Today is Halloween and the last stop on our tour of Chicagoland's most haunted locales. If you're still with us today that means that you've survived any encounters with the disturbing and paranormal you may have had thus far, but will you make it through this last one? This is the legend of Resurrection Mary, Chicago's most famous ghost.
Picture yourself driving down Archer Avenue in the small suburb of Justice, just a few miles southwest of Chicago. It's been a long day and you're just trying to make it home without falling asleep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you see a gorgeous young lady walking down the side of the road in a long white dress. She looks like she might have just left one of the local townie establishments after a night of drink and dancing. You think to yourself, "It's far too late for anyone to be walking alone down this dark road, something must have happened." So you pull over to see if you can lend her a helpful hand. She quietly thanks you and asks for a ride further down the street and climbs into the backseat of your car.
There is little in the way of conversation as her only reply to any of your questions is a sad gaze out the side window of the car. That is, not until you approach the cemetery. As you start passing the gates she quickly demands that you stop the car. You've barely come to a complete stop when the young girl darts out of the back of your vehicle and runs into the cemetery You wait to see if she comes back out but she doesn't and that is the last you ever see of her.
Congratulations, you have just met Chicago's most famous dead girl, Resurrection Mary.
According to the Chicago Tribune, since the 1930s there have been three-dozen substantiated reports of men picking up a young girl who is walking along Archer Avenue between the Willowbrook Ballroom and the Resurrection Cemetery. These are only reported witness accounts. Who knows how many others have had run-ins with this mysterious woman and not reported it. Who or what is this young girl that has been wandering this street for the last 80 years?
According to the local tale, Mary was a teenage girl who had been dancing with her boyfriend at the Willowbrook Ballroom when, for unknown reason, they got into a heated argument. Emotionally distraught, Mary rushed out of the ballroom and braced the cold Chicago winter night and began walking home. While heading down Archer Avenue she was tragically struck by a car. The driver left the scene of the accident. Mary laid on the ground mortally wounded. Between the cold and her injuries Mary could not make it without medical attention, she died that night.
The next day, her parents became concerned when Mary did not return home. They contacted her boyfriend who told them about the fight and how Mary walked home. Her parents drove down Archer Avenue and discovered the mangled body of their daughter. They buried Mary at Resurrection Cemetery in her pretty white dress.
The difference between this ghost story and others is that there are several well-documented sightings of this young girl, including one of the first and most bizarre sightings in 1939. Jerry Palus claims that in 1939 he met a young blond girl in a white dress at the Liberty Grove and Hall at 47th and Mozart. Jerry claims he and the girl spent the night dancing and really hit it off. They even shared a kiss. She asked Jerry if he could give her a ride home, and Jerry obliged. They headed down Archer Avenue per her request when the women suddenly demanded that Jerry stop. Jerry stopped the car and the young girl exited the vehicle and disappeared into the cemetery.
Along with the typical sightings of Mary, several cab driver’s claim to have picked up young girl’s outside of various nightclubs only to have them exit the cab at the cemetery and disappear into the graveyard. The cabby’s main complaint is usually that she didn’t pay her cab fare. There are also reports of people’s vehicles actually running over a woman on Archer Avenue and when they stop, there is no one there.
Perhaps one of the more interesting sightings was documented in the Suburban Trip section of the Chicago Tribune. It detailed an account of a local cab driver:
“A couple miles up Archer there, she jumped with a start like a horse and said ‘Here! Here!’ I hit the brakes. I looked around and didn’t see no kind of house. ‘Where?’ I said. And then she sticks out her arm and points across the road to my left and says ‘There!’ And that’s when it happened. I looked to my left, like this, at this little shack. And when I turned she was gone. Vanished! And the car door never opened. May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.”
Supposed physical evidence of Mary also exists. There is a burnt section of post on the fence that surrounds Resurrection Cemetery, but officials at the cemetery claim that the burnt and bent section of the barred fence was caused by a truck and not the local ghost.
According to the legends Mary is the restless spirit of a young girl that is buried at Resurrection Cemetery. Eyewitness reports also seem to confirm this story, but who is Mary? Many began to assume that “Mary” was Mary Bregovy who was killed in an automobile accident in the 1930s and is buried at Resurrection Cemetery, but this seems unlikely, as many of the known details of Bregovy’s death do not match the story or the haunting. Bregovy was killed in downtown Chicago not in Justice, Illinois and she was killed in a car accident not a hit and run incident.
