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Possibly the "most loved" Ghost in Chicagoland

The Legend

A young gentleman is out dancing at a local ballroom and meets a pretty young polish girl with long blond hair and wearing a white dancing dress.  She seems very quiet and actually quite cold to the touch but there is something about her that is both exciting and mysterious.  Toward the end of the evening he offers the young lady a ride home and she accepts.  On the way home they pass by a local cemetery and the girl seems very anxious and signals to the young man to drop her off.  The gentleman hesitates because it is late and there doesn't seem to be any residences nearby but because she is so persistent and agitated he reluctantly pulls over.  The young lady jumps from the car and runs toward the locked gates of the cemetery where she seems to pass through easily and  then promptly disappears.

He does remember that the young lady had written her address down on a napkin and later the next day he proceeds to the address to insure that his date made it home safely only to be met by an older woman lamenting the loss of her daughter some years ago after being the victim of a hit-and-run driver coming home from a night of dancing.  The young man notices a photograph on the coffee table and immediately recognizes it as the woman that he danced with the night before.

I will admit that the above story is more of a conglomerate of a multitude of stories told about the "vanishing hitchhiker" along Archer Ave known as "Resurrection Mary".  Some eyewitnesses have reported seeing a young blond girl in a white dress step out in front of their car only to disappear.  Some have seen "Mary" hitchhiking along Archer Ave near Resurrection Cemetery only to have her disappear on second glance.  Others still have had very vivid recollections of actually dancing with her.

The "vanishing traveler" or "vanishing hitchhiker" legend (after the invention of the motor car) has been with us for a very long time and is widespread.  One of the earliest written examples of this type of story can actually be found in the Christian Bible.  In Luke 24:13-32 (forgive me for the paraphrasing) it is said that two Christians were walking on the road to Emmaus (about 7 miles from Jerusalem) discussing the recent crucifixion of Jesus Christ when Jesus himself walked up to them and walked along with them.  They however did not recognize him.  When they got to their destination the two, one named Cleopas, invited Jesus to stay with them because it was almost evening.  Jesus agreed and sat down at the table with them to have a meal.  Verses 30-31 state: "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight."

Another Biblical reference could possibly be related to the "Resurrection Mary" legend as well.  In the March 2009 edition of the "Paranormal Underground" p. 40, Michael Kleen recounts Jerry Palus (one of the first, if not the first to recount the tale) as hearing Mary say, "Where I'm going you cannot follow.", as she disappeared through the gates of Resurrection Cemetery.  In John 13:36 (Jesus was informing the apostles of his imminent betrayal and execution) it says, "Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."

I don't intend this to be a Sunday School lesson, I just wanted to show how the concept of the "vanishing traveler" has been with us for at least 2,000 years.  It is amazing, however, how well known our "vanishing hitchhiker", our youthful, beautiful, free-spirted, Mary has become over the years.  It could be the fact that many of the encounters with her  have been very well documented and retold countless times over the years and that many times our "Resurrection Mary" of Archer Avenue is mentioned in anthologies of ghost stories such as David Cohen's The Encyclopedia of Ghosts, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1984, p. 293, where she is referred to as a "Phantom Hitchhiker"

Whatever the case, Mary has been a rite of passage for youthful drivers on the southwest side of Chicago for many years and I must say one of the most beloved spirits of the Chicagoland area.

Eyewitness Accounts

Jerry Palus


The generally accepted first account of Resurrection Mary was by that of Jerry Palus.  Veteran ghost hunter and historian, Richard Crowe, had an opportunity to interview Mr. Palus in 1986 before he passed away in September of 1992.  Excerpts from that interview can be seen in a late 1980's episode of Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by Robert Stack.  Mr. Palus related that one night in 1936 he was at a local establishment called the Liberty Grove Hall and Ballroom in the mostly Polish southside Chicago neighborhood of Brighton Park.  He noticed a very pretty blond girl in a white dancing dress.  He asked her for a dance and during the evening she mentioned that her name was Mary and that she lived on Damen Avenue.  Jerry noticed that she was a very quiet girl and was unusually cold to the touch.  He asked her if she would allow him to give her a ride home and she agreed.  Once in the vehicle she indicated that she would like to take a drive down Archer Avenue.  Jerry thought this was a bit odd since Damen Avenue was in the opposite direction.  After a short while, Mary suddenly asked Jerry to stop the car.  Jerry stopped and Mary hurriedly exited the vehicle.  She crossed Archer Ave and disappeared into the closed gates of Resurrection Cemetery in suburban Justice, Illinois.

The Liberty Grove Hall and Ballroom no longer exists but I wanted to attempt to locate where it used to be and who owned it. (Maybe somewhere in the process actually find a picture!)  Some authors put the location at 47th Street and Mozart Avenue.  In looking up the history of the area, I did find an establishment called the Liberty Grove Tavern at 4615 S. Mozart that existed in 1950.  A ranch style single family home exists there today and according to the Cook County Assessor's Office was built in 1965.  I did find some humor in my research in that in 1923, during the prohibition era, the name of the establishment was "Liberty Grove Amusement Co."  and was managed by an Albert Pavlil. I guess using the name "Tavern" would have attracted too much attention from Eliot Ness and his boys.  Using 1919 fire maps I was able to determine that there was no building in the area of 4615 S. Mozart in 1919.  The last mention I have found of the Liberty Grove Hall and Ballroom is that of a small Chicago Tribune article from December 16, 1951.  The article referred to it as "The Liberty Grove Inn" and it was the site of a children's Christmas party put on by the General Hap Arnold post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  At this point it appears that the establishment existed between 1919 and 1965. 

In looking through Cook County land records, I was able to determine that The Committee of Polish Home of Brighton Park owned the property and at least two lots on both sides of the property eventually known as the "Liberty Grove" establishment. Being that it appears that the "Hall and Ballroom" only occupied one lot, it is doubtful that it was actually what one would picture as an elegant ballroom.  It was more than likely one of many "taxi-dance halls" that were popular all over the city of Chicago during the 1920's and 1930's.  A taxi-dance hall gave young women and the dance hall owner an opportunity for making money.  The establishment would sell dance tickets, usually about 10 cents per ticket, and the women would earn a commission, usually 5 cents, for each ticket they collected by dancing with the patrons. 

Another interesting tidbit of information that I found while looking through the land records is that the secretary of The Committe of Polish Home of Brighton Park in 1951 was named Mary Mysdowska. that organization according to the Warranty Deed dated 1951 (Cook County Recorder's Office Document #15117826), was Mary Myszkowska.  In older Polish naming customs Myskowska is the feminine version of the name Myskowski.   Mary Miskowski is one of the names mentioned as being a possible candidate for the titile of "Resurrection Mary".  I am not implying that it would be the same Mary since the Mary Miskowski of legend would not have been old enough in 1923 to be the secretary of a corporation however the name of Mary Miskowski could have been linked somehow to the property since the name was associated with an officer of the corporation owning it. (See Mary Miskowski below)

Who is Resurrection Mary?

Let's face it, there are probably any number of cemeteries that have a young polish girl named Mary "Something" buried there who have died as a victim of an automobile accident.  But that hasn't stopped the curious from trying to figure out who "Mary" was during her life.   Since I grew up in the Chicago area and have been a big fan of the curious, the unexplained and the creepy over the years, I have come across a number of candidates for the title of "Resurrection Mary".  I have included them here in no specific order.

 

Mary Bregovy (1912-1934)

Mary Bregovy was born in Chicago on April 7, 1912 to Stefan and Johanna (Kulawiak) Bregovy .  In 1930 the family was living at 4611 S. Damen Avenue in Chicago.  Mary was the older sister of Joseph and Steve Bregovy.  Mary had worked for Bauer & Black, a surgical supply company, as a factory worker since she was 18 years old.  On the night of March 10, 1934, Mary was in a vehicle driven by John Thoel (25) from Chicago.  Also in the vehicle were John Rieker (23) of Park Ridge and Virginia Rozanski (22) from Chicago.  The vehicle struck an "L" substructure at Lake St. and Wacker Drive.  Mary died from severe head injury and shock while enroute to Iroquois Hospital ( a small emergency hospital started with funds donated from families of victims of the Iroquois Theater Fire)

For some time, I have read that Mary was buried in an unmarked grave near her mother of the same name in Resurrection Cemetery.  There is a Mary Bregovy 1888 - 1922 who is buried at Resurrection but that is more than likely an aunt to Mary if any relation at all.  According to the research I have conducted based on U.S. Census Records, death certificates and obituaries, Mary Bregovy d: 1922, did have a daughter named Mary but she eventually became Mary Williams, died in 1987, and is buried a few graves away from her mother Mary.

Mary Bregovy's actual parents (Stefan and Johanna) are buried at Resurrection Cemetery as well as Mary herself (according to her death certificate).  There is no listing of a burial for Mary Bregovy (who died in 1934) in the Cemetery's public computer kiosk (more than likely to discourage the disrespectful)  Her parents are buried next to each other with an unmarked  grave next to them. (It could be Mary)

The family seemed to be no stranger to tragedy.  After the death of their daughter in 1934, Stefan lost his wife Johanna in 1945 at the age of 62 as a result of heart problems complicated by probable pulmonary tuberculosis.  The family was no stranger to tragedy when Mary's father committed suicide by hanging himself in the family garage at 4611 S. Damen Avenue. on September 21, 1951.

Definitely a tragic story but Mary Bregovy does not match the description of "Resurrection Mary" due to the fact that she had short dark hair, and was killed nowhere near Resurrection Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Tribune Photo of Mary Bregovy - 1934

 

 
 
 
 
 
1930 U.S. Federal Census showing Mary living at 4611 S. Damen with family
 
 

Grave Marker of Stefan Bregovy (Mary's Father)

 

Grave Marker of Johanna Bregovy (Mary's Mother)

 

Grave Marker of person once thought to be Mary's Mother
 

The actual daughter of Mary Bregovy who died in 1922
 
 
 

 

Anna Marija Norkus (1914-1927)

Anna Norkus was born to Lithuanian parents, August and Anna Simkus Norkus in Cicero, Illinois on September 4, 1914.  Much of what I know about Anna Norkus and her relationship with the legend is from an article written by Ursula Bielski and posted on GhostVillage.com on March 23, 2007. The article is excellent and I cannot do it justice here so I will let you read it for yourself. 

In a nutshell, Anna was a vibrant youth and loved to dance.  She chose to use the name Marija as her middle name because of her devotion to the Blessed Mother.  By the time Anna neared her teenage years she had grown into an attractive young woman, with blonde hair and a slender build.  According to the research of Frank Andrejasich who is credited in Bielski's article, Anna was begging her father to take her dancing for her 13th birthday (Anna was born in September so it must have been an early birthday present).  On the night of July 20, 1927, coming back from the Oh Henry Ballroom (Now the Willowbrook Ballroom on Archer Ave.), Anna's father did not see the 25 foot railroad cut hole in the roadway at 66th and Harlem Ave.  Anna was crushed under the vehicle.   You won't find the location of Anna's death by traveling down the current Harlem Ave.  The location is actually along "Old Harlem Avenue" which is just east of the current Harlem Ave and under the bridge which spans the railroad tracks at that location.  It is an eerily quiet location in an industrial area which sees nowhere near the amount of traffic it did at the time of Anna's death.

Officially Anna Norkus is buried at St. Casimir Cemetery in Chicago but according to Ms. Bielski's article that may or may not be the case.  A fellow by the name of Al Churas Jr. was a grave digger who lived across the street from the gates of Resurrection Cemetery.  He was also the cousin of one of Anna's friends, Mary Nagode.  Mr. Churas stated that during the time frame when Anna died, there were several strikes by gravediggers at various cemeteries.  He remembered that many bodies that were unable to be buried because of the strike would be temporarily interred at Resurrection until the strike was over.  Unfortunately, due to poor construction of caskets and earlier embalming techniques some bodies were unable to be properly identified and may have actually been left at Resurrection (I have not been able to confirm or deny this fact but will be following up with Resurrection)

Sobiesk Funeral Home Records

Anna's death certificate states that George Sobiesk was in charge of the funeral and that she was buried at St. Casimir's in Chicago.  I thought that it would be helpful to locate her funeral record and so I tried to tract down the Sobiesk Funeral Home.  Sobiesk had at least two locations and there was still a funeral home at one location although it was no longer owned or operated by the Sobiesk Family.  The current proprietors stated that they would not have the old funeral records and were probably discarded after the business was sold.  I had more or less considered that a done deal until about 6 months ago.

I conduct historic research for a living (when I'm not investigating Chicago legends) and deal with U.S. Census documents quite a bit.  I thought it would be interesting and educational to be involved in this past year's Decennial Census so I took a temporary position with the U.S. Census Bureau in March of 2010.  I had been working at the local census office in Lemont for about 2 months and was chatting with a co-worker about Resurrection Mary and a book that I was working on and he said that his grandfather used to tell him that he was the funeral director for Resurrection Mary!  Now his last name was not Sobiesk so I asked him what his grandfather's name was and he replied to my astonishment, "George Sobiesk"!

I just about fell over when he told me this.  I asked him if his grandfather was still alive and he said that he had passed some time ago and doesn't have the business anymore but he remembers his mother telling him stories about growing up in a funeral home.  He said that he and his mother were just looking over the old records the other day.  I stopped him right there and said, "You wouldn't happen to have the records as far back as 1927 would you?"  He said, "Oh yeah, we have 'em all!"  He agreed to bring in one and then a couple of the ledger books and sure enough I was looking at the original funeral record for Anna Norkus!

