Resurrection Cemetery (Home of "Resurrection Mary")

Resurrection Cemetery

7200 S. Archer Avenue

Justice, IL.  60458-1140



Resurrection Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in North America.  It encompasses over 540 acres and is shaped like a huge isosceles triangle. With over 152,000 graves, not counting the 5,300 crypts in the mausoleum, it is truly a mammoth burial ground. Area residents have nicknamed it “The Resurrection Triangle” due to all the strange events that have taken place here throughout the years.  Resurrection was consecrated in 1904 and opened officially in 1912.  It is a Roman Catholic burial ground, maintained and operated by the Catholic archdiocese.  The cemetery was named in commemoration of the feast celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is allegedly the home of Chicago’s most famous ghost “Resurrection Mary”, a ghost that is said to haunt the surrounding highway, cemetery and theWillowbrook Ballroom.  One monument appropriately named “Resurrection of Christ” is situated adjacent to the cemetery’s chapel.  The large gray stone figure said to be a favorite of Resurrection Mary.  Reports describe Mary dancing at the foot of this monument on more than one occasion.

Resurrection Mary has been seen by more people than any other single ghost within the Chicagoland area.  This blonde-hair, blue-eyed beauty has been seen since the latter 1930's.  According to legend, she had gone to a dance at the O’Henry Ballroom, now called the Willowbrook Ballroom at 8900 S. Archer Avenue in Willow Springs, Illinois.  She apparently got into an argument with her boyfriend and decided to hitchhike home.  Somewhere between the ballroom and the main gates of Resurrection Cemetery, nearly two miles away, she was struck and killed by a hit and run motorist and left to die on the side of the road.  Within a few years, people began to see a girl in a long white dress and blonde hair thumbing for rides along Archer Avenue.

One of the very first persons to have encountered her was a south side man by the name of Gerald Palus who used to frequent the Liberty Grove and Hall near 47th Street and Mozart.  The building is no longer there but his memories of that night have persisted until his death in 1992.

He had apparently seen her there on more than one occasion and had decided to ask her to dance with him.  They conversed very little throughout the evening and Palus noticed the only thing strange about her was that she was ice cold to the touch.  Her beauty and charm more than made up for her icy chill.  He even commented, “Cold hands, warm heart” to which there was no reply.

As 11:30 p.m. approached, he decided that it was time to leave and offered her a ride home to which she gave him an address in the Bridgeport area of Chicago.  But instead of going straight home, she requested that Palus take her down Archer Road, as she called it.  As they began to approach the main gates of Resurrection Cemetery, she asked Palus to pull the car off the road.  She then informed him that she had to cross the road and that Palus could not follow.  This statement took him aback but before he could respond, she suddenly darted across the street towards the cemetery and disappeared before she ever reached the gates.  It was only then that he realized that he had been with a ghost that evening.  His encounter was recreated by the series Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack.

The next day he visited the address she had given her and was told by the woman who answered the door even before Palus rang the bell that he couldn’t have possibly been with her daughter as she had been dead for sometime.  He correctly identified her in a picture that sat on a piano in the front room.

Bob Main is the only man known to have encountered Resurrection Mary on more than one occasion.  While a night manager at Harlow’s once located at 8058 S. Cicero Avenue in Burbank, he saw a strange woman one Friday night and then again two weeks later on a Saturday night.

“She was about 24 to 30 years-old, five foot eight or nine, slender, with yellow blond hair to her shoulders that she wore in these big spooly curls coming down from a high forehead.  She was really pale, like she had powdered her face and her body.  She had on this old dress that was yellow, like a wedding dress left in the sun.

“She sat right next to the dance floor and she wouldn’t talk to anyone.  She danced all by herself, this pirouette-type dance.  People were saying, ‘Who is this most bizarre chick?’”

When Main and others tried to talk with her, the woman would only shake her head and “seemed to look through you.”

