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Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) School Fire, December 1, 1958
OLA Fire Period News Articles
(These stories have been reproduced as accurately as possible from the original news reports, including original errors)
90 Die In School Fire (12/1/58)
74 Hurt, Blast Traps Scores (12/1/58)
Tough Chicago Police Weep At The Tragic, Tiny Bundles (12/1/58)
Tom Feared Sight Of Death's Mask (12/1/58)
Margaret Was a Little Girl Who Didn't Like to Be Sick (12/1/58)
Joe Wasn't Hurt, He Saw Only Horror (12/1/58)
Sobbing Nun Tells of Horror In School Fire (12/1/58)
Parish Families Seek Children (12/1/58)
Man, 74, Stricken Helping Children (12/1/58)
F.B.I. Ready to Assist Chicago Fire Inquire (12/1/58)
Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll (12/1/58)
Everybody was Jumping (12/1/58)
List of Identified Dead In Chicago School Fire (12/1/58)
Fire Gong Tolled A Deadly Message (12/1/58)
Frantic Dad Tells Fire Rescue Role (12/1/58)
85 Youngsters Still Hospitalized; Blaze 3rd Worst In 100 Years (12/2/58)
Smoldering School Ruins Like A Cavern Of Death (12/2/58)
87 Children, 3 Nuns Die in School Fire (12/2/58)
Probers of Fire Ask: Why? (12/2/58)
Schoolboy Smoking Cigaret Might Have Touched Off Fire (12/2/58)
One Family's Story (12/2/58)
Throng Just Waits, Looks (12/2/58)
The Morgue (12/2/58)
School Fire Chicago's Worst in 55 Years (12/2/58)
“I'll Remember It to My Dying Day,” Says Fireman (12/2/58)
Chronology Shows Speed of Disaster (12/2/58)
Girl Recalls Burning Backs Of Classmates (12/2/58)
Chicago Presses Search for Clues to Fire At School (12/2/58)
'I Won't Give Up Hope,' Says Father (12/2/58)
Boy Who Jumped Tells of Tragedy (12/2/58)
Pope John Wires Condolences to Bereaved Kin (12/2/58)
Arson Squad to Probe Fire in School Last Year (12/2/58)
“It's Just Too Much,” Laments Archbishop (12/2/58)
Hospitals Work Around Clock to Relieve Injured (12/2/58)
Other School Tragedies (12/2/58)
Moscow Says School Fire No Accident (12/2/58)
Memories of Horror Rack School Janitor (12/2/58)
How Fireman Feels Carrying Out Victims (12/3/58)
Third Worst In Nation (12/3/58)
Priests Try Vainly To Comfort Bereaved Relatives And Parents (12/3/58)
Struggle to Save Fire Survivors Continues (12/3/58)
Gigantic IFs Jolt Probers Digging Into Fire Mystery (12/3/58)
Fire Leads to School Checkups (12/3/58)
Rites Held for Nuns Killed in School Fire (12/4/58)
10,000 Mourners at Funeral Of Three Nuns Killed in Fire (12/4/58)
Mass Offered for 28 Small Victims of Fire (12/5/58)
Fire Victim's Souls Commended to God (12/5/58)
91st Chicago Victim Of School Fire Dies (12/6/58)
500 Children Face Questioning In School Fire (12/6/58)
Bereaved Families Mourn in Chicago (12/7/58)
9-Year-Old Boy Dies, Raises Chicago School Fire Toll to 92 (12/8/58)
Boy Becomes 92d Victim of Chicago Fire (12/8/58)
School Fire Horror Probed (12/11/58)
Chicago School Afire Long Before 1st Alarm (12/11/58)
Terror, Torment Related by School Fire Victims (12/13/58)
Girl Fire Victim, 9, Wonders Why Cards Have Stopped Coming (12/14/58)
Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa...The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible! (12/15/58)
Nightmare in the News (12/15/58)
Disasters - The Chicago School Fire (12/15/58)
How Safe Are The Schools (12/15/58)
Fire Hazards Found At 2 City Schools
Two Schools To Be Closed As Fire Risks
Texas School Tragedy Of 294 Dead Recalled
$50,000? So What?
Erect Fireproof School Building (11/30/59)
City Cleared As Defendant In School Fire (7/19/60)
New School Open (9/60)
Considered prime suspect in Chicago blaze (1/16/1962)
Boy Admits Fire Fatal To 95 (1/16/62)
Judge Rips Lie Tester On Boy's Story Of Fire (1/16/1966)
Cicero Won't Let Police Talk to Youth (1/16/1962)
Lad Cleared in School Fire (3/13/62)
Memories stay forever - Our Lady of Angels fire survivor (11/83)
'Born fireman' wanted to be part of the action (6/1/2003)
Boy Admits Fire Fatal To 95
Lie Test Results Checked
CHICAGO - The Tribune said today information that a 13-year-old boy has confessed setting the fire at Our Lady of the Angels School, which claimed the lives of 92 children and 3 nuns, was given yesterday to Judge Alfred J. Cilella of Family Court.
The Tribune's copyrighted story said Judge Cilella promised an investigation of the report the boy signed an eight-page confession under questioning by John E. Reid, a nationally know expert on lie detectors.
It quoted Cilella that if the confession is found to be accurate, the boy should be taken into custody. The story added that Reid confirmed he had talked with the boy Friday, at the request of the boy's parents and that he had given a lie detector test to him. But Reid refused to comment on his findings. The boy was not identified.
The Tribune said it had obtained information the boy, in his confession, told of setting fire to the Roman Catholic elementary school about 3:45 p.m. Dec. 1, 1958, causing a holocaust in which pupils and nuns died minutes before classes would have been dismissed for the day. It was Chicago's worst school fire.
It said the boy was among a group of 5th graders who were led to safety minutes after discovery of the fire, which trapped most of its victims on the second floor of the school at 909 N. Avers, Ave. on the city's northwest side.
The Tribune said the boy had started the blaze by tossing lighted matches into a cardboard waste barrel near a stairwell in the basement of the school.
He told Reid that he did so because he hated school, rebelled at the authority of teachers, liked to hear the sound of fire sirens and to watch fire engines race along the street.
The Tribune added it was told the boy, now an 8th grader in a west suburban school, admitted setting at least 12 other fires in Chicago and the suburbs, some as recently as last fall.
Here is the boy's story:
At 2:45 p.m. on a cold and icy day, the boy asked permission to go to the washroom from his second flour classroom. At the time he was 10 years old.
The boy, the Tribune was told, went to the basement of the school and looked into the chapel to make sure that no one was there. Then he approached the stairwell and saw a large barrel made of cardboard with metal rims which was used by the school janitor to collect waste paper.
The boy reportedly told Reid that he threw several lighted matches into the barrel. He had obtained the matches at home when he went there for lunch.
When flames flared from the paper filled barrel, the youngster said, he stood back, then returned quietly to his classroom. He mentioned the fire to no one. Had he, many lives might have been saved.
He told Reid he believed the fire would he discovered by the janitor before it “went too far,”
When the fire was discovered and smoke began to filter through the upper story of the old school building, the boy and five other pupils were trapped in the classroom with their teacher, he said.
He related a dramatic tale of how the teacher hurled him from the window because he was too frightened to jump.
This story was contradicted by the teacher, Miss Pearl Tristano.
Miss Tristano led her class to safety shortly before the heat of the fire blasted through the ceilings of the second floor classrooms and killed many of the children at their desks.
The boy said that after the fire he calmly walked to the home of a friend where a Cub Scout den meeting had been scheduled. He said he was told there by the friend's mother the meeting had been canceled because of the tragedy.
Then, he said, he went home.