"Resurrection Mary" is undoubtedly Chicago's most famous ghost. This blonde-hair, blue-eyed beauty has been seen since the latter 1930s. According to legend, she had went to a dance at the O'Henry Ballroom which is now called the Willowbrook, 8900 Archer Avenue and apparently got into an argument with her boyfriend. She then began to hitchhike down Archer Ave. and somewhere between the Willowbrook and the main gates of Resurrection Cemetery, 7600 Archer Ave. she was struck and killed by a hit and run driver. Soon after this, people began to see a girl in a long white dress and blond hair hitchhiking for rides along Archer Ave.
The very first, first-person account came from Jerry Palus, a south-side man who recently died. He picked up a girl at the Liberty Grove Dance Hall near 47th and Mozart and danced with her the entire evening. The only strange thing is that she was very cold to the touch.
Later she asked for a ride home which was somewhere in the Bridgeport area of Chicago but decided she'd like to go for a ride past the large Catholic cemetery along Archer Avenue, Resurrection. As they began to approach the main gates, she began to act very strangely. She told Jerry to pull the car off the road and, for some reason, she had to run toward the cemetery and that Jerry could not follow. Before he knew what was happening, she darted from the car, ran towards the main gates but disappeared before reaching those gates in plain view of Jerry. He then began to put all of this together and surmised that he had been with a ghost that evening. On a later visit to the home of Mary, he was greeted by a woman who told him that her daughter had been dead for sometime. He even saw a picture of her sitting on a table and was convinced that she was the same girl he had been with. However, that was impossible!
Reprinted from the Suburban Trib, January 31, 1979 and written by Bill Geist: "It was Thursday night - would have been two weeks ago - and I was lost, basically," says Ralph , a cab driver.
"I'd dropped this big spender way the hell down in Palos Heights or Hills or someplace like that and was trying to make my way back to the tollway. I'd just turned on to Archer, down there where it's still a lonely road, especially at midnight."
"And there she was. She was standing there with no coat on by the entrance to this little shopping center. No coat! And it was one of those real cold ones, too."
"She didn't put out her thumb or nothing like that. She just looked at my cab. Of course, I stopped. I figured maybe she had car trouble or something."
"She hopped right in the front seat. She had on this fancy kind of white dress, like she'd just been to a wedding or something, and those new kind of disco-type shoes, with the straps and that."
"She was a looker. A blond. I didn't have ideas or like that; she was young enough to be my daughter - 21 tops."
"I asked her where she was going and she said she had to get home. I asked her what was wrong, if she'd had car trouble or what but she really didn't answer me. She was fuzzy. Maybe she'd had a couple of drinks or something or was just tired. I don't know."
"Oh, the only thing she did say really was 'The snow came early this year' or 'The snows came early this year' or like that. Other than that she just nodded when I asked sometimes if we were supposed to just keep going up Archer. She was just looking out the window at the snow and the trees and that. Her mind was a million miles away. Maybe she smoked something or something. Who knows?"
"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."
"I hope Ralph is reading this, because I've learned since talking with him that there's a simple explanation for what happened."
"He was understandably upset - and not just about being stiffed for the fare - both when he told me the story over the phone and when he repeated it in person."
"He wouldn't tell me his last name. He wouldn't give me his telephone number or let me see the car he was going to leave in. "You might trace my phone or my plates and put my name in the paper and make me look like a maniac or an idiot," he said. "No way. I'll call you."
"He says he is not an idiot or a maniac, but rather "a typical 52-year-old working guy, a veteran, father, Little League baseball coach, churchgoer, the whole shot."
"This simple explanation, Ralph is that you picked up the Chicago area's preeminent ghost: Resurrection Mary. All you have to do to accept this explanation and start resting easy is to start believing in ghosts - something you seem reluctant to do."
"I hadn't heard of her either when we talked. But Resurrection Mary is a legend and has been one - particularly in the Polish neighborhoods on the Southwest side and southwest suburbs of Chicago - for about 40 years. There have been numerous reported encounters with her in that time."
"The ballroom was closed Friday, January 12, and for about two weeks thereafter, owing to the blizzard. But Thursday the 11th it was open until midnight, an estimated ten minutes before Ralph says he picked up his gowned hitchhiker three blocks north."
"It was a special night in the ballroom: a single night, for those without escorts to come and dance the waltz and the foxtrot just the way they did here for 40 years"
In May of 1978, in a slightly different type of encounter a young couple, Shawn and Jerry were driving down Archer when suddenly they saw a girl running across the road in front of them. Jerry yelled at her husband, Shawn, "Watch out for that woman!" He later related how he hit the brakes but knew it was too late and that he was going to strike the woman with the right front bumper of the car. As they braced for the impact, he saw the car cut right through the image and the image rapidly melting away; just a soft blur on the side of the road before completely disappearing.
On Tuesday night, August 10, 1976, the Justice Police Department received a phone call from a man who stated that he was driving past the cemetery gates when he saw a girl apparently locked in. It was going on 10:30 PM when SGT. Pat Homa of the Justice Police got there at the scene. He looked for the girl flash with his spotlight and then calling out on his loud-speaker but to no avail.
