In January of 1979, a Chicago cab driver stopped to pick up a female passenger at the front gates of Resurrection Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 150,000 souls. But before he could let her in, the mysterious woman disappeared. The cab driver had just met Chicagos most famous ghost, Resurrection Mary.
Richard Crowe was a local historian and folklorist at the time of the sighting:
I think that of all the ghost stories worth believing in, Resurrection Mary is the one with the best documentation. The witnesses that Ive found are remarkably level-headed. And theyre primarily blue collar, middle-class types who have steady jobs and who have no other major claims to psychic encounters in their lives.
As the story goes, the first person to ever encounter Resurrection Mary was Jerry Palus. The year was 1939. The place a Chicago dance hall where Jerry was a regular.
Jerry was captivated by a young blonde woman and immediately asked her to dance. He learned little about her, except that her name was Mary and she lived on the south side of town. He danced with the young woman all night. When it was time to leave, Jerry offered Mary a ride home.
Before his death in 1992, Jerry was interviewed about his encounter with Resurrection Mary. He described the events of that evening:
As we walked along to the street she says well you might as well take me down to Archer Road. And I said what for? I said you live up here where you told me. And she says no I want to go out to Archer Road. Jerry stopped in front of Resurrection Cemetery and let Mary out of the car. It was at that moment that she vanished before his eyes. Jerry admitted he was perplexed, but certainly willing to forgive one unexplained disappearance.
Still wanting to know more about the mysterious woman, the very next day Jerry drove to the house where Mary had said she lived. Jerry found the house with little trouble. The woman who answered the door was Marys mother. When Jerry asked if he could see her daughter, the woman told him that Mary had been dead for five years.
According to Richard Crowe, it then dawned on Jerry that Mary was no ordinary woman:
Its then, Jerry said, that he understood why the woman he was dancing with that night was ice cold to the touch. He had worked in a funeral home for a while and it was the touch of a corpse.
Years later, Richard Crowe learned the ghost was believed to be the restless spirit of a young woman named Mary Bregovy. Mary Bregovy had been killed in a traffic accident in 1934, a month before her 21st birthday. She was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery in her favorite white gown. Over the years, Resurrection Mary has been seen time and time again, at dance clubs, in taxis, and walking outside the cemetery, looking for someone to take her home.
In 1980, Clare Rudnicki was driving along the front of Resurrection Cemetery, when she too spotted Mary:
I really didnt think there was any ghost. You hear these stories and these old ghost tales but its never happened to me. But now I must say I think Im changing my mind.
I was just looking out the window as we were going down the street. And on the right hand-side of the road there was a girl walking. She was bright, very bright, like illuminating. She was just walking very slowly. I remember thinking oh my god its Resurrection Mary ghost. And I can feel my stomach starting to turn. I was very frightened, I have to admit. It did scare me.
Clares husband, Mark Rudnicki, was also in the car:
We all went past it, turned around and came back and by the time wed gotten back to where wed originally seen her it had gone. Vanished.
In October of 1989, Janet Kalal and a friend were out for an evening drive. After about an hour, they found themselves at Resurrection Cemetery. It was then, Janet recalled, that a pale young woman stepped in front of the car:
There was no impact, there was no bump to say that you know I had hit something. But I know she ran out and I hit her. She was all in white and her hair and the dress were flowing back. It was like a stream backwards, you know away from her. And I just saw this profile of a young woman.
Does the ghost of Mary Bregovy really haunt Chicago? Or is Resurrection Mary just an urban myth? In any case, should you find yourself driving in the city late one night and happen to spot a pale young woman in a flowing white gown, you might think twice about offering her a ride.
Jerry Palus, a Chicago southsider, reported that in 1939 he met a person whom he came to believe was Resurrection Mary at the Liberty Grove and Hall at 47th and Mozart (and not the Oh Henry/Willowbrook Ballroom). They danced and even kissed and she asked him to drive her home along Archer Avenue, exiting the car and disappearing in front of Resurrection Cemetery.
In 1973, Resurrection Mary was said to have shown up at Harlow’s nightclub, on Cicero Avenue on Chicago’s southwest side. That same year, a cab driver came into Chet’s Melody Lounge, across the street from Resurrection Cemetery, to inquire about a young lady who had left without paying her fare.
There were said to be sightings in 1976, 1978, 1980, and 1989, which involved cars striking, or nearly striking, Mary outside Resurrection Cemetery.Mary disappears, however, by the time the motorist exits the car.
She also reportedly burned her handprints into the wrought iron fence around the cemetery, in August 1976, although officials at the cemetery have stated that a truck had damaged the fence and that there is no evidence of a ghost.
In a January 31, 1979 article in the Suburban Trib, columnist Bill Geist detailed the story of a cab driver, Ralph, who picked up a young woman – “a looker. A blond…. she was young enough to be my daughter — 21 tops” – near a small shopping center on Archer Avenue.
“A couple miles up Archer there, she jumped with a start like a horse and said ‘Here! Here!’ I hit the brakes. I looked around and didn’t see no kind of house. ‘Where?’ I said. And then she sticks out her arm and points across the road to my left and says ‘There!’. And that’s when it happened. I looked to my left — like this — at this little shack. And when I turned she was gone. Vanished! And the car door never opened. May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.”
Geist described Ralph as “not an idiot or a maniac” but rather, in Ralph’s own words, “a typical 52-year-old working guy, a veteran, father, Little League baseball coach, churchgoer, the whole shot”. Geist goes on to say: “The simple explanation, Ralph, is that you picked up the Chicago area’s preeminent ghost: Resurrection Mary.”