Author's ghost stories draw a frightfully curious crowd

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ursulas brick photo 10-13

Photo by Joe Boyle

Author Ursula BIelski holds a brick that she said was part of the warehouse wall in which the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in 1929 on Chicago’s North Side.

Ursula Bielski always enjoyed a good ghost story, a tradition that was passed on to her by her father and other relatives.

Bielski, author, historian and parapsychologist, shared some of those stories and reported sightings of ghosts before 90 people at the Green Hills Library in Palos Hills on Oct. 3. She is the author of several books including “Chicago Haunts,” “More Chicago Haunts” and “Graveyards of Chicago.” Her father was a Chicago police lieutenant. She even believes her old home was haunted.

She grew up on Chicago’s North Side but did admit a preference as she spoke to the large audience.

“I was fascinated by the South Side of Chicago. I realized that’s where the best ghost stories are,” she said.

Bielski then passed along details of Resurrection Mary. Different stories attributed to Resurrection Mary date back to the 1930s and 1920s.

Stories of a young woman dressed in a white dress hitchhiking alongside Archer Avenue near the cemetery have been told over the years. According to folklore, the young girl has been picked up by drivers and does not engage in any conversation. Some of these drivers reported that she just disappears. According to Bielski, stories have her entering vehicles only to later open the passenger door and run to the entrance gates of Resurrection Cemetery along Archer Avenue and disappear.

A report on Resurrection Mary appeared on “It’s Incredible” on ABC-TV in the 1980s. During that program, a man driving in from Summit reported that he did pick up a young woman hitchhiking along Archer Avenue in Justice. She suddenly opened the passenger door and she races toward the cemetery gates and disappeared. Bielski relates another segment from that show in which a truck driver reported seeing a young woman clutching the cemetery gates. The truck driver stopped his vehicle and arrived at the gate, but the young woman dressed in white seemingly vanished.

The truck driver then drove to the Justice police station. He returned with a Justice police officer, who examined the gates. According to the program, portions of the gates were burned and the small fingerprints were visible. The truck driver and Justice police officer reported seeing the burned gates and fingerprints. Bielski said the gates had been replaced several times only to have the burned indentations continuously reappear. Five years, ago, the gates were sprayed gold, BIelski said.

The identity of Resurrection Mary has narrowed down to two young women, Bielski said. Mary Bregovy was from Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She had been dancing at the O Henry Ballroom (which became the Willowbrook Ballroom in 1959) that evening in 1934 and was later killed in a car crash on Lake Street and Wacker Drive. According to Bielski, some of Mary’s friends said they had seen her after she died along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery.

Anna Norkus, 12, lived in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood and went out dancing one evening on July 20, 1927. She was accompanied by her father, relatives and friends. Unfortunately, according to Bielski, the adults drank too much that night. She died in a car crash after leaving the dance. Many believe that she is Resurrection Mary, Bielski said.

Bielski is also fascinated with the old Bachelors Grove cemetery. Her latest book is titled “Haunted Bachelors Grove.” The cemetery is located just off 143rd Street in Rubio Woods between Ridgeland Avenue on the west and Central Avenue on the east. Bielski had taken a tour of the old cemetery grounds. She returned another night at the suggestion of a friend, who had links to the cemetery.

Now BIelski admits that since this is part of the Cook County Forest Preserves, it is closed at night. She told the audience that they should not enter the grounds in the evening. But in a sense of adventure, she traveled through the cemetery grounds with her friend on a sweltering night. Bielski said they saw a mysterious set of lights that they could not tell where it originated from. The two got lost when they tried to retrace their steps and took over four hours to leave.

“My friend knows every inch of that cemetery but could not explain how we got lost,” said Bielski.

Bielski had also received reports of other people seeing bright lights that could not be accounted for and those travelers also became lost for hours.

“I have never been so scared in my life,” said Bielski, who said the spirit that haunts Bachelors Grove is malicious.

