Chicago and its environs are home to quite a few ghosts and spirits. I’ve already written about one of America’s most haunted places, the Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, located in the Windy City’s suburbs. (Check out my post, “Myths and Legends: The Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery.”) But the story of Resurrection Mary might be even creepier.
THE QUIET GHOST
The Resurrection Cemetery is located in Justice, Illinois, a few miles outside Chicago, on Archer Avenue. Since the 1930s at least three dozen men have reported picking up a young woman, blond and blue-eyed, hitchhiking along Archer between what was formerly the Oh Henry Ballroom in nearby Willow Springs, later the Willowbrook Ballroom, and the cemetery. Most of the reports say that she wears a fancy party dress and dancing shoes. She says little to nothing as the driver continues on, her eyes straight ahead. When they near the main gate of the Resurrection Cemetery she asks to be let out. She then disappears into the graveyard.
Okay, that is seriously creepy. How did the legend begin? It is said that a girl named Mary went dancing with her boyfriend at the Oh Henry Ballroom one winter evening. At some point the couple argued, and Mary ran out onto Archer Avenue. Despite the cold she decided to walk home, a bad decision, as she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Her parents had her buried in Resurrection Cemetery, still wearing her white party dress and fancy shoes.
Later that decade a guy from Chicago reported meeting a young woman at another dance hall. She asked him to drive her home along Archer Avenue, and when they passed the Resurrection Cemetery she hurried out of the car and disappeared inside. The shaken fellow swore that he had just met Resurrection Mary.
Numerous sightings followed this first encounter. A great number of them involved drivers either running over, or nearly so, a young woman dressed in white, in front of or near the Resurrection Cemetery. In each instance, when the stunned driver emerged from his car, the woman was no longer there.
It is also believed that, in the 1970s, Mary burned her handprints into a section of the wrought iron fence that surrounds the cemetery. The “official” report says that a truck ran into the fence.
One of the strangest stories involved a taxi driver who picked up a young woman at an Archer Avenue strip mall. A couple of miles along Archer the quiet fare suddenly became animated as she yelled for the driver to stop. He peered out to where she was pointing and saw only a small shack. When he turned to question her, the young woman was no longer there. The cab door was still closed.
WHO WAS RESURRECTION MARY…REALLY?
Researchers believe that Mary was one of the many thousands of women buried in Resurrection Cemetery, in particular a woman named Mary Bregovy, who died in an automobile accident in Chicago. Another theory by an area author linked Resurrection Mary to a young woman named Anna Norkus, nicknamed Marija, who died in a car crash in 1927—shortly after leaving the Oh Henry Ballroom. In recent years this has become the most popular theory.
The story of the “vanishing hitchhiker” is known throughout many cultures, so the tale of Resurrection Mary, Chicago’s most well-known ghost, is not unique. That said, if you see an attractive young woman thumbing a ride along Archer Avenue, you may want to think twice before picking her up. On the other hand, she’s not particularly dangerous, so if you drive her to the cemetery and watch her vanish, you’ll have one heck of a story to tell the grandkiddies!