Resurrection Mary is one of the more famous ghosts who are said to haunt that particular part of the United States of America that is known as Chicagoland, being named after Resurrection Cemetery which is located at 7600 South Archer Avenue in Justice, Illinois. Over the years there have been various sightings of a pretty blonde woman wearing a white dress in her late teens or early twenties, who is said to have thrown herself at passing cars only to disappear without trace when the drivers got out to investigate, whilst others have claimed to have picked up a young female hitchhiker who always insisted on being let out at next to the Resurrection Cemetery before disappearing without trace.
Such spectral apparitions were generally explained by the tale of a young girl named Mary who quarrelled with her boyfriend whilst dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom on Archer Avenue, and so decided to walk home only to be killed by a hit-and-run driver on the street outside. She was later buried in Resurrection Cemetery clad in her white dress and dancing shoes, and having failed to make peace with her boyfriend before her death, her restless spirit was therefore said to return to re-enact the events of her last night on earth.
Perhaps the most famous eyewitness account of this Resurrection Mary was that of one Jerry Palus. He claimed that in the year 1936, (or perhaps 1939 as the accounts do appear to differ), he was at the Liberty Grove Hall and Ballroom at Brighton Park on Chicago's southwest side when he spotted a young woman who took his fancy and asked her for a dance. They spent a pleasant evening together, although Palus did note that she seemed rather distant and her skin was somewhat cold and clammy to the touch. At the end of the evening he agreed to drive her home, but was somewhat surprised when she asked to be taken down Archer Avenue, and then insisted on being dropped off outside the Resurrection Cemetery. At which point she told him, "where I'm going you can't follow" and promptly vanished.
Since however she had given him her address during the course of the evening, on the following day he went there in search of his date. The elderly woman who answered the door told him that she was the only occupant of the property now that her daughter had died several years previously, after which Palus claimed that he recognised his date from the family portrait the woman had above her fireplace. Palus later recounted this tale during a number of appearances on American television, although by that time he'd forgotten the address and the name of the woman concerned, so there was sadly no question of tracking down the identity of his ghostly dance partner.
Of course those with a cynical attitude to such things might well point out that a cold and clammy skin might have indicated that his dance partner was suffering from some kind of anxiety attack, and that said anxiety might well also explain why the young lady in question supplied a false address and preferred to disappear into the darkness of a cemetery rather than reveal the exact location of her home. Which is apart from the fact that Palus's brother later claimed that it was actually a friend of theirs who drove 'Mary' home that evening. Nevertheless such tales became part of Chicagoland folklore, although it wasn't until one Richard Crowe wrote an article which appeared in the Chicago Tribune of the 13th May 1974 that they made their way into print. Crowe recounted many of the alleged appearances of Resurrection Mary over the years and naturally the publicity inspired a further stream of sightings.
One particular incident took place on the 10th August 1976 when a concerned member of the public called the police and claimed that they had seen someone trespassing in Resurrection Cemetery. (Although in the retelling of this story the trespasser often becomes a girl who appeared trapped inside the cemetery who was seen in tears holding on to the bars of the cemetery gates.) A
police officer named Pat Homa attended the scene, and although he could find no trace of a trespasser he did find that two bars on the cemetery gates had been burnt and bent, whilst there were also said to be finger impressions that were visible in the metal bars. The cemetery authority rather spoiled the fun by insisting that the gates had simply been hit by a front-end loader truck, after which an attempt had been made to fix the damage to the bars by heating them with a blowtorch, whilst a workman had donned an asbestos glove and tried to bend them back into place. Eventually the authority got fed up with sightseers examining the smudges and getting in everybody's way and had the gates replaced.
In any event, two days later on the 12th August 1976 a woman in a 1965 Ford Mustang used her CB radio to call in to report that she had just run someone over and that there was a body on the side of the road. By the time the police answered her call the body had disappeared, although it was claimed that the policemen could clearly see an impression in the grass that matched the shape of a human body. There were later a rash of similar reports over the weekend of the 29th-31st August 1980 in which "dozens of people" were said to have seen the body of a woman lying in the middle of the road who disappeared as soon as the police turned up.
