was treating her for an illness. Legend has a different story though. Some people believe that her fiancée' murdered her in a fit of rage. He even went as far to cut off her left ring finger in order to retrieve the expensive engagement ring he had given her. There is also an iron-rod statue of an angel (almost identical to the one in Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield) that is said to turn and face a different direction in the cemetery.


Della was unmarried at the time of her death.  She was not stabbed to death.  It was a drug overdose that killed her.  On the night of her death she took powdered morphine, thinking it was calomile.  That's what the Paducah newspaper read the next day.  However shortly after her death these tales began.  WHY?  Was it because she was so young?  
WAS her death an accident?

I went to Oak Grove to see her statue. It has been vandalized and broken from the waist up and has not been repaired.  The fingers are gone now, someone had chipped away the marble rose, all that remains is the thumb and part of the hand, but in my pictures you can see the stains running down the dress and onto the remaining part of her fingerless hand.

Also, an ominous shadow is permanantly burned into the side of the mausoleum next to Della's plot. It was burned there AFTER her statue was vandalized (It is a near perfect outline of her from the waist down) and may serve as a warning to anyone else callous enough to think about taking a piece of her home with them. (you can see this shadow CLEARLY in my photos as well)

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