“But the strangest thing was, even though we carded everyone who came in there - I worked the door, and there were waitresses and bartenders and people there - nobody, either night, ever saw her come in and never saw her leave.”  Even in his wildest dreams did Main ever assume it was Resurrection Mary until he read an article in a newspaper four years later.

A more mysterious encounter happened to a cab driver that apparently came in contact with her ghost near the intersection of Archer Avenue and Willow Springs Road, not far from the Old Willow Shopping Center and the Willowbrook Ballroom!  This interview is reprinted from an interview conducted by Bill Geist of the Suburban Tribune, January 31, 1979:

"It was Thursday night - would have been two weeks ago - and I was lost, basically,” says Ralph, a cab driver.

“I’d dropped this big spender way the hell down in Palos Heights or Hills or someplace like that and was trying to make my way back to the toll way.  I’d just turned on to Archer, down there where it’s still a lonely road, especially at midnight.

“And there she was.  She was standing there with no coat on by the entrance to this little shopping center.  No coat!  And it was one of those real cold ones, too.

“She didn’t put out her thumb or nothing like that.  She just looked at my cab.  Of course, I stopped.  I figured maybe she had car trouble or something.

“She hopped right in the front seat.  She had on this fancy kind of white dress, like she’d just been to a wedding or something, and those new kinds of disco-type shoes, with the straps and that.

“She was a looker.  A blond.  I didn’t have ideas or like that; she was young enough to be my daughter - 21 tops.

“I asked her where she was going and she said she had to get home.  I asked her what was wrong, if she’d had car trouble or what but she really didn’t answer me.  She was fuzzy.  Maybe she’d had a couple of drinks or something or was just tired.  I don’t know.

“Oh, the only thing she did say really was ‘The snow came early this year’ or ‘The snows came early this year’ or like that.  Other than that she just nodded when I asked sometimes if we were supposed to just keep going up Archer.  She was just looking out the window at the snow and the trees and that.  Her mind was a million miles away.  Maybe she smoked something or something.  Who knows?

“A couple of 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 any 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 door never opened.  May the good Lord strike me dead, it never opened.”

He refused to give his last name, address or phone number fearing that his name would be used in a newspaper article and he would appear to be a raving lunatic.  The ballroom was closed Friday, January 12th, and for about two weeks thereafter, owing to a major blizzard that had blanketed the snow with heavy snow.  But Thursday, the 11th it was open until midnight, an estimated ten minutes before Ralph says he picked up this blonde hitchhiker.  And it was a special night in the ballroom: a singles night, for those without escorts to come and dance the waltz and the foxtrot just the way they did here for 40 years.

In May of 1978, in a slightly different type of encounter a young couple, Shawn and Gerry Lape, were driving down Archer when they suddenly saw a girl running across the road in front of them towards the cemetery.  She yelled at her husband, “Watch out for that woman!”  He later recalled how he hit the brakes but knew it was too late and that he was going to strike the woman with the right front fender of the car.  As they braced for the impact, he saw the car cut right through the image and then rapidly began melting away until it was nothing more than a soft blur on the side of the road before completely disappearing.

On Tuesday night, August 10, 1976, the Justice Police Department received a phone call from a man who stated that he was driving past the cemetery gates when he apparently saw a girl locked in after hours.   It was going on 10:30 p.m. when a police officer responded to the call.  Patrolman Pat Homa looked for the girl with his spotlight and then calling out on his loudspeaker but to no avail.

However, in shining his flashlight around the gates, he discovered that two of the bars had been pulled apart.  Imbedded in the metal were the impressions of handprints.  On the surface of the green patina of the bronze were scorch marks and within what looked like skin texture as though someone had seared the marks into the bars.  He related this story on the paranormal television show “That’s Incredible” and lost his job over it.

The marks looked like they had been made by human hands and crowds flocked to the main gates to gawk at the bars that Resurrection Mary had bent.  In an effort for crowd control, the cemetery attempted to blowtorch the marks off but it had the opposite effect.  Now the bars were blackened and could easily be seen from Archer, and consequently more people showed up than ever.  Disgusted with the publicity, and with Halloween approaching, the cemetery hack sawed the bars and installed a fine wire mesh for security reasons until the bars could be straightened and replaced.