Even the notorious Al Capone was not immune to ghostly visits, said Bielski. Legend has it that Capone complained to guards while he was in prison that he was visited by Jimmy Clark, the brother-in-law of his nemesis, Bugs Moran. Clark was murdered in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Chicago’s North Side in 1929. Moran was one of the intended targets but he did not accompany members of his gang who were killed that day. Capone reportedly wanted Moran eliminated. Bielski showed the audience a brick that she said was once part of the since demolished building where the murders took place.

Bielski said Chicago’s North Side has its share of supernatural tales including Lincoln Park Zoo, which she said is haunted due to the fact that this was a cemetery before the Great Fire of 1871. She recalls one story in 1933 in which a Chicago cabdriver picked up an elderly nun who he took to Columbus Hospital. As the nun entered the building, she left a Bible in the back seat. The driver took the Bible and entered the hospital looking for the nun.

A group of sisters greeted him and seemed to know who the nun was. They told him that she is St. Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded their order and the hospital. They informed the cabdriver that she is dead but this happens all the time.

Chicago Ridge resident is selected as Cook County Board 6th District Commissioner

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ed moody photo 10-13




Ed Moody was selected as the unanimous choice to become the new Cook County Board of Commissioner for the 6th District.

He is replacing Joan Murphy, who served on the Cook County Board since 2002. She died Sept. 18 after a long bout with breast cancer. She was 79.

Moody, the Worth Township Highway Commissioner, was selected over several other candidates Saturday at the Leonard Robinson Family Center in Richton Park. He made his presentation before a panel of eight 6th District committeemen.

The other candidates were Antoine Bass, of Richton Park, president of the Rich Township High District 227 School Board; John A. Daly, of Oak Forest, vice chairman of the South Suburban College Community College District 510 Board; Donna Miller, of Lynwood, who works in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry and is the wife of former 29th District state Rep. David Miller; Tricia Murphy, of Crestwood, daughter of Joan Murphy; Ed Paesel, of Sauk Village, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association; and Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta.

Committeemen stated that Moody is replacing someone who was elected from Worth Township by voters in the last election. Committeemen believe that Moody meets the choice of the voters from the area.

"There were a lot of good, strong candidates that were considered,” said Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli. “We felt that Mr. Moody was the total package for the 6th District.”

Moody's credentials include serving as the current chairman of the Worth Township Fair Housing Committee, past president of Chicago Ridge School District 127.5, and president of the governing board for the Eisenhower Special Education Co-op.

Committeemen also pointed out that that he has worked with elected officials in all areas represented by the district. He is familiar with the budget needs of the district and how the county budget impacts the local municipal and township budgets, the committeemen added.

Moody said his experience in negotiating and drafting budgets give him an edge as the next 6th District Commissioner. He added that his experience in dealing with unions would be a plus.

“I think that going down to Springfield, I would have some advantages that maybe some others don’t,” said Moody, pointing to his 25 years go managing campaigns and getting out the vote.

Moody and Vicki, his wife of 21 years, reside in Chicago Ridge. They have raised their nephew Ryan for the last 13 years. He is currently an administrator with the chief judge at the Bridgeview Courthouse. He is a former technician engineer for the Cook County Highway Department.

Cook County’s 6th District includes portions of Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Worth.

Moraine faculty and staff helps add final touches to ‘Haunted Hills of Palos’

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

The only thing more frightening than the scary hayride planned for the Haunted Hills of Palos event later this month at Pleasure Lake may have been the path for the ride to traverse.

The trail around Pleasure Lake, which is the route for the hayride, has become more of a mud trail – especially when it rains – as the wood chips that cover the trail have eroded from the cold and wet winter and rainy spring leaving only dirt and grass, city officials said last week.

The Haunted Hills of Palos, which is sponsored by the city’s community resource and recreation department, is to take place the weekend of Oct. 28-29, and figures to draw a large crowd as in addition to the hayride attendees will be able to enjoy a variety of concessions including pizza and s’mores, according to Kristin Violante, the city’s commissioner of community resources and recreation.

A muddy trail would not have made for much fun at the event, which runs from 6-9 p.m. on both days, Violante said.

Enter the faculty and staff at Moraine Valley Community College, who, as part of the college’s Community Learning Day, spent more than three hours on Oct. 4 placing 75 cubic yards of wood chips around the trail at the lake, 10801 S. Roberts Road.

