The Unexplained: A last ghostly dance for Resurrection Mary

After a night of dancing Mary was killed by a hit-and-run driver, then buried at Resurrection Cemetery in her white dancing dress. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Every Sunday afternoon, the staff at Chet’s Melody Lounge leaves a Bloody Mary at the end of the bar for Resurrection Mary.

Was Chicago’s most famous ghost, Mary, an actual person?  Researchers have offered two good candidates.

Mary has a story similar to that of many other legends—the hitchhiker that disappears.  She was a young girl that liked to go out dancing in the Archer Avenue area of Chicago.  It was her main hobby—going to the ballrooms in that part of town and dancing all night, often with complete strangers.

She did eventually find a more permanent boyfriend.  One evening they were at one of her favorite ballrooms, a ballroom that had seen the likes of such bandleaders as Harry James, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey cranking out the music.  At the Oh Henry Ballroom on this night the two young dancers had a major disagreement about something.  Mary was so upset that she stormed out.

 As she was walking alone down Archer Avenue, a hit-and-run driver jumped the curb with his vehicle and struck Mary down.  She died instantly.  Her grief-stricken parents came undone.  They pulled themselves together long enough to make Mary’s burial arrangements. 

They saw to it that Mary was laid out in a beautiful white dancing dress with matching shoes.  She was buried in Resurrection Cemetery.  The motorist who struck her, and drove off, was never found.

Mary was buried, but not finished with her eerie activities, yet.  She had a few more earthly side trips to make.

In 1939, Mary appeared long enough to dance with Jerry Palus at the Liberty Grove and Hall.  They even shared a lingering kiss.  He offered to give her a lift home and when his head was turned, for just a moment, she disappeared in front of the Resurrection Cemetery, just a few miles SW of Chicago.

Since that 1930s Era, several young men have picked up a hitchhiker on Archer Avenue at a section between the Oh Henry Ballroom and Resurrection Cemetery.

All report that she was wearing a white dancing dress with matching shoes, a shawl and carrying a clutch purse.  “Let me out here…”  These are the last words she uttered as they approached the cemetery.  She got out and disappeared before their very eyes.

 Avid ghost hunters report that Mary has made herself known in that area at least three dozen times from that era up until the present.  They continue to try to document all of the cases.  

In 1973, Mary made a diversion to Cicero Avenue.  She danced a few rounds at Harlow’s nightclub.   In that same year, a cabbie taking a break in Chet’s Melody Lounge reported that a young woman of Mary’s description and attire had left his cab without paying the fare.  Chet’s is right across the road from Resurrection Cemetery, wouldn’t you know it? 

There are similar reports of Mary getting rides and disappearing in1976, 1978, 1980, and 1989.  There is supposedly a spot on the Resurrection Cemetery wrought iron fence that is burned where Mary’s hand touched it.   In 1979 another cab driver—very shaken up—related a story to a curious writer.  He had also picked up Mary but she had disappeared right before his eyes without even opening the door of the cab.

  If Resurrection Mary was a real person, who was she?  Sleuthing about hit-and-run accidents by the macabre-ly interested have turned up two candidates.  One is Mary Bregovy who died in 1934 of a similar accident but not in the exact location of the legend’s death. 

Miss Bregovy’s actual grave in Resurrection was moved to a common area and no one knows the exact spot, now.  There is another candidate that did die of an auto accident in the exact location of the legend in 1927: Anna Marija Norkus.  Marija has become more and more popular as the proposed ghost.

The classic roadside tavern, Chet’s Melody Lounge, has the normal tavern appointments for playing pool and dancing to music.  Every Sunday afternoon, the staff at Chet’s leaves a Bloody Mary at the end of the bar for Resurrection Mary.


Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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