By Elisabeth Tilstra.
Just outside of Chicago, Archer Avenue leads motorists past Resurrection Cemetery, the final resting spot of a young woman killed in the 1930s. Many believe the same young woman mysteriously returns to the cemetery night after night, dancing and hitchhiking her way back down the avenue. Of all of Chicago’s ghost stories, this one has been told and retold for over 80 years.
Resurrection Mary, as she is called, was reportedly first sighted in 1939, when a man named Jerry Palus met a beautiful young blonde woman in a white dress at a local dance hall. After dancing together all night, Jerry offered the beautiful stranger a ride home. She directed him down Archer Avenue, having him stop in front of Resurrection Cemetery, where she vanished before reaching the front gates.
Throughout the years, dozens of other men came forward with eerily similar stories. They all involved an attractive blonde wearing a white party dress, who would dance and, ultimately, disappear near the cemetery. Some claimed to see her walking down the road, seemingly playing, or even jumping into traffic. Others would say that they stopped to give the girl a ride and, in traditional “vanishing hitchhiker” form, the white-clad woman would disappear as they neared Resurrection Cemetery—sometimes after she got out of the car, and sometimes as the driver walked around to the passenger side to open her door.
The stories of the girl behind the ghost vary. The most prominent is that Mary, as she came to be called, was out one evening with a boyfriend, dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom (now the Willowbrook Ballroom). They got into a spat and, unable to stand his company any longer, the young woman stormed out of the ballroom to walk home alone. Not long after departing the dance hall, Mary was struck by a car and killed. Mary’s parents later found by her body; they dressed her in white and buried her in Resurrection Cemetery. The young woman’s spirit then rose from the grave, wandering the cemetery grounds and haunting her old favorite dancing places. Unlike other reported ghosts, it seems that this spirit does not hide from human contact—rather, she seeks it out.
Others have tried to pin Mary’s identity on a couple of other young girls named Mary that were killed in automotive accidents in the late 1920s or early 30s; one of them was a brunette, though, while the other was about 12 years old—neither matching the description oft-told of a blonde in her early 20s.
Local legend states that in 1976 Mary’s ghost scorched a portion of the cemetery gate by grasping the bars with her hands. A dark stain does indeed mark the bars, though authorities maintain that a truck caused the damage.
In either case, Mary’s story has captivated ghost-hunters for decades. Some write it off as merely an urban legend, but the sightings over the years are undeniably striking.
This article was first published on The Line Up.
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