Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tonight: Step into the "Graveyards of Chicago"

Join me tonight as I lecture on--and sign copies of--Matt Hucke and my new book, the completely revised Graveyards of Chicago: the People, History, Art & Lore of Cook County Cemeteries. If you love cemeteries--or if you avoid them like the plague--you will love this program if you love history, art, family and personal life stories, or the beauty of the natural world: Chicago's graveyards have them all in abundance.

Mass burial of victims from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Fire, 1918. 
Monument to Frances Pearce and daughter, Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.
I'm delighted to have been invited to share our new new book at this wonderful venue for history research, and I'm anxious to share with you some of my photos from a number of my very favorite Chicago-area cemeteries, including some you probably didn't know existed.

The event begins at 7pm.  I'll be speaking until 8, and then I'll have copies of the new book for sale and signing while guests have a chance to look at the images, family photos and maps from an exhibit I am assembling on Bachelors Grove Cemetery called "Lost in the Woods: The Real--and Unreal--Story of Bachelors Grove.   Books are $15 and the lecture is completely free!  Hope to see you tonight.

The Worth Historical Museum is located at the Worth Park District, 11500 South Beloit, Worth, Illinois. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Graveyards of Chicago" lectures, signings, parties. Join me!

I would like to invite one and all to a series of book signings of Matt Hucke's and my new book, the completely revised and reissued Graveyards of Chicago: The People, History, Art and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries (Lake Claremont Press. Chicago: 2013).

If you have not yet seen this book and enjoy cemeteries for their history, architecture and art, biography and legends, you will truly love this book.  I am very pleased to be able to offer the following events where I will be representing Matt and myself and talking about the book:

My daughters at Rosehill Cemetery in times past.
Grave of Lulu Fellows.
Wednesday February 26th:
Worth Park District Historical Museum
(Includes lecture and display of items from the
exhibit "Lost in the Woods: the Real and Unreal Story of Bachelors Grove)

Sunday, March 2:
Ashbary Coffee House
Book signing and chat with me!
Archer Road, Willow Springs, Illinois

Saturday, March 8:
Chet's Melody Lounge
The Gangs of Chicago (Graveyards)!
Book signing party, stories, and spaghetti dinner
Free dinner. Cash bar.
Come in your 1920s finest!
Archer Road, Justice, Illinois

Tuesday, April 15
Blue Island Library
Book Signing
York Street, Blue Island, Illinois

You can find all of my upcoming events at
I hope you can join me for one or more of these events. Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Vatican and the Voices:

What Does the Church Say About EVP?

One of the questions many people ask me, as a Catholic, is how I reconcile my career in paranormal investigation with my faith. 

According to the Catholic Church, they charge, ghosts don't exist.  When we die, we go to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory, and there is no allowance for the spirits of the dead to exist with us here.

The reality is not exactly on par with this statement.  Certainly, the Church believes in the survival theory. When our body dies, our soul lives on.  It is the foundation of everything we believe: that this physical life is not our "real" one; that our true home lies beyond the world of tactile sensation, pain and death.  The Church obviously exists because of the world of the spirit and for the care of souls.  But just what and where Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are have been far from clear cut matters in the Catholic catechism.  As far as disbelief in ghosts, Christ Himself mentions ghosts in the New Testament, as they are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. 
Certainly too, the Church has always been clear on one thing: we are not to use the spirits to predict the future. The future is only the Lord's to know. But what about communication with the dead at all? What about reserch into Electronic Voice Phenomenon?  Some may be surprised to discover that, in supporting EVP research as a scientific avenue to understanding creation--and the life of the spirit--, the Church has been right there beside the best researchers all along. 

Far from classifying EVP research as dangerous or forbidden, the Church has been supportive to the point of encouraging of such research, and has worked closely with some of the phenomenon’s earliest researchers.

Two of the earliest investigators into the phenomena were Italian Catholic priests, Father Ernetti and Father Gemelli, who came upon the phenomena by chance while they were recording Gregorian chants in 1952.  While listening to some of these recordings, Gemelli heard what he identified as his father’s voice speaking on the audio recording, calling, “Zucchini, it is clear, don’t you know it is I?”  Zucchini was Gemelli’s boyhood nickname.

Gemelli and Ernetti were confounded and concerned by this apparent contact from the dead: enough, in fact, to approach then Pope Pius XII with the recording.  Pope Pius was nonplussed, soothing the priests with these words:

“Dear Father Gemelli, you really need not worry about this. The
existence of this voice is strictly a scientific fact and has nothing
to do with spiritism. The recorder is totally objective. It receives
and records only sound waves from wherever they come. This
experiment may perhaps become the cornerstone for a building for
scientific studies which will strengthen people's faith in a hereafter.”
It was perhaps not surprising that Pope Pius' cousin, the Rev. Dr. Gebhard Frei, co-founder of the Jung Institute, had made a name for himself as a parapsychologist.  Moreover, he had been close colleague to Constantin Raudive, who most “ghost hunters” recognize as one of the pioneers of EVP research.  As president of the the International Society for Catholic Parapsychologists. Frei stated:

“All that I have read and heard forces me to believe that the
voices come from transcendental, individual entities.
Whether it suits me or not, I have no right to doubt the
reality of the voices.”

