The Park District team were happy to have won for a second time. (David Pierini/staff photographer)

Eleven wheeled caskets in a deadman’s derby propelled down Beloit Avenue Saturday, Oct. 26 as Forest Parkers gathered to witness the second annual Forest Park casket races. Pushed by costumed racers, they sprinted two-by-two “Bone Hur” style — ending at a pile of hay bales set up to prevent a gruesome crash. The prize? A ghoulish tombstone-shaped trophy.

The Park District of Forest Park — last year’s champions — beat out the Svengoolies by a little over a second at 16:62 seconds to 17:87.

Grumbling in the crowd implied the “casket” used by the Parks team was so aerodynamic it would only fit a cadaver shaped like a cheese-wedge. But coffin-builder Ryan Russ defended his design.

“We followed the specs, we cut last year’s design down by a foot so it was two-feet wide,” Russ said. Like last year’s casket, this year’s model had no bottom, to lighten the weight, Russ said. Winning teammates were Forest Park Police officers Chris Chin, George Hickey and Steve Weiler. The casket rider was Mary Rehor.

The rubber-chicken-bedecked Svengoolie team showcased their second wheeled coffin in the competition’s history. Ralph DiFebo, Joe Donoghue, Tom Gill and Nick Caines created one of last year’s most memorable models, a tribute to Grateful Dead Guitarist Jerry Garcia.

“This year, we built one for another Jerry,” DiFebo said. “Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie, died this year.” The Svengoolie team received the coveted “funniest” award.

The Jerry Garcia coffin, representing McGaffer’s Pub, also raced, with all-women teammates Carrie Landsman, Caila Pasquini, Tiffany Fustar, Beth Allantro and Ashley Shaw. Susan Dutton was the helmeted rider.

Dr. Jerry Udelson’s Children’s Dentistry green bacteria mobile placed third in a plaque-attacking 18:44 seconds.

The crowd gasped when a wheel came loose from the Grand Appliance casket, a Hotpoint combination refrigerator/freezer laid on its side. Runner Eric Sanberg, a Grand sales associate, fell to the cement. He later brushed off the fall as a “minor mishap.” Grand won the “Dead on Arrival” award, coming in last at 51:25 seconds.

Eddie Fielden of Nobs Towing played the cadaver reclining on his truck bed in a silver casket his sister drags out for Halloween parties. Nobs didn’t race, just handed out candy.

Back from the Chicago Marathon, runner Molly Hanrahan joined her teammates wearing Chicago Blackhawk gear for a Stanley Cup-shaped casket splashed with RIP graffiti for the Bruins, Redwings and Kings. Teammates were Katie Hooker, Meghan Wais, Marjory McMahon and Ellen Brooks.

Returning to this year’s race was the “Napoleonic Cassion” model debuted last year by Centuries& Sleuths Bookstore. This year, Historical Society of Forest Park Executive Director Diane Hanson Grah manned the chariot, pushed by Jill and Ned Wagner, and Paul and Meghan Roach.

A new entry this year was the Stencib casket with rider Linda Cibula pushed by Joe and John Cibula and Nancy Goggin.

The Forest Insurance Agency returned with last year’s Forest Freaky Fiend mobile. Team participants were Brian Sullivan, Dan Browne, Bobbie Cox, Mary Sullivan, Gina Robbins and Nichole Hope with rider Maria Lopez. The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor competed in a model of their famous ice cream “trough” complete with Neapolitan scoops of ice cream.

Also returning this year were the “bluesy horror punk band” Shock Theater from Lombard and their “Mr. Grim” casket. This year’s coupe was improved with dry ice, a chrome rib-cage and matching tibia/fibula grille. Zach Hauger, in spooky skull makeup tux and cane, rode the casket, pushed by Steve Connelly, Scott Hall, brother John Hauger and Rebecca Marshall. They won the “creepiest” award.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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