Resurrection Mary: The Eerie Tale of Chicago's Most Famous Ghost

Resurrection Mary: The Eerie Tale of Chicago’s Most Famous Ghost

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Written By Haunting Realm

Adventurer. Cryptozoology enthusiast. Paranormal investigator. Storyteller.

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In the realm of urban legends and ghostly tales, few stories capture the imagination quite like the legend of the Resurrection Mary. This spectral figure, often described as a beautiful young woman in a white dress, has been a staple of Chicago folklore for decades.

The story centers around the Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue, where Mary is said to wander, forever seeking a ride home. 

This tale of the vanishing hitchhiker has perplexed and fascinated both locals and paranormal enthusiasts alike, making Resurrection Mary one of the most famous ghost stories in the Windy City.

While her origins remain shrouded in ambiguity, the most prevalent narratives converge on her untimely demise during the late 1920s to early 1930s. 

According to popular accounts, Mary met her tragic fate either in a fatal car crash en route to a night of revelry or as the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run accident while walking home in the rain.

The Legend of Resurrection Mary

The story of Resurrection Mary begins with a simple, yet chilling premise: after leaving a dance or a party, a young man encounters a beautiful young woman along Archer Avenue. 

She is described as having blonde hair and blue eyes, wearing a white party dress, dancing shoes, and a shawl. 

The young man, struck by her beauty and seeming distress, offers her a ride. She accepts, directing him down Archer Avenue towards the Resurrection Cemetery

However, as they approach the cemetery, the woman suddenly vanishes, leaving nothing but a chilling coldness and a stunned driver in her wake.

This tale, as haunting as it is mysterious, has been repeated countless times since the first reported sighting in the 1930s. 

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The consistency of the story, coupled with the number of independent eyewitness accounts, has led many to believe that there is more to the legend of the Resurrection Mary than a mere urban myth.

In fact, Mary’s behavior is as consistent as her appearance. 

Witnesses describe her as quiet, polite, and somewhat aloof. She often asks to be dropped off near the Resurrection Cemetery, only to disappear when they reach the destination. 

Some have even reported seeing her vanish before their eyes, while others claim she simply wasn’t there when they turned to look at her.

who is resurrection mary?
Theories about Resurrection Mary’s identity often point to two women: Mary Bregovy and Anna “Marija” Norkus, both of whom died in tragic accidents in the early 20th century. However, discrepancies such as burial locations and accident details cast doubt on these theories, leaving Mary’s true identity a mystery. Image credit: Chicago Sun-Times Collection, CHM.

Theories about Mary’s Identity

Even the identity of Resurrection Mary is a topic of much debate among those who follow the legend. 

Two names frequently surface in these discussions: Mary Bregovy and Anna “Marija” Norkus. Mary Bregovy was a young woman from the Chicago area who died in a car accident in the early 1930s. 

Her death, tragic and sudden, matches the narrative of the Resurrection Mary legend. However, there are discrepancies in the details, such as the location of the accident and the fact that Bregovy was buried in a different cemetery.

Anna “Marija” Norkus is another potential candidate. 

On the same topic: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall: The True Story Behind the Famous Ghost on the Staircase Photograph

A young Lithuanian immigrant, Norkus died in a car accident in 1927 after a night of dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom, now known as the Willowbrook Ballroom, a location often associated with the Resurrection Mary sightings. 

However, like Bregovy, Norkus was not buried in the Resurrection Cemetery, casting doubt on her connection to the legend.

Location Matters?

Archer Avenue, the road where Mary is often seen, is a significant part of the legend. 

This stretch of road, which runs from Chicago’s Chinatown to Lockport in the southwest suburbs, has a long history of ghostly sightings and strange occurrences. 

The avenue passes by several cemeteries, including the Resurrection Cemetery, making it a hotbed for ghost stories and supernatural folklore. The Resurrection Cemetery, in particular, is often linked to the legend due to the numerous sightings of Mary near its gates.

Ultimately, the legend of Resurrection Mary is more than just a ghost story

It’s a piece of Chicago’s cultural history, a chilling tale that continues to captivate and perplex those who hear it. Whether one believes in ghosts or not, the story of the vanishing hitchhiker on Archer Avenue serves as a reminder of the city’s rich and sometimes eerie past.

But let’s dive a bit deeper because things are just getting interesting. 

