It’s a story you hear now and then: A guy is driving down the road when suddenly a girl jumps out into the path of his car. He panics as he hits the brakes, but it’s too late – he crashes into her with a dull THUD and watches in horror as she bounces off the car and lands on the ground. He pulls over, runs out, and finds that she’s vanished, leaving only an impression in the snow where she fell….

Often, this is said to happen around Resurrection Cemetery – it’s one of the variations on the Resurrection Mary story (though no one can say if it’s the same girl who is seen roaming the grounds or the one who hitches rides).

But last night, it happened on the tour, far away from Archer Avenue.

We were pulling into Sobieski Street, the north side dead end where H.H. Holmes’ “glass bending factory” once stood. As we backed up, there’s was a terrifying THUD and BANG, as though we’d backed into something. I was afraid that Happy Dave, the driver, had backed us into a fire hydrant – or a person.

But when we got out, there was nothing there. Dave was a good four feet from the fire hydrant – or anything else that could have made a big noise. Dave was so freaked out that he didn’t want to return on the 10 o’clock tour, but I was a bit relieved – all things bein equal, if we’re going to hit something, I’d rather it be something that can’t sue us and won’t damage the bus (though we’ve generally found that the bus is nigh-invulnerable).

Sobieski Street was stranger-than-average last night; that blinking light (there’s a light there that occasionally goes off and on whenever I say the names of the people most likely to have been killed/disposed of there) was doing things I’ve never seen it do before in two years of going there – changing colors and whatnot.

Resurrection Mary: Mary Bregovy?

If there’s one ghost story in Chicago that everyone knows, it’s the story of Resurrection Mary – the beautiful girl who hitches rides home from roadways and ballrooms on the south side, only to vanish then the car passes Resurrection Cemetery. And combing through the archives and records to determine who she might be the ghost OF is a popular past-time.

The “classical” answer for the identity of Resurrection Mary is Mary Bregovy, who lived on South Damen and was killed in an auto wreck at Wacker and Lake in 1934 at the age of 21. She was buried at Resurrection Cemetery (though the Mary Bregovy grave that people see there now is a whole different person), and, unlike others, her ghost has specifically been named as haunting the cemetery. Her ghost was reportedly seen by the caretaker wandering among the graves shortly after she was buried.

But few today believe that Mary Bregovy is the ghost who is hitching rides along Archer Avenue –  most people who have given the girl a ride say that she’s a blond girl in a white dress. Mary B. was buried in an orchid colored dress (though what this has to do with what her ghost would wear is up to considerable debate), and her hair was dark brown.

Furthermore, the story of a vanishing hitchhiker near Resurrection seems to have been current as early as 1932 – in a 1942 scholarly essay on vanishing hitcher stories, one story from “before 1932” was told of a vanishing hitchhiker who was picked up near a graveyard in Summit. There is no graveyard in Summit that I know of, but Resurrection is very close by – close enough so that someone who didn’t REALLY know their boundaries and borders could easily think they were in Summit while passing by the graveyard. This means that the story might have already been a couple of years old when Miss Bregovy died.

Here’s the photo that ran in the Tribune at the time of her death:

Outside of the fact that she isn’t a blonde, and her death may have come too recently, Mary is still probably the best candidate for the identity of the ghost (or at least ONE of the ghosts – some believe that there are several ghosts in the area that we collectively refer to as “Resurrection Mary.”)
This may strictly be due to the fact that we know so much more about her than we know about most of the alternative candidates that are put forth, but she DOES fit the bill rather well. She died in 1934, right around the time that the first reports of a ghostly girl in or around the cemetery were being reported. Friends and relatives all said that she loved to go out dancing, and seemed to recall that she was out dancing the night that she died.  And she was buried in an unmarked “term” grave at Resurrection – before being moved to her current (still unmarked) resting place.

Plenty of details about Mary are known – friends described her as “personality plus,” a girl who never seemed to be unhappy.  School records indicate that she was a good student. Exactly what she was doing on the night of her death isn’t known (relatives vaguely remembered she was going dancing or something), but one friend said that she wasn’t supposed to be out that night at all, and was out with a couple of “wild boys” who drove like maniacs.  We know what she looked like.

In contrast, with many of the other candidates, we know very little besides their name. In others we know their age, and often their burial place, but not necessarily the cause of death.  

