Julia Buccola and Mount Carmel Cemetery
with permission of Lake Claremont Press. From Ursula Bielski's Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City :
Lake Claremont Press.)
Along Roosevelt Road
in West Suburban Hillside, a curious conglomeration of souls awaits judgment.
Here, in one of the largest post-mortem gatherings of Chicago's
Italian-Americans, some of the most notorious of Chicago's gangland players lie
side by side with some of the most pious of the city's faithful, all nestled in
a curious and cramped communion. While generally there is a fair balance between
good and evil, now and then the strength of one or another seems to overpower
its opposite force.
Carmel briefly captured international attention in 1996 when Joseph Cardinal
Bernardin was entombed in its Bishop's Mausoleum after losing his grueling
battle with pancreatic cancer. Pilgrims trudged to the site for weeks, toughing
the cold to glimpse the interior of the otherwise closed tomb—everlasting home
to the bodies of Chicago's past Archdiocesan leaders. But before the spectacle
of that recent season, pilgrims had been traveling to Mt. Carmel for a peek and
a prayer at the comparatively modest monument that marks the grave of a
mysterious young woman named Julia.
the past seventy-five years, Julia Buccola Petta has been engaging the interest
of thousands of Chicagoans, becoming no less than a martyr to many of Chicago's
Italian-American women. Such status is partly due to the circumstances of her
death, but is ultimately due to the circumstances that came after that death.
1921, the young bride died in childbirth and was buried at Mt. Camel carrying
her baby. When in 1927, Buccola's mother had recurring visions of Julia begging
to be dug up, Julia's casket was opened. To the shock of witnesses, the girl's
body, six years in its grave, had remained in unblemished condition. Astonished
admirers hastened to display a photograph of the perfectly preserved corpse on
Buccola's tombstone, where it remains today along with the Italian-English
Julia Buccola aged 29
Questa fotoraha presa dopo 6 anni morti.
a further tribute, a life-sized statue of "The Italian Bride" serves as a beacon
to the endless stream of curiosity seekers who come to pay homage to a powerful
image, the instantaneous meeting of birth and death.
to some of those visitors, not only Julia's flesh has endured the rigors of the
grave. Buccola's spirit also seems to have survived, joining the handful of
Women in White featured in Chicago ghostlore. The ghost of this dead mother,
clad in the wedding gown she was buried in three-quarters of a century ago,
wanders near her resting place, say witnesses. In fact, one story recounts the
day a small boy was accidentally left behind in the cemetery by his family. The
boy's shaken kin rushed back to the cemetery and spotted the child taking the
hand of a white-gowned woman. Upon the family's arrival at the scene, however,
the woman vanished.
the years, the ongoing search for the phantom Julia spread to all generations.
Even local Proviso West high-schoolers would make ritual attempts to catch a
glimpse of this fabled apparition, sometimes leaving school dances en masse to
line up, eyes wide, along the Mt. Carmel fence.
1947, 20 years after the unearthing of the Buccola grave, Mt. Carmel's ground
was broken once again, this time for the interment of Alphonse Capone. The
family plot, gathering several of Al's siblings, his mother Theresa, and his
father Gabriel, is nondescript by Mt. Carmel standards. In a burial ground
filled with life-sized likenesses and family mausoleums, the Capones' humble
flush stones would go unnoticed but for the force of the family name.
to the Capone grave find flowers, beer cans, coins, and other tokens of varying
sentiment: the love and regret of family; the compassion or curses of strangers;
the grotesque admiration of the anonymous. At least a few unknown visitors,
perhaps heirs to his wrath, have made attempts to soothe Al’s soul with peace
offerings. Though few haunting-related stories exist to enforce the fear, the
admonition to tread softly here is taken to heart by most.
fear of being haunted was something to which Capone himself confessed. In his
later years, he became convinced that he was being stalked by the vengeful
spirit of James Clark, brother-in-law of Capone's arch rival, Bugs Moran, and a
victim in Capone's cold-blooded coup, the St. Valentine's Day