Sightings and Eyewitness Accounts

First reported sighting

The first reported sighting of Resurrection Mary was by a man named Jerry Palus in 1939. 

Palus, a local resident, claimed to have danced with a mysterious woman at Liberty Grove and Hall. 

He described her as unusually cold to the touch, with a distant, almost vacant demeanor. After the dance, he offered her a ride home, which she accepted. 

However, as they approached the Resurrection Cemetery, she asked him to stop and then vanished before his eyes. This encounter marked the beginning of the Resurrection Mary sightings that would continue for decades.

Other Notable Sightings and Eyewitness Accounts

Since Palus’s encounter, there have been numerous other sightings and eyewitness accounts. 

In 1976, a cab driver reported picking up a young woman near a small dance hall. She asked to be dropped off at the Resurrection Cemetery and disappeared before they arrived. 

Interesting read: The White Lady of the Hohenzollern Castle: A Tale of Tragedy and Mystery

In 1979, a man named Ralph claimed to have encountered Mary while driving on Archer Avenue. He described her as having blonde hair and wearing a white dress, matching the description given by other witnesses.

One of the most compelling accounts came from a man named Sean, who claimed to have given Mary a ride in 1989. He described her as being incredibly beautiful but with a deep sadness in her eyes. 

When they reached the cemetery, she asked him to stop, thanked him for the ride, and then disappeared as she walked towards the cemetery gates.

resurrection cemetery handprints on the gate

The mysterious handprints on the Resurrection Cemetery gate are a key part of the Resurrection Mary legend. In the late 1970s, several people reported seeing a woman locked inside the cemetery after hours. When police arrived, they found no one, but discovered handprints seared into the bronze gate. Despite attempts to clean and repair the gate, the handprints reportedly reappeared, adding an eerie physical element to the ghostly tale.

The Mysterious Handprints on the Cemetery Gate

In fact, the Resurrection Cemetery plays a significant role in the Resurrection Mary’s legend. 

It is a large Roman Catholic cemetery located in Justice, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The cemetery is known for its beautiful and ornate headstones, but the cemetery’s gates are most associated with the legend. 

In the late 1970s, several people reported seeing a woman locked inside the cemetery after hours. 

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When the police arrived, they found no one, but they did discover a set of handprints seared into the bronze gate. Despite attempts to clean and repair the gate, the handprints reportedly reappeared, further fueling the legend.

The sightings of Resurrection Mary have continued into the 21st century, with the most recent reported sighting in 2021. 

Each account adds another layer to the legend, painting a picture of a tragic figure forever bound to the stretch of road between the dance hall and the cemetery. 

These eyewitness accounts, coupled with the physical evidence at the cemetery, have made the legend of Resurrection Mary one of the most enduring and captivating ghost stories in Chicago’s history.

Cultural Impact and Interpretations

The legend of Resurrection Mary has left an indelible mark on popular culture, inspiring a myriad of songs, movies, and books. 

The tale has been immortalized in songs like “Resurrection Mary” by the Celtic punk band The Tossers and “The Ballad of Resurrection Mary” by folk singer Tom Dundee. 

It has also been the subject of several films, including “Resurrection Mary” (2007) and “The Curse of Resurrection Mary” (2005). 

In literature, the story has been featured in numerous books on ghost stories and urban legends, further cementing its place in popular culture. Some of the most important books include:

Willowbrook Ballroom

The Willowbrook Ballroom plays a significant role in the legend, as many stories place Mary at the ballroom on the night of her death. 

The ballroom, originally known as the Oh Henry Ballroom, was a popular dance venue during the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s often depicted as the last place Mary was seen alive. 

The place burned down in 2016, but its connection to the legend remains strong.

As a cultural myth and urban legend, the story of Resurrection Mary holds a mirror to societal fears and fascinations. 

It combines elements of tragedy, mystery, and the supernatural, creating a chilling and compelling narrative. The story also reflects the human desire to make sense of the unexplainable and to find meaning in the inexplicable.

resurrection cemetery chicago
The Resurrection Cemetery in Chicago is a central location in the Resurrection Mary legend. It’s where Mary, a ghostly figure often seen hitchhiking along Archer Avenue, is said to disappear. The cemetery’s gates bear mysterious handprints, purportedly left by Mary, further linking the location to the enduring ghost story.

Theories and Interpretations

Folklore researchers and paranormal investigators have offered various theories and interpretations of the legend. 