In our podcast, Ray Johnson mentioned that he’d been through the microfilm of the Resurrection Cemetery records, and that there was a handwritten note saying “Resurrection Mary” next to Mary Bregovy’s information. So, does this indicate that the cemetery knows something the rest of us don’t? Probably not. The files were photographed for the microfilm in the mid 1980s, shortly after the Southtown Economist published a couple of big articles about Resurrection Mary putting forth the proposition (which had been going around for several years by then) that the ghost was of Mary Bregovy. The note was probably added after the articles appeared.

Practically everything you read about Mary Bregovy – that her friends said she loved to dance, that the undertaker remembered her as “a hell of a nice girl,” that she was out ballroom hopping the night of her death, etc – came from interviews with her friends and family conducted by that paper for a Halloween article in 1983 and a follow-up with one of her friends a few months later. In these, they gave the name of her school, the names of several of her friends and relatives, the funeral home where the funeral was held – even the location of her original burial plot.

For a whole lot more information on Mary Bregovy and the other theoretical “candidates,” check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast episode!


Resurrection Mary: Anna Norkus?

Posts about Resurrection Mary always generate bizarre, poorly-spelled emails, but the ones related to this post have gotten WAY out of hand. Many comments are not being published, and some have been deleted. 

The facts are these: Anna Norkus died in a car wreck on July 20, 1927, about six weeks shy of her 13th birthday. She was not far from Resurrection Cemetery at the time, but would not have actually gone past it (the roads were different then). Recently-uncovered funeral records indicate that she is buried at St. Casimir Cemetery; though some believe there may have been a gravedigging strike forcing her to be buried elsewhere in a temporary, unmarked grave. She is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for the “real” Resurrection Mary, and her story generates some rather frightening emails.

Particular confusion (and heated debate, oddly enough) centers around the exact identity of the other victim of the crash, a man in his 50s whose name is variously given in newspapers as Adam Lepinski, Adam Lepeicki, and Adam Levinsky. I have received MANY emails demanding in no uncertain terms that I state that the person in question was one Adam Litewski, who died July 27 and was buried at Resurrection on July 28. My own research indicates that the Adam Litewski who died that day was not in his 50s in would certainly not have been in the car with Anna Norkus; indeed, he was not even born yet at the time of the accident. He was stillborn a week later.

In fact, according to the Illinois death index, the man was named Adam Lewieki. A 54 year old man who was born in Lithuania (like Anna Norkus’s family) now working as a real estate agent in Chicago, residing at 3456 Auburb Avenue, Lewieki is listed as having died in Summit on July 21, 1927, the day after the accident (at the time the newspaper articles on Norkus were written, he was still alive, but in critical condition). He was buried at Resurrection the next day, July 22nd.

His actual identity, of course, has little to do with the Resurrection Mary story, so the fact that it generates so much heated controversy at all confuses me somewhat.

On the surface, Anna seems like a poor candidate for the identity of the ghost. Her recently-discovered funeral record (credit there goes to Ray Johnson, the Haunt Detective), she was about six weeks shy of her thirteenth birthday, and was definitely buried at St. Casimir, not Resurrection. If there was a gravediggers strike at St. Casimir which forced her to be buried in a temporary grave at Resurrection, no evidence has been uncovered, and it wasn’t mentioned in her burial records. Witnesses have always described Mary as older than that.

However, there are also stories about a younger girl being hit by a car on Archer – people say that they’ve crashed into her, then get out to help to find no one there.

Resurrection Mary: Mary Miskowski?

(new info added December, 2011)

For a time, the best candidate for the “real” Resurrection Mary was Mary Miskowski.

According to witness accounts Troy Taylor, my colleague from my time with Weird Chicago, gathered very recenty, Mary Miskowski died on or around Halloween, 1930, at the age of 18 or 19, having been hit by a car on 47th street while going to a Halloween party, at which she was dressed as a bride in her mother’s old wedding dress. A blonde herself, she would have matched the traditional description of Mary – a teenage blonde girl in a white dress – far better than most other canditates (Mary Bregovy was a brunette, and Anna Norkus wasn’t quite 13).

