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.
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.