Some view it as a classic “vanishing hitchhiker” story, a common trope in ghost lore where a ghostly figure hitches a ride only to disappear without a trace. 

Others see it as a manifestation of “roadside” or “traveler’s” ghost stories, tales of ghostly figures seen along specific stretches of road.

Paranormal investigators have also taken an interest in the legend. 

Some have conducted investigations at the Resurrection Cemetery and along Archer Avenue, hoping to capture evidence of Mary’s spirit. While these investigations have yielded intriguing results, none have provided definitive proof of Mary’s existence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Resurrection Mary’s grave?

The exact location of Resurrection Mary’s grave is unknown. While the ghost is associated with the Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, there is no definitive grave that has been identified as hers.

When was the last time Resurrection Mary was seen?

The most recent reported sighting of Resurrection Mary was in 2021.

Who is Resurrection Mary?

Resurrection Mary is the name given to a ghostly figure that is said to haunt the area around the Resurrection Cemetery in Chicago. She is often described as a young woman in a white dress who is seen hitchhiking along Archer Avenue.

How did Resurrection Mary die?

The legend suggests that Mary died in a hit-and-run accident while walking home from a dance at the Willowbrook Ballroom. However, the details of her death are part of the mystery and vary between different versions of the story.

Resurrection Mary appears at what time?

Most sightings of Resurrection Mary occur late at night, often around the time bars and dance halls are closing.

What is the legend of Resurrection Mary?

The legend of Resurrection Mary centers around a young woman who is picked up as a hitchhiker along Archer Avenue in Chicago. When the driver nears the Resurrection Cemetery, the woman asks to be let out and then disappears, often into the cemetery itself.

Where is Resurrection Mary said to haunt?

Resurrection Mary is said to haunt the stretch of Archer Avenue between the Willowbrook Ballroom and the Resurrection Cemetery in Chicago.

Are there any eyewitness accounts of Resurrection Mary?

Yes, there have been numerous eyewitness accounts of Resurrection Mary since the 1930s. These accounts often describe encounters with a young woman in a white dress who vanishes when nearing the Resurrection Cemetery.

Is Resurrection Mary based on a real person?

While the true identity of Resurrection Mary is unknown, there are theories that she may be the ghost of a real person. Two names often mentioned are Mary Bregovy and Anna “Marija” Norkus, both of whom died in car accidents in the Chicago area in the early 20th century.

What are some popular theories about Resurrection Mary?

Some popular theories suggest that Resurrection Mary is a classic “vanishing hitchhiker,” a common trope in ghost stories. Others believe she may be a “roadside ghost,” a spirit tied to a specific location or stretch of road.

Has anyone ever captured evidence of Resurrection Mary?

While many have claimed to have seen Resurrection Mary, no one has yet captured definitive proof of her existence. Some paranormal investigators have reported unusual findings during their investigations, but these have yet to be substantiated.

Are there any ghost tours that include Resurrection Mary?

Yes, several ghost tours in Chicago include the Resurrection Cemetery and the stretch of Archer Avenue, where Resurrection Mary is often seen.

What is the significance of Archer Avenue in the Resurrection Mary legend?

Archer Avenue, which runs from Chicago’s Chinatown to Lockport in the southwest suburbs, is significant because it is where most sightings of Resurrection Mary occur. The avenue passes by several cemeteries, including the Resurrection Cemetery, making it a hotbed for ghost stories and supernatural folklore.

Why is Resurrection Mary considered one of Chicago’s most famous ghosts?

Resurrection Mary is considered one of Chicago’s most famous ghosts due to the longevity and consistency of her story. The legend has been told for nearly a century, with numerous eyewitness accounts describing similar encounters with a young woman in a white dress along Archer Avenue. 

The story’s enduring popularity and its cultural impact in songs, movies, and books has solidified Resurrection Mary’s status as one of Chicago’s most famous spectral figures.


  • Jessica Ferri – 10 Scariest Paranormal Episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. The Lineup. [Source]
  • Kenan Heise – Resurrection Mary: A Ghost Story. Chicago Historical Bookworks, 1990.
  • Hunting a Ghost Named Mary. Chicago Tribune, 1985.
  • Troy Taylor – Haunted Illinois: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Prairie State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.
  • Dale Kaczmarek – Windy City Ghosts, Ghost Research Society Press, 2005.
  • Featured image credit: