Graveyards of Chicago by Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski

I picked up the recently revised edition of Graveyards of Chicago (originally published in 1999) expecting to give it a quick skim and move on. Instead, I found a very readable chronicle of Chicago history filled with anecdotes of famous, infamous and obscure now deceased residents. This is not surprising since the book was published by Lake Claremont Press which publishes all kinds of fun and informative local history books.

The book is structured by geography, focusing on Chicago cemeteries first and then the suburban ones. It gives the history of each cemetery, offers up their most interesting architectural features, lists famous residents and destinations and provides lore, which in the case of Bremen Township's largely deserted but supposedly haunted Bachelors Grove Cemetery is the main offering. Legendary dead denizens such as Resurrection Mary, who haunts Justice's Resurrection Catholic Cemetery and Graceland Cemetery's girl in a box Inez Clarke are profiled and you'll discover less well known but still interesting ones as well.

There is no shortage of buried celebrities to be found in the Chicagoland area. A trip to Hillside's cemeteries will let you explore the graves of Al Capone and many of his gangland colleagues and competitors. Musician Howlin' Wolf, Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, mayors Richard J. Daley and Harold Washington are among the recognizable names whose markers can be found in the area. There are even Indian burial grounds and pet cemeteries to be explored in a day trip.

If the book were just a collection of recognizable names then it would probably get old very fast but for me, the real pleasure to be found in the book is the Chicago history that the authors stuff into the chapters. The section about Emma Goldman's grave is also about the Haymarket riot, famous Chicago names such as Marshall Field, Philip Armour and George Pullman are all here and the sections about the Jewish and other ethnic cemeteries are often more interesting for their history than for their residents. Possibly the least appealing part of this book is that you may find yourself dedicating too many future summer weekends exploring the graveyards of the area and who has time for that? But seriously, this book is definitely worth a thumb-through and possibly more for anyone interested in local history.

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