If you’ve lived in the Chicago area or spent any significant time in The Windy City, odds are you’ve heard of the legend of Resurrection Mary.
Arguably the city’s most popular ghost story, which is saying something considering the absolutely haunted history of Chicago, Resurrection Mary has been whispered amongst bar stools and school yards since the 1930’s.
The story goes that a young woman can be seen hitchhiking on the side of the road, close to Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue. The woman is dressed in a white dress that accentuates her blond hair and blue eyes. The woman is usually described as very quiet and as the vehicle nears the cemetery, she will ask to be let out. As she steps out of your vehicle and walks towards the cemetery, she vanishes in thin air!
So how did this tale get its start and how did it stay so deeply rooted in the community? No one knows for sure who the legend is based off of, although there are a few ladies who lost their lives in vehicle accidents over the years near the cemetery that are connected to the Resurrection Mary lore. Some versions of the legend have the poor young woman getting hit by a drunk driver and dying on the side of the road. Others claim that she was a victim of a hit-and-run accident with the criminal driver not being caught, thus forcing Mary to pace the cursed ground hoping to finally hitch a ride with the man who ended her life so abruptly.
What really gets the goosebumps rolling on this tale is how many people have come forward over the years with recollections of their encounter with this vanishing hitchhiker.
One man claimed to have danced and kissed a woman he met at a local dance hall. He offered to drive the pretty woman home and when she asked to be dropped off along Archer Avenue, the man watched in terror and his passenger simply disappeared in from of the gates of Resurrection Cemetery.
Cab drivers tell tales of a woman leaving their cab without paying their fare, simply vanishing upon exiting their taxi. Other drivers have come forward to claim they nearly hit a young woman near Resurrection Cemetery. Of course, the woman is long gone before the drivers are able to get out of their vehicles and check on the too-close-for-comfort woman.
The story even gets some extra fun added to it as many claim that Mary actually burned her handprints into the wrought iron fence in front of the cemetery, although cemetery staff and officials insist the damage was done by a truck that drove into the fence. While the dents could pass for damage done by hands, I’d suspect someone closer to The Incredible Hulk would have had to have done it.
“The Vanishing Hitchhiker” is campfire story fodder for generations of spook tale fans and almost every major city in America has their own version of Resurrection Mary. This particular paranormal story, however, is considered one of the oldest and most actively told in the country.
Having lived in northern Illinois for my entire life, I’ve met and discussed this legend with people who are intimately attached to the cemetery or claim to have had a sighting. These aren’t people I’d take for storytellers, however, and there’s a palpable anxiety in the person when they recount their meeting with this legend.
People say Resurrection Mary is harmless, simply a lost soul who is stuck pacing the area where she tragically lost her life at too young an age. Over the years, some forms of entertainment have tried in vain to make the story more of a horror tale, complete with an evil entity who is hellbent on exacting revenge on her killer. But that isn’t the Resurrection Mary we all know and genuinely love here in the Chicago area.
A word of advice though- if you are ever in Justice, Illinois and driving down Archer Avenue near the Willowbrook Ballroom (which used to be known as the Oh Henry Ballroom, where Mary allegedly was the night she died) and you get near Resurrection Cemetery, lock your doors and mind the speed limit. Resurrection Mary may be nearby.