“It was awesome timing because we have the Halloween event coming up there and without (the staff of MVCC) there is no way we could have gotten it prepared,” Violante said after the city council last Thursday. “Not only does the hayride go on the trail but people have to walk to get on (the ride) and if the path wasn’t paved with the wood chips and it rained it would have been all muddy. Now the wagons have a nice surface and the people walking to the wagons have a nice surface.”

Tickets for the hay ride are $5 for adults and $3 for those under 10 years old. From 6-7 p.m. on both nights a “non-scary” hayride will take place.

Ald. Ricky Moore (4th Ward) is a member of the Moraine Valley Community College faculty and was one of the volunteers working at Pleasure Lake. Moore said he was more than pleased with the results.

“It looks nice because it was pretty much dirt when we started,” he said. “I was about 10 minutes late to get back to the bus (to return to Moraine Valley after we were done working) and I just told people I got lost because the walking trail was covered by wood chips. It really does look so much better.

“Pleasure Lake is probably one of the best kept secrets in Palos Hills, and I’d say we enhanced the beauty and safety there.”

Moore said Community Learning Day organizers approached Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett about different tasks that could be completed in town and after Bennett met with Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley, the project at Pleasure Lake was decided upon. MVCC staff also volunteered their time at The Little Red Schoolhouse, Sertoma Centre and at local food pantries and animal shelters, Moore said.

The mulch used to cover the trail came from branches collected by the city’s chipper service, Moore said. The city’s public works department collects branches from single-family homes at various times throughout the year.

“It’s nice because we kind of recycle,” Moore said of placing the chips at Pleasure Lake.

The work completed by the MVCC staff received praise from Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) during the meeting.

“The trail is now in tip-top shape,” he said.

Moore expects he and his co-workers to return to Pleasure Lake in 2017 to once again enhance the trail.

“As they say ‘If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise,’ we will be there next year,” Moore said.

Board: No more gaming cafés

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Video gaming cafés are no longer welcome in Oak Lawn, following passage of a new ordinance by the Oak Lawn Village Board on Tuesday night.

Mayor Sandra Bury, who introduced the ordinance, said it would have no effect on the two video gaming cafés already in the village. A total of 34 bars, restaurants and other businesses with liquor licenses currently offer video gaming in Oak Lawn.

‘Video gaming is big money,” she said, pointing to Illinois Gaming Board statistics showing that more than $333 million has been wagered at the machines in Oak Lawn since video gaming was introduced in 2012. The two gaming cafés account for 15 percent of that amount. In August alone, $11.5 million was wagered.

“When video gaming was approved by the previous administration, it was because the existing businesses came out in force and asked for help in a difficult economy. I have no doubt that if it had not been approved, some businesses that we know and love would not be open,” she said.

Bury said the unanimously approved ordinance would “raise the bar” for businesses seeking gaming licenses to ensure that gaming wasn’t their primary purpose. About 71 businesses in the village have liquor licenses, which entitles them to apply for gaming licenses, according to state law. But the mayor said the goal is to help “brick-and-mortar businesses” that offer more than video gaming.

The other issue discussed was vehicle stickers, following recent efforts by the village to catch up to vehicle owners who don’t buy them as required.

Several trustees reported hearing from residents who received letters in September from Finance Director Brian Hanigan, saying they had not bought stickers of vehicles registered to their address. Some either had bought the stickers or no longer owned the vehicles in question.

Those who had not bought stickers were told they owed the $25 sticker fee, plus a $100 penalty, which would be reduced to $50 if the stickers were bought by Oct. 31. He said the effort resulted in the village collecting $40,000. Hanigan pointed out that the sticker fees are lower in Oak Lawn than most neighboring communities.

Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) said he received one of the letters, and was thankful he had the receipt to prove he had purchased the sticker by the June 30 deadline. But he said many residents complained about having to come to Village Hall to sort out the matter

Hanigan explained that the letters were sent in order to track down “scofflaws” who neglected to buy the village stickers to do so. He said some letters were sent in error, because the village was using the Secretary of State’s database of vehicle registration, which did not always match with the information on file in the village.

