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!


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