Augie Aleksy, own­er of Cen­turies & Sleuths Book­store in Forest Park, asked me to con­tribute to this col­lec­tion about those buried in our near­by com­mu­ni­ties. My chap­ters include Hol­ly­wood mogul Michael Todd (third hus­band of Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor) and Smi­ley, a clown who died in 1918’s Hagen­beck-Wal­lace cir­cus train wreck — along with 85 of his fel­low per­form­ers. This project was inspired by Edgar Lee Mas­ters’ Spoon River Anthol­o­gy. The book won the Illi­nois State His­tor­i­cal Society’s Supe­ri­or Achieve­ment Award in 2014.


Forest Park, Illi­nois is home to four major ceme­ter­ies and has been the final rest­ing place for both the famous and not-so-famous since the ear­ly 1870s. The vil­lage was once rec­og­nized by the Guin­ness Book of World Records for its ratio of over thir­ty dead to every live res­i­dent. Notable per­ma­nent res­i­dents of Forest Park’s hal­lowed grounds include the par­ents of Ernest Hem­ing­way; seri­al killer Belle Gun­ness; Emma Gold­man and oth­er impor­tant mem­bers of the anar­chist move­ment; evan­ge­list Bil­ly Sun­day; Eliz­a­beth Taylor’s hus­band Mike Todd; as well as vic­tims of the East­land dis­as­ter, the Iro­quois The­ater fire, and the Hagen­beck-Wal­lace cir­cus train wreck. Inspired by Edgar Lee Mas­ters’ clas­sic 1915 work, Spoon River Anthol­o­gy, the His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety of Forest Park invit­ed local authors, play­wrights, jour­nal­ists, and his­to­ri­ans to pen indi­vid­u­al nar­ra­tives of those buried with­in Forest Park, in the style of the orig­i­nal work. Jay Bonansin­ga, a New York Times best­selling author (The Walk­ing Dead); not­ed local his­to­ri­ans Robert Loerzel and Richard Lind­berg; Chicago-area nov­el­ists Michael A. Black, Frances McNa­ma­ra, and Stephanie Kuehn­ert; and play­wright Amy Binns-Calvey are just a few of those whose work is includ­ed in this vol­ume.

Chicago Tri­bune: “Des Plaines River Anthol­o­gy col­lects Forest Park his­to­ry

Forest Park Review: “Forest Park his­to­ry to be hon­ored by Illi­nois his­tor­i­cal soci­ety