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The Haunting Tale of the Italian Bride

Immortal Corpse?

By Joshua WilsonPublished 10 months ago 3 min read

In the town of Hillside, just outside of Chicago, there lies Mount Carmel Cemetery. Buried there are several infamous Chicago mobsters, including Al Capone and Dion O'Banion, but there is one grave that stands out among them all. That is the grave of Julia Buccola Petta, who is more commonly known as the "Italian Bride".

Her grave is marked by a life-sized statue of Julia in her wedding dress, with a photo of her in the same dress mounted on the front of her monument. But behind this seemingly beautiful monument lies one of Chicago's most bizarre and chilling tales.

Julia was born in Italy on June 6, 1891. After her father passed away in 1913, her mother Filomena emigrated to the United States with Julia. They settled on the west side of Chicago, where Julia eventually married Matthew Petta in June 1920 at Holy Rosary Church on North Damen Avenue. Julia became pregnant soon after their wedding, but complications arose.

On March 17, 1921, Julia passed away while giving birth to her son, Filippo. She was buried in white, as is the tradition for women who die in childbirth, and her wedding dress served as her burial gown. With her deceased infant cradled in her arms, Julia was laid to rest in a single coffin at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Filomena Buccola was devastated by her daughter's death. After Julia's burial, she began experiencing disturbing and terrifying dreams every night in which Julia told her that she was still alive and needed her help.

For 6 years, Filomena was plagued by these nightmares and became obsessed with having her daughter's grave opened and her body exhumed, although she could not explain why she felt this way. Eventually, her persistence paid off, and a sympathetic judge granted her request.

In 1927, 6 years after Julia's death, the casket was unearthed and opened. To everyone's shock, Julia's body had not decayed at all. In fact, her skin was still as soft as it had been when she was alive. A photo was taken at the time of the postmortem, which shows Julia's "undecayed" body in the casket.

Filomena was determined to honor her daughter's memory with a more elaborate tombstone, so she raised funds to create a life-sized sculpture of Julia on her wedding day. The sculpture is still standing over Julia's grave today, the postmortem photo affixed to the front of the monument, along with the Italian phrase:

"Presa Dopo 6 Anni Morta"

which translates to "taken six years after death."

So, what made Julia's body stay in perfect condition after lying in the grave for six years? Many people in the neighborhood believed that Julia's "incorruptibility" was proof that she was a saint. Skeptics had another explanation - adipocere, or corpse wax. This substance is formed during the decomposition of dead body fat in moist or wet anaerobic conditions, and it could have preserved the shape and state of Julia's body.

However, there were also stories that suggested Filomena fabricated the entire story as retaliation for a marriage she did not approve of. Even if this was true, the fact remains that Julia's body was found to be in perfect condition six years after her burial.

The Italian Bride - Unanswered Questions and Haunting Mysteries

As you stand before Julia's grave, looking up at her life-sized statue in her wedding dress, you can't help but wonder - Was it a miracle that kept Julia's body so perfectly preserved, or was it just a natural process? And what about Filomena's dreams? Were they a desperate mother's plea for help, or a calculated hoax to gain sympathy and financial support?

The mystery of the Italian Bride may never be fully solved, but one thing is for certain - the haunting tale of Julia Buccola Petta will continue to intrigue and unsettle those who visit Mount Carmel Cemetery for years to come.

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About the Creator

Joshua Wilson

Exploring the unexplored. 🌌🔍🔮

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