Finding solid information about Mary Miskowski was tough – Troy’s best information came from a woman whom Mary used to babysit. Variant spellings of her name make it hard to pin down records about her. Here, though, is a census record of her family that would have been taken shortly before her death in 1930. Mary was said to live at 4924 S. Damen – according to the Ward maps from 1930, this census record came from exactly the right block.

This backs up the stories Troy was told indicating that she was old enough to be on her own, but still living with her family. The census shows that she was living at home at age 19.

Stories of her death, however, were harder to verify – no Mary Miskowsky (or Miskowski) is listed as dying in Illinois between 1916 and 1950 in the Illinois Death Index. When I started digging into the files, I half suspected it would be one of those times where it turns out the subject not only didn’t die in 1930, but still hasn’t died yet – or, at least, didn’t die until a few years back.

The death index lists a Mary Muchowksi as dying on November 5, 1930 – people familiar with digging through census records and stuff will know that for a record for “Miskowski” written in cursive to be typed in as Muchowski would hardly be unlikely (especially if they forgot to dot the i – just look at it above).

November 5 would be a few days after Halloween, but pretty close to it, as well. Her death does not appear to have made the papers, as Mary Bregovy and Anna Norkus’s did, though, which may be why it wasn’t until the recent stories have come to light that her name has been considered seriously as a candidate.

Research by Ray Johnson, the Haunt Detective has now indicated that the name in the records was not a misprint, and that a woman named Mary Muchowski, age 67, really did die that day, which left the fate of the Mary Miskowski above an open question for some time.

One woman in Chicago named Mary Miskowsky married a man named Roy Jensen in 1937.  THAT Mary Miskowski died just a few years back, but her parents’ names were not John and Helen, indicating that she’s not the Mary Miskowsky from the 1930 census.

New information added here December 2011: The fate of the Mary Miskowsky in the census has now been solved – according to a couple of obituaries (hers and her father’s, from 1963), Mary Miskowsky married a man named John Sutko, with whom she had three children, and died in 1956. She was interred at Evergreen; John died in 2003.

This DOES raise another question – why did the woman (and her cousins) so vividly remember Mary Miskowksy of S. Damen dying in 1930? Were they mistaking her for someone else? There were a number of car accidents around that time, including a boy who was hit by a car and killed on the 5400 block of S. Damen on October 30, 1930, not far away from Mary Miskowsky’s house. The funeral record book that contains Anna Norkus’s funeral information also lists a funeral for a young man who was murdered in 1929 barely a block from Mary Miskowsky’s house.

Here’s Mary’s obit from 1956. The parents and siblings listed here match the ones in the 1930 census exactly:

I’ve blocked out a few names because I tend to get really unpleasant emails about Resurrection Mary and don’t wish for her surviving family to be hassled. The names of her kids and her sisters’ married names aren’t really relevant here. In any case, this firmly establishes that at the time of Mary Miskowsky’s death, she was much older than the ghost is said to be, and she was interred at Evergreen, not Resurrection, and can be eliminated as a candidate. No cause of death is listed, but she would have been 45 years old, and was certainly not killed en route to a costume party in 1930.
For a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast episode!

Chicago’s Most Famous Ghost: Resurrection Mary

I remember seeing this episode of Unsolved Mysteries when I was a teenager and being really, really freaked out by it. Some little thing about it just got into my head and scared the crap out of me. Thanks to the magic of youtube, I can see it again now. I really don’t see what I found so scary about it now, though sometimes I wonder how I managed to go from having a terrible fear of cemeteries barely a decade ago to being a professional ghost buster today.

And for a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast episode!  My GHOSTS OF CHICAGO book also has a full database of known sightings and theories.

I’ve always been on the fence about Mary; there are more documented sightings of her than many local ghosts (some of which have only ever been seen by one particular tour guide), but it seems more like an urban legend to me. Variations of the vanishing hitchhiker story are seen all over the world, going back in recorded history over 2000 years. Oddly, while I’ve had eyewitnesses to many Chicago ghosts on my tours, I’ve never met anyone who had a good Mary encounter to share. The story has gone around so much by now that it’s difficult to know who to believe. But, one way or the other, it’s a great story that has captured the imaginations of generations of Chicagoans.

NOTE: Jane Addams of Hull House once made a speech about Archer Avenue in the Florentine Room of the Congress Hotel – a regular tic-tac-toe of Chicago ghost stories!