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Resurrection Mary: Chicago Ghost Story or Urban Legend?

Updated on February 28, 2015

The story of the vanishing hitchhiker is one that exists all over the world, and one that most people tend to know. As with any urban legend, no one is quite sure where the story started, but everyone knows it and everyone knows someone who it happened to. This is known as the "friend of a friend" story. In the Chicago area, the story of the vanishing hitchhiker goes a little further.


The Classic Story

The story of the vanishing hitchhiker always begins with someone stopping to pick up a beautiful young lady hitchhiking on the side of the road. The young girl climbs in the backseat of the car and passes along an address before falling into a deep silence. When the driver arrives at the house he discovers that the woman has disappeared. He asks at the house and is told that the girl died 10, 15, or 20 years before and always appears on the anniversary of her death. The story has dozens of versions around the world, and in Chicago the vanishing hitchhiker story is known as Resurrection Mary.

Resurrection Mary in Chicago

Resurrection Mary is possibly the most famous ghost story found in Chicago. Not only is the story famous, but it is one of the oldest ghost stories to call Chicago home. The ghost of Resurrection Mary is so old that the first versions appeared prior to the advent of cars, back in the days when horses and buggies were used.

Resurrection Mary was always described as a beautiful young woman in a long white dress standing on the corner of Archer Avenue. The first stories of this strange ghost appeared during the 1930s when drivers first noticed the woman standing there. The woman was almost always seen standing near the area of Resurrection Cemetery, hence her name. In some stories drivers claimed that the woman tried to climb inside their car when they drove by, especially in the early years.

During the 1940s the ghost woman known as Resurrection Mary began appearing in different locations, and not solely near the Cemetery. This was when the story went from a ghost story to an urban legend type story. Suddenly Mary was not content to simply standing on the street corner, she actively began pursuing young men. It was said that Resurrection Mary began making appearances at the O' Henry Ballroom in Chicago.

More to the Story

According to the Chicago legend a man would meet Resurrection Mary at the ballroom, not knowing who she was. After the two shared a few dances she would ask for a ride home, or he would offer her a ride. As the car turned down Archer Avenue the woman would begin to act strange, and when they reached the cemetery she would quickly and suddenly vanish from the car.

The ghost story of Resurrection Mary has other versions as well, circulating around the city of Chicago. Some motorists claim that they have seen the woman walking late at night, and fearing for her safety, they stopped to offer her a ride home. The girl was always described as wearing a long white dress with white shoes, and having bright blue eyes and long blond hair. Sometimes the woman is described as carrying a bag, or wearing a white shawl around her shoulders. In all the stories, the woman disappeared after a few minutes in the car, leaving the driver confused and bewildered.

Another more disturbing version of the Resurrection Mary ghost story involves a driver moving down Archer Avenue. Just as they pass the cemetery, a woman in a long white dress jumps in front of their car. Despite swerving to miss her, they hit her head on. When the driver moved to see if the girl was all right she would run back into the cemetery. This version of the story seems centralized to the Chicago area.

The True Story?

Chicago legend says that Resurrection Mary was once a real girl who was killed on Archer Avenue during the 1930s. The girl and her boyfriend attended a dance at the O' Henry Ballroom. The two had a fight in the middle of the crowded dance, and Mary decided to leave. Here the ghost story gets divided. Some say Mary was trying to hitchhike, while others say she was simply walking on the side of the road. In either case she was hit by a car driving too fast down Archer Avenue. The driver kept going, leaving Mary to die in the road, and was never seen again. The young woman was buried in Resurrection Cemetery, still wearing her clothes from the dance.

In More Recent Years

The greatest story of Resurrection Mary involves an incident that occurred during the 1970s, and put this Chicago story out across the country. A man was driving past the cemetery one night when he spotted a girl inside. He immediately drove to the police station to tell police that a young girl had accidentally been locked inside the cemetery. An officer was dispatched, and while he did not find any woman, he did see where she had stood.

The man reported that she was holding onto the metal gates, and there on the metal he found that the bars had been pulled out of shape. On top of the bars were two hand prints burned into the metal. The news caused ghost hunters from around the world to descend on Chicago, and the cemetery to remove the bars. The cemetery eventually placed the bars back into position, but despite frequently painting the metal, the hand prints remained visible. Now those bars are gone completely.

The story of Resurrection Mary is a long standing ghost story in Chicago, Illinois. Whether she truly exists or not, her story definitely makes for an interesting one.



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