Friday, February 14, 2014

Who's that Lady?

  
In 1998, after the publication of my first book, Chicago Haunts, I received in the mail a handwritten letter that turned out to be one of the most precious I've ever received. It was written on loose leaf notebook paper by a woman and concerned a photograph she had taken during a research trip to Bachelors Grove Cemetery with Dale Kaczmarek's Ghost Research Society. As I read, I realized that she was the photographer who had captured an image which had rocked the then-small world of hobby ghost hunters: the photo of a lithe figure, robed in a 1930s-style gown, perched on the edge of a monument base with a quilted-look to the stone. This image has since appeared without fail on every list of the Greatest Ghost Photos of All Time (and other titles) and continues to garner passionate support and opposition from those who believe it is authentic and those who label it as fraud. People often ask me about this photo, and my comment is always the same: "I know the photographer, and the photo is real. . . "
 
On August 10, 1991, Judy Huff-Felz was visiting Bachelors Grove Cemetery with the Ghost Research Society, one of the oldest local ghost hunting groups in the nation.  During that visit, she took one of the most controversial and infamous “ghost” photos of all time, first published in the Chicago Sun-Times and the National Examiner: the incredible capture of the so-called “Madonna of Bachelors Grove.”

The image of the “White Lady” or the “Woman on the Stone” has been circulated in all corners of the globe, and regularly appears on lists of the top paranormal photographs of all time.  It is a ritual for visitors to Bachelors Grove to re-enact that renowned scene, as you can see me doing at right. 
Below, Judy Huff-Felz tells about the day she took the photo, and of the fame that erupted around it—and continues to this day.

"Clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship and the ability to heal run in my family for many, many generations. It is traceable to my European ancestors. My great grandmother was a faith healer, my great step grandmother was a medium, my grandma, aunt and mother were all readers. My sister and I are both clairvoyant and clairaudient.

In the late 80's my sister and I convinced our mom to start a group which gave lessons on how to teach people how to find, enhance and safely use their abilities. After all of the sessions were over with each group my sister (Mari Abba) and I organized and ran an interactive ghost tour. This was for our mom's students to experiment and practice their abilities at several known haunted locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

My sister and I met Dale Kaczmarek, founder of the Ghost Research Society. He invited us to his meetings and we then became members of his group.

In 1991 GRS had planned an investigation for Bachelor's Grove Cemetery. The team members brought their equipment, my mom, sister and I were coming only with our gifts. Someone from the group suggested I bring some infrared film and take pictures of where I sensed activity.
The investigation was done where each member was given a clipboard, a pen and a map of the cemetery. Then everyone except for one person would wait outside of the fenced area.
Then one person at a time we would walk through Bachelor's with our clipboard and whatever equipment they brought with them.


As they walked around, they would note where and what the saw, heard and/or felt. Then would use their equipment to see if they could detect something.

So as I walked through, I'd take pictures where I felt something. My camera was an Olympus automatic 35mm telephoto. As soon as you would take a picture the camera would automatically wind the film to the next frame. The design of this camera made it impossible to double expose film.

After developing my pictures I found a woman or girl sitting on a broken piece of headstone. I did not see her with my naked eye the day of the investigation. Although I believe I may have come across her on a few other occasions later.

The rest is history. There is no way I would ever guess that my photograph from Bachelor's Grove on that fateful day in September of 1991 would have been published in so many books and newspapers throughout the world or have been on so many television programs. Now it's part of a travelling exhibit that I wish I could see or be a part of. Thank you Ursula Bielski and Dale Kaczmarek for keeping up the interest and for everything else.


Yours in spirit,
Judy A. Huff Felz"


Who is the Madonna of Bachelors Grove?  There are many theories surrounding the identity of this mysterious woman in white.

The photograph here shows two possibilities, side by side: sisters-in-law Kathryn Vogt and Luella
Fulton Rogers.  Kathryn, who married Luella’s brother, Burt Fulton, was heartbroken by the loss of her child, little Marcia May—who died in infancy.  The young couple’s baby was buried at the Fulton family lot in Bachelors Grove—under the famous Fulton Stone, identified with the “Infant Daughter” marker.  Years later, the child’s parents were laid to rest in town, at Zion Cemetery, with Kathryn Vogt’s kin. Could an otherworldly Kathryn be searching for her baby, buried so far away?

Luella (or Lulu) Fulton Rogers was buried at the Fulton Stone after her death from a hit and run driver.  Could she be restless due to her violent death?  Some believe that a resemblance seems to exist between Luella and the the “ghost” in Judy Huff-Felz’s famous photo.  Moreover, Luella’s baby sister—Emma—is also buried with her at the Fulton stone, but her marker was stolen long ago.  When it was recovered, it was not returned to the
Grove but, rather, placed into the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society, shown above left.  Could Luella be upset that her sister’s stone is missing? Is that was the ghost is looking for?  Curiously, old references refer to the Madonna as “Mrs. Rogers,” surely pointing to some connection to Luella.   


Luella (or Lulu) Fulton Rogers was buried at the Fulton Stone after her death from a hit and run driver.  Could she be restless due to her violent death?  Some believe that a resemblance seems to exist between Luella and the the “ghost” in Judy Huff-Felz’s famous photo.  Moreover, Luella’s baby sister—Emma—is also buried with her at the Fulton stone, but her marker was stolen long ago.  When it was recovered, it was not returned to the Grove but, rather, placed into the care of the Tinley Park Historical Society, shown above left.  Could Luella be upset that her sister’s stone is missing? Is that was the ghost is looking for?  Curiously, old references refer to the Madonna as “Mrs. Rogers,” surely pointing to some connection to Luella. 

A final candidate for the Madonna is Amelia Patrick—the first wife of Senator John Humphrey.  Another sad infant death, little Llibby May was laid to rest with Amelia’s family at Bachelors Grove, though her mother was interred elsewhere.  Could Amelia, like Kathryn, be making nightly visits to the Grove in search of her baby girl?

Whoever the "Madonna of Bachelors Grove" may be--be she phantom or figment of our amazing psychic creation--there is no doubt that Ms. Huff's photo of her will go down in history as one of the most magical "ghost" photos of all time.  Thank you for sharing it with us, Judy, and for sharing your wonderful photograph... and your story.

Ursula Bielski
ursulabielski@sbcglobal.net

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