One hypothesis on who Mary was is that she was a 12-year-old polish girl named Anna Norkus. Anna went by the nickname Mary in honor of her religious convictions. Anna loved dancing and often went to Willowbrook Ballroom with her father. On there way back from the ballroom one night Anna was killed in a car accident. The date of the car accident lines up with the eyewitness accounts as Anna was killed in 1927, but those who claim to have seen Resurrection Mary are quick to point out that the Mary they interacted with was 18 to 21 years old not 12.
There is no other “Mary” buried in Resurrection Cemetery that died on Archer Avenue that predates the first sighting. Also, eyewitness reports of Mary have seemed to calm down since the 1980s after Archers Avenue underwent some heavy-duty construction. Many believers say that this human activity may have interfered with the paranormal activity of the area. Still, though from time to time someone will claim to see Mary.
Would you stop and pick up Mary? If you do, please let us know if she had anything new to say.
If you've stuck with the tour this long I commend you, for you are a brave soul. On today's stop we visit an unassuming home on the near west-side. Welcome to Hull House, now meet the Devil Baby who resides there.
This is an account of how the legend began.
The doctor stopped and stared. The horror that filled his eyes was enough to startle anybody in any situation. The height of this horror is a scene that places the doctor at the wide-open legs of a pregnant mother. His hesitating hands reaching forward to remove a baby the mother was sure was ready to come out.
She didn't hear the expected crying, but instead only a low gurgling sound filled the room. The doctor shook his head, as if waking from a nightmare, then reached out and took hold of the unseen infant.
"Doctor? What's the matter?" a nurse asked as she approached the bed. She peaked around at the baby. "Don't worry ma'am, all is fine."
The mother stared with unblinking eyes at the nurse as she looked at the doctor and finally the small creature that he held in shaking hands. The nurse's jaw dropped down and her eyes clouded over. In a moment, she was on the ground and the mother was screaming.
The doctor stood and revealed the child cradled in his arms. A monster writhed within the scratched and bloodied arms of the terrified physician. It was larger then a one year old child, its skin like a reptile's, both scaly and rough. Sharp horns jetted out of its head on either side and a thin, long object swayed in the air, the tip shaped like a two-pronged fork, swayed about the infants head.
Her son, she thought, I love him no matter what he is or becomes. The child seemed to look right into her soul with its glowing red eyes.
In the early 1900's, the Devil Baby of Hull House was Chicago's answer to the urban legend. People from everywhere made their way to the Hull House in search of the monster baby that could not be caught. They truly believed that this thing scurried through the halls of Hull, attacking workers and borders alike, not discriminating in its havoc of the innocent.
Jane Addams, founder of the Hull House was livid with anger at the rumors of this creature and its association with her hard work for the good of all women. She was an old-fashioned type who didn't believe in such foolery and would hear nothing of it. She shamed all those who stood at her doorstep in search of just one glimpse of the famous baby.
Jane, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 (she would die only four years later at the age of 75) was a well-respected and legendary Chicago woman. One great article described her as, "a natural leader, and, in spite of her frequent illnesses, she was at the forefront of the struggles for women's suffrage, immigrant education, health care, children's rights, housing, peace and progressive education".
This is not the legacy she envisioned for the Hull house, which was named after real-estate developer Charles Hull for whom the building was built in 1856. It was converted into a home for "down-on-their-luck" mothers and immigrants alike just after Charles's death in 1889. Then, almost 24 years into her life's work, she was disrupted with the legend of The Devil Baby.
The baby was a product of a loud-mouthed man. This is the conclusion of two different, yet related stories that help explain where the Devil Baby came from. Instead of the birds and the bees, we have the bats and the snakes as this baby boy was conceived directly from Satan.
One account tells of a disappointed father who would give anything for a boy, these thoughts running through his head as the dozen daughters he never wanted run around him playfully. He would reach the end of his temper when the cursed words came spewing from his dry, cracked lips.
"I would rather have the devil in this house then another daughter to disturb my rest!" His wish came true. Not the one for a boy, but the one for a devil as the mother went screaming to insanity in the birthing room.
