One of the eeriest gravesites in all of Chicagoland lies inside Mount Carmel Cemetery. This cemetery is in Hillside, Illinois, a suburb just west of Chicago. No, this grave is not that of Al Capone, the most famous of Chicago’s gangsters, although he is buried there. Rather, this grave is the eternal resting spot of a supposed saint. A spot that will definitely send a chill down your spine!
In 1921, Julia Buccola, a young Italian-American, died while giving birth to her baby. This in itself was very sad. Even sadder was the fact that the baby died, too. Julia’s father was heartbroken over the loss of his beloved daughter. Julia was placed in her coffin dressed in her wedding gown and veil. The baby was laid in her arms. They were buried together at Mount Carmel. Not long after the funeral, Julia’s mother began having nightmares about her dead daughter. In them, she saw Julia calling to her, begging to be dug up! As these nightmares went on for six years, Julia’s mother became more and more terrified.
Finally, she decided to have Julia’s body unearthed. When the day arrived, Julia’s mother went to the grave with a group of grave diggers. The workers dug up the ground. As they pried open the lid of the coffin, Julia’s mother held her breath. She expected to see something ghastly. To her surprise, despite the passing of six years, Julia’s body was
still perfectly preserved. Not a hair was out of place, and her skin had stayed smooth and flush. What’s more, Julia’s white dress remained spotless, just as on her wedding day.
At first, Julia’s mother thought that some strange coincidence must have preserved the coffin’s contents. Maybe the tight seal of the coffin had kept air and dampness from damaging Julia’s skin and clothing. But why not those of the baby? The baby had been buried in Julia’s arms. Unlike Julia, the baby’s body and clothes were completely decomposed. Julia’s mother never understood why her daughter had haunted her dreams and asked to be dug up. The question of why Julia’s body had been so well preserved remained a mystery too. Julia’s family and friends were convinced that it was a miracle.
They believed that her preserved body was a sign from God recognizing Julia’s warm and selfless spirit. From this, they concluded that she was a saint. The preservation of her body was undoubtedly proof that since she had been so good, she would be granted everlasting life. Since her reburial, many people have come to agree that Julia Buccola is, indeed, a saint. However, the Catholic Church has not recognized her as one. Nevertheless, around Chicago, Italian American women preparing for childbirth pray that Julia will help them deliver a healthy baby. Julia’s story is very well known among other ethnic groups, too.
Visitors are drawn to Mount Carmel from all over. They come to see the “Italian Bride” statue on top of Julia’s headstone. They also see the eerie black-and-white photograph attached to the front of the marble monument. The picture shows Julia lying peacefully and comfortably in her coffin on the day that she was dug up!