THE ELUSIVE GHOST
It is a cold night in late December on the south side of Chicago. A taxicab travels along Archer Avenue as rain and sleet pelt the windshield. The driver reaches over to crank the heater up one more notch. It is the kind of night, he thinks, that makes your bones ache.
As the car rolls past the Willowbrook Ballroom, a pale figure, blurry though the wet and icy glass of the window, appears along the roadside. The driver cranes his neck and sees a young woman walking alone. She is strangely dressed for such a cold and wet night, wearing only a white cocktail dress and a thin shawl over her shoulders.
She stumbles along the uneven shoulder of the road and the cabbie pulls over and stops the car. He rolls down the window and the young girl approaches the taxi. She is beautiful, he sees, despite her disheveled appearance. Her blond hair is damp from the weather and plastered to her forehead. Her light blue eyes are the color of ice on a winter lake.
He invites her into the cab and she opens the back door and slides across the seat. The cabbie looks into the rearview mirror and asks her where she wants to go. He offers her a free ride. It’s the least that he can do in this weather, he tells her.
The girl simply replies that he should keep driving down Archer Avenue, so the cabbie puts the car into gear and pulls back onto the road. He notices in his mirror that the girl is shivering so he turns up the heater again. He comments on the weather, making conversation, but she doesn’t answer him at first. He wonders if she might be a little drunk because she is acting oddly. Finally, she answers him, although her voice wavers and she sounds almost fearful. The driver is unsure if her whispered words are directed to him or if she is speaking to herself. "The snow came early this year," she murmurs and then is silent once more.
The cabbie agrees with her that it did and attempts to make more small talk with the lovely young girl. He soon realizes that she is not interested in conversation. Finally, she does speak, but when she does, she shouts at him. She orders him to pull over to the side of the road. This is where she needs to get out!
The startled driver jerks the steering wheel to the right and stops in an open area in front of two large, metal gates. He looks up and realizes where they have stopped. "You can’t get out here," he says to the young woman, "this is a cemetery!"
When he looks into the rearview mirror, he realizes that he is in the cab alone... the girl is no longer in the backseat. He never heard the back door open or close, but the beautiful girl has simply disappeared.
One must wonder if it finally dawned on him just who he had taken for a ride in his cab. She is known all over the Chicago area as the region’s most enigmatic and sought after ghost. Her name is "Resurrection Mary".
In addition, to the encounters with and sightings of Mary that took place in the early years, more accounts began to surface in the middle 1900’s, including many that had Mary being struck by passing cars. Drivers started reporting a young girl in white who ran out in front of their automobile. Occasionally, the girl would vanish when she collided with the car and at other times, would crumple and fall to the road as if seriously injured. When the motorist stopped and went to help the girl, she would disappear.
In 1973, Mary was said to have shown up at least twice at a nightclub called Harlow’s on Cicero on the southwest side. She danced alone in a faded white dress and despite the fact that bouncers checked the I.D.’s of everyone who came through the door, no one ever saw the girl enter or leave. Later that same year, an annoyed cab driver entered Chet’s Melody Lounge, located across Archer from the gates to Resurrection Cemetery, looking for a fare that had skipped off without paying. The young blond woman that he reportedly picked up was nowhere to be seen. The manager explained that no blond woman had entered the bar.
During the middle 1970’s, the number of Mary sightings began to increase. People from many different walks of life, from cab drivers to ministers said they had picked her up and had given her rides. It was during this period that Resurrection Cemetery was undergoing some major renovations and perhaps this was what caused her restlessness.
On August 12, 1976, Cook County police officers investigated an emergency call about an apparent hit and run victim near the intersection of 76th Street and Roberts Road. The officers found a young female motorist in tears at the scene and they asked her where the body was that she had allegedly discovered beside the road? She pointed to a wet grass area and the policemen could plainly see a depression in the grass that matched the shape of a human body. The girl said that just as the police car approached the scene, the body on the side of the road vanished!
In May 1978, a young couple was driving down Archer when a girl suddenly darted out in the road in front of their car. The driver swerved to avoid her but knew when he hit the brakes that it was too late. As they braced for impact, the car passed right through the girl! She then turned and ran into Resurrection Cemetery, melting right past the bars in the gate. Another man was on his way to work in the early morning hours and spotted the body of a young girl lying directly in front of the cemetery gates. He stopped his truck and got out, quickly discovering that the woman was apparently badly injured, but still alive. He jumped into his truck and sped to the nearby police station, where he summoned an ambulance and then hurried back to the cemetery. When he came back, he found that the body was gone! However the outline of her body was still visible on the dew-covered pavement.