However, in shining his flashlight around the gates, he discovered that two of the bars has been bent apart. Imbedded in the metal, as he looked closely, were the impressions of hand-prints and skin texture. On the surface of the green patina of the bronze were scorch marks which looked, for all the world, like skin texture.
The marks were shown to various metallurgists, copper and bronze experts but nobody could explain how those bars could have been bent. Shortly after the first of the year, 1977, the bars were blow-torched by the cemetery.
They attempted to blowtorch the marks off the bars and although they burned off the scorch marks, they could not obliterate the marks that were imbedded into the metal. More people came out to see those bars so about a week before Halloween the bars were hacksawed out by the cemetery and were hidden by the cemetery officials in an attempt to keep people from coming out to see those marks.
My own tale from the mausoleum
On August 12, 1976, just two days after the bars were discovered bent,
a Cook County squad car investigating a CB radio call, an emergency call, about a hit and run victim. A woman lying face down on the side of the cemetery frontage. The squad pulled up to the intersection of 76th and Roberts Road to find a girl in her 1965 Mustang, CB microphone still in her hands in tears. They asked the girl , where the body was that she had just reported on the side of the road? The girl said that just as the squad turned on 79th Street to come in her direction, the body on the side of the road disappeared.
A man going to work about 2:30 am had just passed Chet's Lounge on his way to Argo Cornstarch when he saw a body of a woman lying right in front of the gates. He stopped his pickup truck to look at the young lady lying in the street. She was still alive, so he went straight to the police station, got the ambulance and came right back. However, the body was gone! The impression where the body was lying was still there though
The last weekend in August (29th, 30th and 31st ) in 1980 between Friday night and Sunday morning, she was seen by dozens of people. Many who called the Justice Police to report they had just seen her. Squad cars were dispatched and although the police did not see her, they did find a number of people, many who flagged down the squad car to report what they had just seen.
On September 7th, 1980, Claire Lopez Rudznicki was traveling with her boyfriend and two other friends. Sunday morning, they were down at the racetrack and had stopped for a pizza and were coming home just after one in the morning. They were driving south, southwesterly down Archer Avenue when they spotted a girl walking on the grass on the right-hand side of the road. Instantly three of the group said, "It's Resurrection Mary!" Claire covered her head in fear because she really thought it was a ghost. The three people who did look as the car passed this figure all aglow got a real shock when they saw the girl had no face. Just a black hole or void where the face would have been.
September 5, 1980 was apparently a very good and a very remarkable happening occurred to a south side man. Tony K. is a non-believer and was driving south on Archer after leaving a softball game on that Friday night. As he passed the Red Barrel Restaurant on Archer near Kolmar he saw a girl standing on the side of the road with a white dress. He stopped the car and asked the girl if she wanted a lift. The girl said sure and got in and asked him to take her down Archer. He tried to draw her into conversation but it was no good. Every question was answered with, "Just take me down Archer." He said to her, "You look like Resurrection Mary but I know there's no such thing as Resurrection Mary." The ghost wouldn't be drawn into that conversation at all. He tried to get her to at Chet's Lounge. He asked her if she'd like a drink. From the stoplight at 63rd and Archer until he got past the main gates of the cemetery, his foot never left the gas pedal. He was going 45 MPH. He mad one last attempt to get the girl who was in the car to his right when suddenly she was no longer there. He hadn't stopped and was going 45 MPH.
On October 23, 1980, four people spotted what appeared to be Resurrection Mary walking through the main gates on the right-hand side.
Resurrection Mary has been, in earlier years, as far away as Harlem Avenue. Just before Christmas of 1980 she was seen dancing down the street, down Archer, east of Harlem. The two young men who saw her were instantly aware that there was something very unusual taking place. They stood and watched this girl dance by them, and they got the strangest sensation. There were other people walking by who didn't even notice the girl. The fellows ran home and told their father what they had seen. They never heard of Resurrection Mary but their father recognized her by the description they provided. A week before this sighting, Mary had been seen dancing around the fence of the cemetery.
The deacon of the Greek Church on Archer has also seen her on August 29, 30 & 31 in 1980. His story was investigated by the Valley Times, a newspaper published in Lyons.
Between the gates and the mausoleum he said his headlights hit the figure and it was a girl in a long flowing white dress. "She walked right up to the end of the road," Nick said, "then she just walked right into the middle of my lane. I could see her clearly. She was walking very slowly and I took my foot off the pedal and the car began to slow."
Nick guessed that he was traveling around thirty-five miles an hour and estimates that the figure was in his sight for roughly 10 seconds.
"She walked to the median strip, hesitated for a minute, and that's when I passed her. She had her palms kind of turned up and I don't think she was wearing any shoes. I thought at first it was a kid, pulling a prank. But it was so dark, so desolate. Nobody else was on the road. She just walked right out there in the middle, a short-haired blond girl, with this flowing white dress, her hands outstretched like that. It was creepy!"
Some believe that the ghost is that of Mary Bregovy. A young girl who died March 10, 1934 not along Archer Avenue but in downtown Chicago, has short black hair not blond and whose grave is in a section that the cemetery says was bulldozed a number of years ago because of drainage problems. Convenient stories or the truth. I'll let the reader decide.
Resurrection Cemetery is located at 7600 S. Archer Ave. in Justice, Illinois.