The second story takes us to the home of two people that follow different religions. This is never a good mix and their once peaceful lives would be the price. One day, the wife was in the mood to celebrate her God. She placed a very tasteful and lovely picture of her lord Christ upon the wall of their home. Upon seeing this, her husband through up his arms in a rage and screamed, "I'd rather have the devil in this house", bringing his hands down on the picture and tearing it from the wall. The mother would suffer through the birth of Satan for that deadly mistake.
With big budget films that crave for the story lines of legends in the past, it's no surprise that this legend would find itself on the silver screen. It would be from the mind of Roman Polanski that the story of Rosemary's Baby would be told. His first American project from an American horror story, and what is considered to be the worst nightmare of every expecting mother.
From culty neighbours, a very calm and considerate husband (here's the real stretch), to the craving for raw and bloody meat, this poor woman was at the mercy of her spawn. Although no details of the Devil baby's mom's pregnancy were made known in the legend, I'm sure it's not too far off from the events of this movie.
One more stop left on our tour of the most terrifying spots of Chicago. Will you be there with us?
Welcome to day 4 of our countdown of the most frightening places in Chicago. Today we take a tour of The Murder Castle.
Chicago's 1893 Columbian Expedition World's Fair presented the world with a number of modern marvels: electricity, the Ferris wheel, Eadweard Muybridge's moving pictures, ragtime, the hamburger...and the nation's first high-profile serial killer, hotelier H. H. Holmes.
In 1889, Holmes (born Herman W. Mudgett) arrived in what is now Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and began working for Dr. and Mrs. Holden as a pharmacist. He seemed to be the perfect assistant and neighbor: able and industrious. His new acquaintances could not have imagined that this charming and dapper fellow had fled a succession of divorces and frauds—or that as a medical student he took out insurance on corpses, staged "accidents" with the bodies and collected payments upon the cleverly staged deaths.
When Mrs. Holden disappeared shortly after Dr. Holden's death of cancer, Holmes told the community that she had headed west and that he'd bought the drug store. The business continued to do well, and Holmes soon bought the lot across the street at 63rd and Wallace and announced that he would build a hotel for the upcoming fair. Holmes built a hefty, three-story building with 60 rooms. There were hidden passages and secret stairways, trap doors, chutes plunging to the basement, a staircase that opened to the alley below. More ominously, there were asphyxiation champers, a dissecting table and a crematory. Holmes's "guests" would check in but not check out: he tortured and killed at least 27 but possibly hundreds of innocents.
He lured them to their deaths not only by advertising lodging to the fair's tourists, but by offering jobs to small town and country girls who he warned must practice absolute secrecy and tell no one their employment plans, lest his competitors steal his clients. He imprisoned these lone strangers, tortured them, and killed them. His wife disappeared—he later confessed to killing her in a botched abortion attempt—but he already had a new consort, Minnie Williams, who became an accomplice in his villainous deeds. They committed a series of murders. One man they killed on a stretching rack Holmes had designed; Williams bludgeoned her own sister to death. Bizarrely, Williams acted as the witness when Holmes married another woman. The threesome lived and traveled together for a time, but Minnie—of course—disappeared. Holmes claimed she ran off to Europe; it seems more likely that Williams became another victim in Holmes's murder castle.
In 1894 Holmes killed his longtime partner Ben Pietzel rather than pay him his share of their latest take, and he added Pietzel's wife and three children to his entourage; he sent the woman east and told her he'd bring her children out later. He was arrested and briefly jailed for cheating in a horse trade. Then, he faked his own death and tried to collect the insurance money as someone else. When his insurance company balked, he just tried again. That scam worked—until an accomplice ratted on him. A Pinkerton agent pursued Holmes to Boston, and arrested him for another horse swindle. Meanwhile, the Pinkertons were starting to wonder where the Pietzel children were—and, following the trail through which Holmes forwarded his mail, they eventually found two of the children's corpses in Toronto. Finally, detectives got a warrant to search the Chicago Murder Castle.
The horrors they found there defy the imagination: a dissecting table, bottles of poisons, containers of quicklime and acid big enough to eat away a body, a gas chamber, coffins holding female corpses, an incinerator littered with charred human remains: the skeletons of small children.
