Our Lady of the Underpass

A staple of our tours from Day 1 has been the infamous Virgin Mary Salt Stain – the salt stain on the underpass near Fullerton and Damen that some claimed was a visitation of the Virgin Mary, which they claimed it resembled. The traffic jams to see it died down a few weeks after it’s “discovery” in April 2005, but the shrine around it – featuring candles, wreathes, and (I’m not making this up) a headless Jesus statue remained.

(update: I’m no longer with the company I worked for when this post went up in 2009, but as of 2012, I still pass by it occasionally on certain routes for Chicago Hauntings, my current company, and even if the stain is gone, the shrine remains – it was rebuilt shortly after this post went up). 

Ken just called from the tour and told me that it’s gone. There’s nothing left, from what he’s told me, except for some burn marks. Basic detective work leads us to believe that it was set fire to by some weirdo, and the rubble was hauled away by the city. The fire could also have been started by one of the candles, I suppose. There are a LOt of candles set up most of the time – candles plus plants are probably an accident like this waiting to happen.

The stain has fallen on hard times lately – some months back it was covered by a spray-painted devil face, and has since been covered with a portrait of Mary. It was only a matter of time until it joined the House of Crosses in the ranks of “Great Tour Stops Gone By.”

It was a tricky stop for me, since I always felt that I OUGHT to be fairly respectful of it. As a paid, professional smart aleck (see my upcoming “Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History,” due early next year), there were some jokes I just couldn’t leave out…

– I was never sure what people were seeing in the stain, exactly. Apparently Jews can’t see it.

– I’d like to be a fly on the wall at Mary’s meeting in which God says “Mary, I need you to go be a salt stain in Chicago. That’ll send a powerful message. I know you’re already appearing on a sandwhich in Dubuque, but hey, I’m EVERYWHERE. You can’t be two places at once?”

– The “shrine” around it changed all the time. One time we went out there and found a pyramid of Dr. Pepper cans – perhaps a reference to the scriptural “Thou art the pepper of the earth*…would not thou like to be a pepper, too?” I believe it’s in Paul’s Letter to Mr. Pibb (which opens “yo, Pibb…why you always gotta be a pepper hater?”

So long, salt stain.

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