Pope Paul VI, too, was well informed of the state of research into the EVP that was happening through a close friend of his own, Friedrich Jurgenson, whose work into EVP research impressed the Pope so deeply that he made Jurgenson a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory to honor his contributions.  Jurgenson was very pleased with the friendship he had formed with the Church, and he wrote to a colleague:
“I have found a sympathetic ear for the Voice Phenomenon in the
Vatican. I have won many wonderful friends among the leading
figures in the Holy City. Today 'the bridge' stands firmly on its

Later, the Vatican extended permission for its own priests to conduct EVP research. Father Leo Schmid, a Swiss
theologian, collected more than ten thousand Voices of Unknown Origin, which he documented in his 1976 book, When the Dead Speak.
Also well approved by the Vatican wathe work of s Father Andreas Resch, an EVP researcher who also taught courses in parapsychology at the Vatican.

In England in 1972 four senior members of the Catholic hierarchy
were involved in the famous Pye recording studio tests conducted
by Peter Bander. Of these tests, Fr. Pistone, Superior of the Society of St Paul in England

“I do not see anything against the teaching of the Catholic
Church in the Voices, they are something extra-ordinary
but there is no reason to fear them, nor can I see any danger.”

Similarly, His excellence, Archbishop H.E. Cardinale, Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium agreed:

“Naturally it is all very mysterious, but we know the voices are there for all to hear them
Most recently, Father Gino Concetti, one of the most well regarded of Vatican theologians, went on record with these words:

“According to the modern catechism, God allows our dear departed
persons who live in an ultra-terrestrial dimension, to send
messages to guide us in certain difficult moments of our lives. The
Church has decided not to forbid any more the dialogue with the
deceased with the condition that these contacts are carried out
with a serious religious and scientific purpose.”

Many thanks to Michael Esposito and Phantom Airwaves for sharing these statements with me.

-Ursula Bielski

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Burning Need: Chicago's Ghostly "Hands of Death" are Not Alone. A Roman Museum Holds a Whole Collection of Phantom Handprints

For generations, Chicagoans have shared two tales of ghosts who made an unusually lasting impression on observers: these spirits are believed to have left their very handprints behind, literallly burned into the environment and left as phantom calling cards for the living.

On Good Friday in 1924, firefighter Frank Leavy left his ghostly handprint on the window of his firehouse, Engine Co. 107 and Truck Co. 12, at 13th Street and Oakley Avenue.  He had been washing the window that afternoon when he rested his soapy had on the window and predicted that "this is my last day on the fire department."  Leavy died fighting an office building fire later that day at Curran Hall, and as his buddies sat and chatted in the bay the next day, they happened to glance at the window he'd been washing: imbedded in the glass was Frank's ghostly handprint.  Known forever as "The Hand of Death," firefighters still tell the tale of Leavy's hand; his prediction of his own demise, and the attempts to remove the reminder. His colleagues scrubbed, employed harsh chemicals, and tried to scrape it off.  According to legend, an administrator came with Frank's file from headquarters and compared his fingerprints with those on the window. They matched perfectly.

A second event continues to be talked about with great fervor by believers in Chicago and around the world: the burning of the cemetery bars by the city's most famed phantom, Resurrection Mary.  In the 1970s, curiosity-seekers came by the hundreds to view the front gates of Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Road, where--one night, around 1am--a mysterious young woman had been seen standing, grasping the bars of the gate, apparently locked inside. When police arrived to let her out, they found no one there. But the bars she'd been clutching were pried apart--the strong bronze mangled by incredible force--and seared with the imprint of a woman's hands.

My friend was telling me yesterday about an obscure museum in Rome where he had recorded for electronic voice phenomenon--ostensibly the voices of the dead--to be used for his experimental musical recording, "The Phantoms of Purgatory Souls." 

The museum is called the Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory and is tucked away in the back of the Church of the Sacred Heart--the only gothic style church in Italy.

On display is a collection of artifacts displaying burn marks reportedly made by the hands of spirits: handprints burned onto the nightcap of a man whose deceased wife appeared to him asking for prayers; a book which developed similar ghostly burn marks after its owner's mother-in-law appeared to her asking for prayers; bibles burned with phantom fingers.

The museum was founded by a French missionary priest, Father Jouet, who strongly believed that these artifacts are signs of the reality of Purgatory. Catholics believe that when a soul leaves its Earthly body, it almost always spends some time in a place called Purgatory before being allowed into Heaven.  Purgatory is a place of repentance, amend-making, and "paying off" debts of sin while waiting to join God.  According to Catholics, our prayers can make the difference as to the length and severity of the stay in Purgatory. Some paranormal investigators believe that the ghosts we encounter are these souls, either asking for prayers or remaining hostile and unrepentant even in death. 

I sent a photograph and short write-up to the museum about the bars at Resurrection Cemetery, though my friend says they stopped taking artifacts when the founder passed away.  Hopefully it will at least go in their files as a further testament to this remarkable phenomenon. 

You can purchase the recordings for Phantoms of Purgatory Souls at Michael Esposito's website, You can read an excerpt about Leavy's "Hand of Death" in Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes that Shaped a City by David Cowan by visiting; and you can read more about Resurrection Mary's most memorable visit in Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski, available at

The Blog is Back...

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