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Hillside, Illinois

The Italian Bride

Julia Buccola Petta's body was peculiarly well-preserved when it was exhumed six years after her death. 

Among the graves of mobsters and bishops in Mount Carmel Cemetery lies Julia Buccola, a woman whose body was exhumed and mysteriously found in near-perfect condition.

Julia Buccola Petta died at the age of 29 after giving birth to a stillborn son. She was buried, in her wedding dress, in a Catholic cemetery that’s popular among Italians in and around Chicago. While her life was unremarkable, her death proved otherwise.

The story goes that Julia’s mother was plagued by nightmares of her recently deceased daughter. In these nightmares, Julia asked that she be exhumed. After six years of trying, the family was granted permission to dig her up, though it’s unclear how exactly they managed to get their request approved. Upon opening the casket, they found her body intact. Julia’s corpse showed few signs of deterioration, though the stillborn son she was buried with had decomposed.

Julia’s mother took a six-year postmortem photograph of Julia in her coffin and had it placed on a new tomb. A statue of Julia in her wedding gown was constructed and two pictures were placed on the tombstone. The first is of her on her wedding day, the image the statue is modeled after, and below it is the photograph of her exhumed body. The statue earned the tomb its nickname of “The Italian Bride.”

Some believe Julia’s peculiar postmortem preservation is proof of her “incorruptible” saintliness, whereas others attribute it to the chemical composition of the graveyard’s soil (though this wouldn’t explain why her son decomposed and she didn’t). Some even suspect Julia’s mother fabricated the whole affair because she disliked her daughter’s husband—Julia’s married name is conspicuously absent from the tomb.

Know Before You Go

The Italian Bride is near the Northeast corner of the cemetery. If you turn in and go immediately left, you will see it on the right. It is on the edge of road.

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