Have you heard the story of one of Chicago’s most famous ghosts? The story of Mary began in the 1930s. Drivers driving on Archer Avenue began telling others of their strange encounters with a young woman wearing a white dress. They always assumed she was a real flesh and blood person until she suddenly disappeared. What upset the motorists was that a young woman would try to jump on the running boards of their automobiles as they were driving past Resurrection Cemetery.
Later on perhaps the young woman was lonely and longed for company. She moved on up the road away from the cemetery to the O. Henry Ballroom which is now the Willowbrook. Now people saw her on the road to the ballroom and at times in the ballroom. When a young man would meet a young woman at the ballroom he would dance with her and enjoy the evening. When the time came to go he would of course offer the young woman a ride home. She always accepted and gave directions which led northward on Archer Avenue. As the car came to the gates of Resurrection Cemetery the young woman would disappear.
According to the reports of those who had seen her she was described as having light blond hair, blue eyes and had a white party dress on. Others who noticed more details added that she also wore a thin shawl, or dancing shoes and that she held a small clutch purse. Those who really got a shock were those who thought they had run the young woman down. They actually claimed to have seen her run out in front of their car by the cemetery and would say they even heard the thud when their car came in contact with her. Of course when they investigated she was gone. Drivers started making reports at the nearby Justice, Illinois police station. After all the stories and the excitement the young woman became known as Resurrection Mary.
Tragedy on Archer Avenue
Having come this far, researchers began looking into the matter to determine who this young woman may have been when she was still a part of the living world. One possibility was that a young hitchhiker had been killed on Archer Avenue in the early 1930s. The story is of a young woman who had spent an evening dancing with her boyfriend at the O. Henry ballroom until they got into an argument. Mary (what she had become known as) apparently left the ballroom in anger on this cold winter’s night. As she started walking up Archer Avenue a car struck her and the driver left Mary there to die. Her parents buried her in a white dress and dancing shoes in Resurrection Cemetery. From that time on the story of Mary began. However no one has been able to say for sure who this girl might have been. No one has actually been able to match any one living Mary to this spirit.
Close Encounters of the Strange Kind
In 1939 a young man called Jerry Palus had a close encounter with Mary. What happened between him and Mary left an impression on him for his entire life up to his death in 1992. He met this young woman at a dance hall known as the Liberty Grove and hall which was located near 47th Street and Mozart. He recalls that he hadn’t actually seen her come into the ballroom she just sort of was there standing near a wall and he decided to ask her to dance. The next several hours they spent together. What Palus noticed was that this young woman seemed distant and that her skin was very cold to the touch. Later on kissing her he found that her lips were also cold and clammy.
At the end of the evening the young woman asked Palus to drive her home and directed him to Archer Avenue. Earlier in the evening she had told him where she lived and that certainly wasn’t by way of Archer Avenue. However he took her where she wanted to go. At the gates of Resurrection Cemetery the young woman asked him to stop saying that this was where she had to get out. Palus was very confused but asked her if she would allow him to walk her across the street to which she replied that he couldn’t follow her to where she was going. Before Palus could think of a reply the young woman got out of his car, ran toward the cemetery gates and just as she reached them she disappeared. It was at that moment that Palus realized that he had spent the evening with someone from the world beyond.
After this most disturbing occurrence the next day Palus went to the address that the young woman had given him. There he was told by the woman who answered the door that he couldn’t have been with her daughter the night before as she had died several years ago. Palus was able to identify her in a family portrait he saw there. As with most things as the years went by Palus forgot the address and when people interested in the young woman’s story asked him about it wanting to identify her he couldn’t tell them where he had been that day.
In the Cold of Winter
Throughout the years most of the reported sightings of Mary occur during the cold winter months and surprisingly she never has a coat on. A cab driver said that he picked up a young woman walking on Archer Avenue one night in 1941. Although it was bitterly cold outside she didn’t have a coat on. Getting into the cab she said she had to get home quickly. Driving along Archer Avenue just as they were passing by the gates of the cemetery the driver turned round to look at the young woman and saw the she had disappeared. She had gotten home that was all that mattered.
So the stories continue. One of the strangest that involved Mary happened on the night of August 10, 1976. At about 10:30 that night a driver was driving by the cemetery and he happened to notice a young woman standing on the other side of the gates. It certainly was the wrong side to be on at that time of the night. He also noticed that she wearing a white dress and had the bars of the gate clasped in her hands. He continued on and stopped at the Justice police station to inform them that a young woman must have been accidentally locked in the cemetery. An officer was sent to investigate but when he got there the cemetery was apparently dark and empty and there was no young woman.
However when he inspected the gates where the driver had said she had been standing the officer saw that two of the bars in the gate had been pulled apart and then bent at sharp angles. Just at the points on the green-colored bronze where the bars had been pried apart there were black scorch marks. Inspection of the scorch marks revealed within them what appeared to be skin texture and handprints seared into the metal by intense heat. It certainly was not a discovery for the faint at heart. This makes me think that this was done with great passion as a plea or to prove something. Anyway afterwards of course people came from all over just to see the marks of the small hands. Finally cemetery officials cut out the bars and installed a wire fence until they could be replaced. They also denied that this had anything to do with the supernatural. Too bad Mary didn’t choose to appear to them.
However since the bars were gone people wondered what the cemetery was trying to hide and local officials asked that the bars be put back into place. When returned to the gate and painted with green paint the scorched areas would not allow themselves to be painted over. The blackened area in question and the handprints remained obvious until not too long ago they were permanently removed.
Mary became quite restless in the 1970s and the 1980s while the cemetery was undergoing renovations and more and more sightings of her were reported. It was during the 1990s that stories of her became less but didn’t stop entirely. Up to this very day Mary is there, watching and waiting for the next driver to come by. She still roams Archer Avenue coatless in her white dress during the winter months and there are those who roam about the cemetery seeking her grave. Perhaps you might like to give it a try maybe Mary will choose you to tell her story to. She did open up to Palus all those many years ago and she has all the time in the world.