‘Tis the season to remember when a Milwaukee judge ruled that a man had no right to beat his wife because she was cheating on him with the ghost of her dead first husband.
Details of what newspapers called "the strangest marital triangle on record" came out in a divorce proceeding at the county courthouse on March 31, 1926.
Plaintiff Joseph Czachorowski, a tinsmith who lived on 19th Ave., testified that his wife Mary was an ardent believer in spiritualism and several times a week attended séances where the ghost of her late first spouse Michael Rydlewicz, who’d died in 1911, was materialized. Their emotional reunions included hugging and kissing, and Mary often didn’t get home until after midnight; then, according to Czachorowski, she would cry herself to sleep in "grief over him."
The agent of these reunions was Mary’s son from her first marriage, Roman Rydlewicz, 21, a self-professed medium. He testified at the hearing that at the séances he heard his dead father’s voice.
One time mother and son returned from a séance and told Czachorowski that they’d also been in touch with his dead mother. Asked what language had been spoken, they said English, and Czachorowski thought he had them because his mother spoke only Polish. But it turned out that spirits can talk any language.
Mary Czachorowski denied nothing and countersued for divorce on the ground that husband No. 2 was physically and verbally abusive. Her attorney, Winfred Zabel – a former district attorney – "scorned Joseph, the second husband, for being jealous of a ghost," noted the Milwaukee Sentinel.
No effort was made, apparently, to call the spectral co-respondent, Rydlewicz, as a witness. He wasn’t needed.
In a decision that made front pages from coast to coast but does not have the landmark status it deserves, Circuit Judge Otto Breidenbach "upheld the right of a married woman to make love to the spirit of a deceased husband. Such conduct, he indicated, cannot be classed as infidelity."
Mary Czachorowski was granted a divorce and custody of two adolescent daughters, the youngest of whom was Joseph’s. He was ordered to pay $6 a week for her support.