I tend not to put much weight in coincidences and I don't get creeped out easily but this time I was a little creeped out!  It was especially weird when he let me borrow the ledger book and actually take it home with me.  It was weird because we worked until 1 a.m. and I had to drive past, you guessed it, Resurrection Cemetery.  I thought to myself as I was passing the cemetery that the last time that this book had been in this area was when Anna had died over 83 years ago!  I thought to myself that if I say a young girl wearing a dancing dress trying to flag me down I would just pass out, but alas Mary stood me up!

I was hoping that maybe the funeral record would indicate whether or not there was a temporary interment at Resurrection Cemetery but it, along with Anna's death certificate, state nothing but St. Casimir's as a final resting place.  In fact Anna's marker is at St. Casimir's that includes both her father, August's picture and her mother, Anna's picture but young Anna's photo is missing.  One would hope that the missing photo is due to environmental factors and not vandals but Ursula Bielski had told me that she remembers the photo disappearing shortly after the mention of Anna Norkus as a possible Resurrection Mary candidate.

So is she buried in the family plot at St. Casimir's or is she lost somewhere between there and Resurrection Cemetery? At this point my vote would have to be St. Casimir's but stranger things have happened.

 

Could it be that Anna's body is misplaced and exists at Resurrection even though her burial record states that it is in St. Casimir?

Anna's case bears striking resemblance to the legend of "Resurrection Mary"  even though she was only 12 years old at the time and may not be buried at Resurrection.

 

Portion of article on Anna Norkus's death

 

Anna Norkus's 1914 Cook County Birth Certificate

 

Willowbrook Ballrom (formerly the Oh Henry) where Anna allegedly danced

 

Mary Miskowski (? - October 31, 1930?)

I had only recently become aware of this third candidate for Marydom while reading Ms. Bielski's article and by checking some of the comments and blogs of various Chicago haunt enthusiasts.  The story is one of a south side Polish girl named Mary Miskowski who was supposedly killed walking across the street while attempting to walk to a Halloween Party.  I conducted a search of local papers, Illinois State death records and Cook County death records and there was no person by that name who died between 1916 and 1950.  I did notice a blog on Weird Chicago Tours from October 2008 that mentions the possibility of the misspelling of the Miskowski name as Mary Muchowski who died on November 5, 1930.  I did check on that and the name was not a misspelling.  Mrs. Muchowski did die on November 5, 1930 but was 67 years old at the time and buried at St. Adalbert's in Niles, IL

What may be nothing more but coincidence but weird just the same is the fact that while I was doing research on the Liberty Grove Hall and Ballroom I discovered the deed which transferred ownership.  Among the officers of the corporation that owned the land was a secretary by the name of Mary Miskowski!



Mary Petkiewicz (1915 - December 25, 1932)

I have to be honest that I have not heard this name mentioned as a possible candidate for "Resurrection Mary" but I came across this person while I was conducting the research on the above candidates.  Mary Petkiewicz was a young bride of 17 years.  (I do not know if she was of eastern European descent yet because Petkiewicz is her married name and  I have not found any marriage documents or obituaries as of yet)  She was living at 5815 West 64th Street and was married to Casimir Petkiewicz.  On Christmas night 1932, Casimir (21) was driving a car containing his wife Mary, his brother Alex, Anna Guoinovich (19), Adeline Ruzzis(18) and Alcy Neal (16).   On a dark corner at 55th St. and Cicero Ave, a car driven by Steve O'Donnell, who was the brother of south side beer boss, Edward (Spike) O'Donnell, swerved and Petkiewicz's vehicle rolled over on top of Mary, killing her. 

I have not begun to fully research this candidate for Marydom but will continue to do so.  I will keep fellow haunt enthusiasts up to date on my findings.

Chicago Tribune Artice recounting Petkiewicz Crash

Case Still Pending

We may never really know the in-life identity of Resurrection Mary.  It may be that all of the above plus more yet unknown are different incarnations of Mary since the story has changed so many times over the years.  It may be ,as many skeptics speculate, that the witnesses themselves have created Mary out of a combination of hallucination or overactive imagination coupled with the ever popular "hitchhiking ghost" story to come up with who we regard so dearly as Resurrection Mary. 

Whatever the outcome, if you find yourself driving alone down Archer Avenue on a cold, dark, blustery Chicago night, keep an eye out for hitchhikers.  If you happen to pick up a young blonde one with a Polish accent, tell Mary I said, "cześć!"