The Suburban Trib of the 31st January 1979 gave an account of the experiences of a cab driver named 'Ralph' who had picked up a fare whom he described as a "blonde" and a "looker" wearing a "fancy kind of white dress". Apart from commenting that the "snow came early this year" the woman said little before she simply disappeared from the back of his cab as he was driving down Archer Avenue. A similar thing happened to an individual identified as 'Tony K' on the 5th September 1980 when he stopped near to the Red Barrel Restaurant on Archer Avenue to offer a lift to a woman standing by the side of the road wearing a white dress. He then drove past the cemetery at a steady 45 mph at which point the woman again just vanished. Two days after Tony K's ghostly encounter, one Claire Lopez Rudznicki claimed to have had a different experience, as she and some friends were driving down Archer Avenue and spotted a woman walking along the right-hand side of the road who apparently had no face. To which should be added numerous stories of women in white appearing somewhere on the streets of Chicago only to disappear moments later, as well as tales of sundry blondes who vanished without paying their cab fares.
Of course the accounts of both 'Ralph' and 'Tony K' are simply a straight retelling of the well-known Urban Myth of the Vanishing Hitchhiker, whilst disappearing road accidents victims are one of the more common manifestation of the Road Ghost phenomenon, indeed similar tales appear from across the globe from wherever the motor car can be found. What actual substance exists behind the reproduction of such fables with a Chicagoland background is unclear, but no less a personage than Marcus Foxglove Griffin, the creator and lead investigator of Witches In Search of the Paranormal, High Priest of the Temple of Aradia in northern Indiana, and author of Advancing the Witches' Craft, once carried out an investigation of the Resurrection Mary phenomenon but drew a blank in terms of supporting evidence, and concluded that Archer Avenue was most likely haunted "more by the stories, the legends, and those who have come in search of her than by Mary herself".
Naturally this has not stopped various researchers from seeking to identify the 'real Mary' and various candidates have emerged such as;
- Mary Bregovy who was killed in a car accident in downtown Chicago on the 11th March 1934, although her hair was black and not blonde, and although she was buried in Resurrection Cemetery;
- Mary Miskowski from Bridgeport who was killed in a car accident whilst she was on her way to a Halloween party in the October of 1930;
- and Anna or Ona Marija Norkus who was killed in a car accident on her way to the Oh Henry Ballroom on the 20th July 1927, although she was only twelve at the time and in any case was interred at St Casimir Cemetery.
Unfortunately none of the above exactly fit the usual description of Resurrection Mary, and the real Mary, if she ever existed, remains unidentified.
Nevertheless Resurrection Mary is rather a good name for an apparition even if the story isn't particularly original, and the past few years have seen the release of no less than four films bearing that title. We therefore have Resurrection Mary (2002), Resurrection Mary (2005), Resurrection Mary (2006) and Resurrection Mary (2007) all of which appear to be based on the 'true story' of Resurrection Mary to a greater or lesser extent. There are at least two books in the form of Kenan Heise's Resurrection Mary: A Ghost Story (1990) and Troy Taylor's Resurrection Mary: Haunted Illinois (2007) both of which devote at least some space to the tale, whilst Resurrection Mary is also the title of a song by Ian Hunter from his 1996 album The Artful Dodger, and another by Vandaveer. However whilst the former is clearly about the Mary from Chicagoland, the latter probably isn't.
A number of the accounts of the story refer to the 'O'Henry Ballroom' or 'O Henry Ballroom'. However the North Suburban Library System of Illinois maintains an online digtal archive of images (see http://www.digitalpast.org) and has a copy of a postcard dated 1943 which clearly shows that it was known as the Oh Henry Ballroom. The ballroom continues in business to this day, although it now goes by the name of the Willowbrook Ballroom.
- Ursula Bielski, Marija: The half-life of Resurrection Mary, March 23, 2007
- Nicole Boucher; Resurrection Mary
- Troy Taylor, Resurrection Mary, Chicago's Most Elusive Ghost!, 2002
- Resurrection Mary: a film by Sean Michael Beyer
- Marcus Foxglove Griffin, The Witchcraft Connection: Metaphysical Investigations into the Paranormal
- Dale Kaczmarek, Resurrection Mary, 1998
- Michael Kleen, A Quick and Dirty Guide to Resurrection Cemetery
from Legends and Lore of Illinois, Volume 1 Issue 6, June 2007