“People don’t always inform the state or us when they changes vehicle,” said Hanigan.

“This is the first time we did this, and the database will be cleaned up next time,” he said.

He also pointed out that most trips to Village Hall were unnecessary because the letters stated that those who no longer owned the vehicle in question could state that and return the letter by mail.

“The trustees and I have talked about this for a while. Vehicle stickers are a revenue source, but they are considered a nuisance by a lot of residents,” said Bury. She asked Village Manager Larry Deetjen to look into the possibility of eliminating stickers, and making up the revenue elsewhere.

But that didn’t go over too well with Hanigan.

“They account for 900,000 in revenue to the village this year. I’m all ears as to how we are going to make up that amount of money in the budget, when we owe pensions,” said Hanigan, noting that he has followed orders from the board not to raise property taxes in recent years.

“If we want to get rid of the village stickers, it is incumbent on all of us on this board to come up with ways to make up the lost revenue,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th).

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Compared to 2015, this isn't brain surgery

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Shepard Athletic Director Curry Gallagher gets in some swimming practice in September with the Astros girls team.



One thing about Shepard athletic directors, they do some interesting things.

Gwaine Perkins jumped out of an airplane in 2011 as a part of a retirement gift.

Five years later, Curry Gallagher is trying something that might not be as dangerous but hasn’t been always easy so far.

He plans on participating in one practice for every athletic team that Shepard has to offer. In September, he started things off with a girls swimming practice that left him feeling quite a bit tired after it was over. He practiced with the girls tennis team, but because he was the newbie on the team, he had to go fetch the cart with the tennis balls and wheel it to the courts.

On one recent Friday, he ran cross country and then worked in a soccer practice that featured a drill called “Gilligan’s Island.’’ There is no word if Ginger or Mr. Howell were participating, too.

Outsiders may scoff that this is a stunt, but Gallagher said he is doing it to get closer to the student-athletes at the school.

And after the way he spent 2015, let the man play. Let him run, jump, grunt and do grunt work with the athletes. He’s entitled.

Last year he opened the 2015-16 school year on the disabled list.

He was recovering from having a brain tumor removed.

Just the words “brain tumor’’ are scary, but Gallagher said he lucked out, as he has an Acoustic Neuroma tumor which had to be taken out. He lost his hearing in his left ear, but he only had to spend 48 hours at Northwestern Memorial hospital in early August and was back on the job in late September.

 “If you’re going to get a brain tumor, this is the one to get,” he bragged. “I got the best brain tumor available.’’

It also gave him a new outlook on life, hence his new project of practicing with the Astro athletes.

“I feel blessed to be upright, I feel blessed to be on the good side of the green, I feel blessed to have a wonderful family and a great job,” the 40-year-old Gallagher said. “The district and the supervisors and coaches were all fantastic when I was sick.

“I do look at life differently and that’s why I want to do this.’’

Aside from a few aches and pains, it’s been rewarding.

“It’s getting back to having fun with kids,” he said. “Last year, I was sick and you kind of reevaluate your job. You’re sitting behind a desk and being an administrator is time-demanding and you are further away from kids.

“I want the kids to know me a little bit. And I want the kids at each practice to teach me something. Teach me about the team. Teach me about the sport. They can also ask me questions about Shepard athletics and being an administrator. Teach me something and I’ll teach you something.’’

Gallagher said he played football, baseball, tennis and bowling in high school in Philadelphia and ultimate Frisbee on the club level in college. He tried his hand at triathlons before his family (wife Carrie, daughters Deidre and Brigid and son Liam) started to grow.

He has worked at Marist, St. Ignatius and Richards before landing the AD job at Shepard.

He said he wants Shepard athletes to know his door is always open to them.

“I don’t want kids to look at me as the administrator who doesn’t talk to them,’’ he said. “Or the administrator who is distant from them.’’

He also said the brain surgery was just a blip in his life, similar to when he had knee surgery.

“If it grew more, it could have been life threatening,” Gallagher said. “I lost my hearing in one ear – some hard wiring was destroyed.  But all they did was take a little grey matter out of my head. I was in and out of the hospital in two days. I am still so amazed by that.’’