Chicago Remains to Be Seen

Julia Petta, "The Italian Bride"

Although Mount Carmel cemetery is the final resting place for the bishops and archbishops of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a large collection of well-known gangsters, one of the most popular and memorable graves at the cemetery belongs to a simple housewife who died in childbirth in 1921 at the age of 29 -- Julia Buccola Petta.

Following her death, Julia was buried, wearing her wedding dress, along with her baby at Mount Carmel. But soon after her death, her mother, Filomena, began having dreams in which Julia was telling her that she was still alive. Her mother's troubling dreams continued for the next six years. Finally, she obtained permission to have Julia's body dug up and examined. Although the body of her baby had decomposed, Julia's body was fresh and intact, with no signs of decay or decomposition.

Julia's grave marker features a small photograph of her in her wedding dress, and a large statue of her, based on that photograph. But the most amazing aspect of the monument is a photo taken of Julia immediately after her coffin was dug up and opened, six years after her death.

The photo shows a young woman resting peacefully in the mud-caked coffin, her arms folded in front of her. Her body appears to be perfectly preserved, with no signs of discoloration or decay.

Those present at her exhumation reportedly touched Julia's skin, and said it was still soft, and her cheeks were still rosy red.

Many in Chicago's Italian community considered this an honest-to-goodness miracle, and some considered Julia to be a saint. Others question the story, and claim that the photo of Julia in her coffin was actually taken before she was buried in 1921.

But the story of "The Italian Bride" doesn't end there. There have been many reports of a ghostly figure of a woman wandering around in the cemetery near Julia's grave, wearing a flowing white wedding dress. Julia's grave is close to the cemetery entrance on Harrison Street, and passing motorists have reported seeing the figure in the cemetery at night. One story claims that a small boy was accidentally left behind at the cemetery by his family. When they returned to look for him, they found him holding the hand of a woman in a flowing white gown, who was leading him back to them. When the boy reached his family, the woman disappeared.

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