Shortly thereafter—whether by arson as part of a cover-up or by disgusted neighbors, or an accident—the house burned to the ground. Neighbors avoided the block, claiming that the victims' ghosts haunted the building, their moans and cries lingering on. After Holmes was hanged for his crimes in 1895 following a swift trial, a number of the people involved with his trial died under bizarre circumstances, including a priest who had visited him before his execution, the doctor who certified him dead, the jury foreman, and others. This embroidered the legend: that Holmes was continuing his despicable behavior from beyond the grave, still killing for revenge and the joy of killing. In 1938 a US Post Office was erected at the site, but the rumors did not fade. Reports of poltergeists and apparitions continue to this day, and some claim that Holmes's ghost also visits the nearby Museum of Science and Industry, one of the few remaining structures from the 1893 Exposition.
Would you dare to get a room here for the night?
For day three of our Helloween tour of Chicago's most haunted areas we visit what what once called Camp Douglas.
Camp Douglas which was located on the south side of Chicago became a place of brutal misery to the Confederate prisoners imprisoned there. Stories of rat infested over crowded conditions circulated through the southern newspapers during the Civil War. And the camp soon earned the name it would later come to be known by, The 80 Acres of Hell.
It is now estimated that 6000 plus men died at Camp Douglas of scurvy, smallpox, and starvation. The camp was closed down in the summer of 1865 and the remaining prisoners were made to take a oath of loyalty to the United States and set free. The camp was officially closed in November of 1865 and the buildings were torn down shortly after.
But it was not long before the tales of Confederate ghosts on and around the former prison camp site started. People over the years have quite often reported screams of pain and cries of help coming from the area where the prison camp once stood. Many times over the years people have claimed to smell the horrible smell of bodies decaying in the area. The sound of men marching is quite often reported.
Today the Lake Meadows Condominiums are now located where the prison camp used to be and the tales of paranormal activity continue. People who now live at the Lake Meadows Condominiums claim to hear men talking inside their units and some have claimed to see the ghosts of men in ragged clothing. A one armed man dressed in a ragged confederate uniform has been seen inside the condos of several different residents. Over the years construction projects in the area have uncovered many graves of Confederate dead. And every time a grave is disturbed the level of paranormal activity goes up.
Would you dare to live above the tombs of the soldiers of the South? Perhaps on your next next apartment hunt you may find that someone already lives in your perfect home and has no plans on leaving, ever.
The second stop in our tour of the scariest urban legends and ghost stories of Chicago is The Water Tower. This building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city and according to some stories, a very haunted place as well.
The source of this haunting dates back to October 8th, 1871, when a fire started that would change the face of Chicago forever. Whether it was Mrs. Leary's cow or the incredibly dry season that the city was currently in that started the fire is a legend all to itself, one thing is for sure, the fire ripped through the mostly wooden and brick constructed building of the area, most of which were old and in disrepair. This tragic event of Chicago's history left more than 300 dead, and 100,000 people homeless while creating a path of destruction that was four miles long and two thirds of a mile wide. These are the events of nightmares.
The Chicago Water Tower was built in 1869 of pale limestone and stands 154 feet above the city floor. It is located in an area referred to as Streeterville, after the pioneer Captain Streeter, who had claimed the entire area as his when he arrived to Chicago. Unfortunately for him, the state of Illinois had thought differently and taken all of "his" land back. When this happened, Streeter cursed the property and strange things started to happen, and have ever since. Not the smallest was the Great Fire.
As the fire raged closer and closer to The Water Tower the police and fireman did everything they could to get the public to leave the area. The tower stood as one of the last defenses of the City, being full of water after all. One lone man, many would say a hero, stayed inside manning the pumps. He refused to leave until it was too late, but he wouldn't let the fire take his life. Instead, fearing the agonizing death by flames, he hung himself from a rafter in the tower.
Ever since the events of the Great Chicago fire, tourists, and locals alike, have caught sight of a shadowy figure of a hanging man through the tower's upstairs windows. Even policeman, flagged down by these witnesses, have reported to see the same, much to their shock.
Are these sightings real or peoples over active imaginations? Perhaps you should wait until a dark, stormy night and go see for yourself. Perhaps if you could find entry you could even have a word with one of the most terrifying residents of Chicago, The Hangman of the Water Tower.