On the last weekend in August 1980, Mary was seen by dozens of people, including the Deacon of the Greek Church on Archer Avenue. Many of witnesses contacted the Justice police department about their sightings. Squad cars were dispatched and although the police could not explain the mass sightings of a young woman who was not present when they arrived, they did find the witnesses themselves. Many of them flagged down the officers to tell them what they had just seen.
On September 5, a young man was leaving a softball game and driving down Archer Avenue. As he passed the Red Barrel Restaurant, he spotted a young woman standing on the side of the road in a white dress. He stopped the car and offered her a ride and she accepted, asking that he take her down Archer. He tried to draw her into conversation, even joking that she looked like "Resurrection Mary", but she was not interested in talking. He tried several times to get her to stop for a drink, but she never replied. He was driving past the cemetery, never having stopped or even slowed down, when he looked over and saw that the girl was gone. She had simply vanished!
In October 1989, two women were driving past Resurrection Cemetery when a girl in a white dress ran out in front of their car. The driver slammed on the brakes, sure that she was going to hit the woman, but there was no impact. Neither of the women could explain where the apparition had disappeared to.
During the 1990’s, reports of Mary slacked off, but they have never really stopped altogether. Many of the roadside encounters happened near a place called Chet’s Melody Lounge, which is located across the road and a little south of the cemetery gates. Because it is open into the early morning hours, it often becomes the first place where late night drivers look for the young girl who vanished before their eyes!
A number of shaken drivers have stumbled into the bar after their strange encounters, as did a cab driver in 1973. He claimed that his fare, a young woman, jumped out of the back seat of his cab without paying. She ran off and he came into Chet’s because it was the closest place that she could have gone to. He told the bartender that she was an attractive blond and that she had skipped out on her fare, but imagine his surprise when staff members told him that no young woman had come in.
Another bizarre encounter took place in the summer of 1996 when the owner of the lounge, the late Chet Prusinski, was leaving the bar at around four in the morning. A man came running inside and told Chet that he needed to use the telephone. He excitedly explained that he had just run over a girl on Archer and now he couldn’t find her body. Chet was skeptical about the man’s story until a truck driver came in and confirmed the whole thing. He had also seen the girl but stated that she had vanished, "like a ghost". The police came to investigate but, not surprisingly, they found no trace of her.
During the 1990’s, reports of Mary slacked off, but they have never really stopped altogether. They continue to occur today and while many of the stories are harder to believe these days, as the tales of Mary have infiltrated our culture to such a degree that almost anyone with an interest in ghosts has heard of her, some of the stories still appear to be chillingly real.
In July 2001, I was contacted by an unnamed witness who stated that he and his girlfriend had spotted Mary along Archer Avenue. The young woman that the witness was seeing at the time was from Lithuania and spoke only broken English. She had no information about the legend of Resurrection Mary, which makes her account of the bizarre sighting even more believable.
The couple was traveling along Archer Avenue, to take the young woman home, and spotted an odd figure near Resurrection Cemetery. The witness noted that, just before the sighting, he spotted a police officer who had pulled over a motorist on the left side of the street (down a side street). He would later use the police car as a point of reference when he and his girlfriend came back for a second look.
As they drove past, both of them spotted walking northbound on the road with her back to their oncoming car. She was wearing a white gown that blew crisply in the wind. After the sighting had registered, the witness quickly related the legend of Mary to his girlfriend and he also called his sister on his cell phone, marking the moment of the sighting. After he explained to his date what he had seen, she insisted that they go back for another look. The witness turned around and headed in the direction they had come from, keeping their eyes open for the woman coming toward them. In a few moments, they had passed the police car that they had seen earlier, but there was no sign of the woman in the white dress.
Suddenly, the figure seemed to lurch out from along the roadway. The witness stated that she seemed to simply appear but he couldn’t be sure. She was standing along the shoulder of the road, three to five feet from the pavement, and facing toward their vehicle. She was dressed in a faded and discolored gown and was carrying what appeared to be a bouquet of dark flowers. “She wasn’t looking at us,” the witness later recalled,” she was just staring to the south. She looked somewhat young with the blankets expression that I have ever seen on her face.”
Was this Resurrection Mary or was the woman in white a part of some elaborate hoax? As far as the witness was concerned, he didn’t care. “After that July, I refuse to drive by the cemetery alone,” he said. “I take another route if I ever have to go that way.”
© Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.