Resurrection Mary

Resurrection Cemetery Chicago, Illinois Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A man driving alone at night on a dark patch of road sees a young woman walking along the curb. It’s raining, perhaps even snowing, outside; and she is wearing a dress with short sleeves without a coat. The man, being a Good Samaritan, decides that he’ll give the girl a ride. She gets in his car, and they head down the road to a destination she only refers to as "home." When they pass a local cemetery, the woman disappears, leaving the driver bewildered until he realizes that it was a ghost that was riding in his passenger’s seat.

Almost everyone has a friend of a friend of a cousin whose sister’s boyfriend’s nephew has seen something out of the ordinary. Stories that are nearly identical pass from city to city with the tellers swearing that the event, whatever it was, happened just a few miles away. They become urban legends. But many urban legends have their basis in truth, and though the stories spread and tales get distorted, the truth remains at the core and, with a little digging, can be uncovered. Resurrection Mary, it seems, is very real; and her home is in Chicago, Illinois.

The actual identity of Mary is unknown, but there are several likely candidates. Though her true name remains a mystery, who she was and why she still haunts Archer Avenue is clear.

She lived in the early 1930’s, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who loved to dance. One evening, as the story goes, Mary went to a dance at what was then called O’Henry Ballroom and got into an argument with her boyfriend. She left O’Henry, and began to hitchhike home. Somewhere along the way Mary was struck and killed by a car. Soon afterward people began reporting seeing her walking along the side of the road. Of course, this legend is the kind of thing that people hear all over the country. What makes the Chicago version of the ghost unique is that the sightings have been documented ? through police reports, eyewitnesses, and even physical evidence.

The first sighting of Resurrection Mary was reported by a man named Jerry Palus, who’d picked up a girl he’d met and danced with at the hall all night long. He remembered that the only thing he thought strange about her was that her skin seemed cold throughout the evening. At the end of their ?date? she asked for a ride home. They drove for some time, and upon reaching Archer Avenue, she frantically told him to stop right outside the gates of Resurrection Cemetery. Before he could prevent her from leaving, she jumped out of the car and ran straight for the gates; and as he watched, she vanished.

Stories like Palus’ dot the area’s history, but the sightings of Resurrection Mary began to intensify in the 1970’s with some of them leaving physical evidence, bruised psyches, and baffled detectives.

In January of 1971 a cab driver named Ralph picked up a blonde hitchhiker on his way to Archer Avenue. Throughout her ride the girls seemed disoriented, giving the cabbie the impression that she was on some kind of drug. When they neared the cemetery, she cried out for him to stop. Ralph did, and when he turned to ask her what was the matter, the girl was gone. He swore in his report to the Suburban Tribune newspaper that the cab doors had not opened; she just wasn’t there anymore.

On August 10, 1976, a man telephoned the police to tell them that he’d seen a woman standing at the bars of Resurrection Cemetery, pulling at them as if she were trapped. Officer Pat Homa responded, driving out and looking for the girl, but found no one. That, in and of itself, would not have been strange, but what he found made the hairs on the nape of his neck stand up. The heavy bars that guarded the gates of the cemetery were bent outward, the impressions of two small human hands burned into them. More importantly, whatever caused the bars to bend used so much pressure that the indentations from the hands were scored into the metal.

Only two days later another squad car was dispatched to the same patch of road after the police received an emergency CB call from a woman saying she’d hit a pedestrian. When the officers arrived, they found the sobbing woman, CB microphone still in her hand, sitting next to a human-shaped depression in the snow. When the officers asked the woman where the body had gone, she told them that it disappeared right as she saw their car approaching.

In May of 1978 a different type of encounter occurred when a couple driving down Archer Avenue saw a woman standing squarely in the center of the road. The passenger screamed for her husband to watch out for the woman, but he realized he hit the breaks too late and could only watch as his car careened toward her, sure to run her down. Their terror only increased as they watched the woman pass through the car before melting away like mist on the side of the road.

During the last weekend of August in 1980, more than a dozen reports were called in with similar sightings, all of them claiming they’d either seen someone or had hit someone who was standing in the middle of the road. The police found nothing.

Over the years hundreds of sightings, most of them eerily familiar, have been reported around the Resurrection Cemetery. Although not all of them revolve around Mary, the majority of them talk about a girl with short blonde hair in a flowing white dress.

Other phenomena that have occurred in the Resurrection Cemetery hold equally chilling connotations as Mary?s is not the only spirit that walks the grounds. The main mausoleum houses electronic organ music and lights used during funerals. Many police officers have been called to the cemetery, however, when all the electronic gadgets decided to start playing and flickering on their own in the wee hours of the morning. During the 1980’s a police car was dispatched when it was determined that a power outage that affected the surrounding neighborhoods was centralized in the mausoleum. When the police car drove by, the officer reported hearing music coming from the mausoleum even though there was no power active at the time.

By far, the most famous of all the ghosts to inhabit Resurrection Cemetery is Mary. She’s been spotted far up Archer Avenue and down closer to her home. People have reported her walking, hitchhiking, lying on the side of the road as if she’s been hit by a car, and even dancing at times.

Other ghosts, though not so well known, include a spectral horse-drawn hearse that crashes through the front gates on its way down Archer Avenue. The hearse has no driver, which might explain its haphazard driving style, but the story of where this ghost came from or who it might be has been lost to time.

Happenings that occur over the rest of the cemetery lawns are varied, but most of them are attributed to Mary. She’s become sort of a catch-all for anything weird that happens within the gates.

Present Day:
Resurrection Cemetery still stands and is a lush Catholic cemetery in the southwest suburbs adjacent to Bethania on Archer Avenue. The cemetery is very modern, dominated by a huge mausoleum, an outdoor garden mausoleum, and numerous "shrine sections" where a central figure of a religious theme is surrounded by flat markers. The most common monument is a narrow pedestal, 5-7 feet tall, topped with a cross or, less frequently, a saint. Monuments in the shape of trees are often seen as well. The bars that Mary bent were removed for good recently after the cemetery administrators grew tired of would-be ghost hunters looking for Mary.

Best Times:
The people in charge of the cemetery don’t like to talk about Resurrection Mary, but many of the old-timers who still work there will tell visitors about her, even claiming to know which grave is hers. It seems unlikely, however, as the person who is buried in that grave was documented to have short dark hair, not blonde, and was considerably younger than Mary is reported to be. However, she seems to come out and play on evenings during the late autumn and early winter months.

See you in two weeks!

Scott A. Johnson

Original artwork by Bill "Splat" Johnson

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