The cemetery denies this story emphatically.  According to a cemetery worker, Chet Kowalkowski, as reported in a Chicago Tribune article, October 25, 1992, a front-end loader truck that backed into the gates while doing sewer work bent the bars.  According to Kowalkowski, the grounds workers tried to restore the bars to their original position by heating them with a blowtorch and bending them.  The imprint in the blackened metal, he said, was of a worker’s glove.  However, if that is true then why haven’t the marks reverted back to their green colored state that is caused by the oxidation of the bronze when exposed to the elements?  It has been over twenty years and to this day the area where the handprints were discovered is still a blackened area.

On August 12, 1976, just two days after the bars were discovered bent, a Cook County squad car investigating a CB radio emergency radio call about an apparent hit and run automobile victim arrived near the intersection of 76th Street and Roberts Road.  What they found was a girl in her 1965 Ford Mustang, CB microphone still in her hands in tears.  They asked the girl, where the body was that she had just reported on the side of the road?  She pointed to an area marked by a depression in the soft, wet grass that evening and which appeared to conform to the shape of a human body.  The girl said that just as the squad car turned off 79th Street to come in her direction, the body on the side of the road disappeared from sight!

A man going to work about 2:30 a.m. had just passed Chet’s Melody Lounge on his way to Argo Cornstarch when he saw a body of a woman lying right in front of the gates.  He stopped his pickup truck to look at the young lady.  She was still alive, so he went straight to the police station, got an ambulance and came right back there.  However, the body was gone!  The impression where the body was lying was still there though.

On October 10, 1979 there was a massive blackout in and along Archer Avenue but only in Justice.  Commonwealth Edison and the police were riding around in the cemetery shining their lights into the mausoleum because it was determined that the blackout was centered at the mausoleum in the middle of the night.  The Resurrection Mausoleum is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as having the largest stained glass windows of any mausoleum in the world!  The windows measure 22,381 square feet in 2,448 panels completed in 1971.   And it’s also apparently haunted.

The taped organ music, alarm system and lights go on and off by themselves for no explainable reason.  There were reports by construction workers building the structure that the large religious statues would always be found in a different location when crews arrived the next day for work.  Some form of teleportation was taking place here.

A Brookfield man named Nick was returning home early Sunday morning on August 13, 1980 along Archer Avenue en route from the Holy Cross Hellenic Church where he had been working at the church’s annual picnic.  When he reached the main gates of the cemetery, he noticed a black object up the road out of view of his headlights.

Between the gates and the mausoleum he said his headlights hit the figure and it was a girl in a long flowing white dress.  “She walked right up to the end of the road,” Nick said, “then she just walked right into the middle of my lane.  I could see her clearly.  She was walking very slowly and I took my foot off the pedal and the car began to slow.”

Nick guessed that he was traveling around 35 MPH an hour and estimates that the figure was in his sight for roughly ten seconds.

“She walked to the median strip, hesitated for a minute, and that’s when I passed her.  She had her palms kind of turned up and I don’t think she was wearing any shoes.  I thought at first it was a kid, pulling a prank.  But it was so dark, so desolate.  Nobody else was on the road.  She just walked right out there in the middle, a shorthaired blonde girl, with this flowing white dress, her hands outstretched like that.  It was creepy!”

The last weekend in August 1980 between Friday night and Sunday morning, Mary was seen by dozens of people.  Many who called the Justice Police to report they had just seen her.  Squad cars were dispatched and although the police could not explain the mass sightings, they did find a number of people, many who flagged down the squad cars to report what they had just seen.

The Deacon of the Greek Church on Archer claimed to her seen a ghostly form near the cemetery on August 29, 1980.  The Valley Times investigated his story, a newspaper published in Lyons, Illinois.           

On September 7, 1980, Claire Lopez Rudnicki was traveling with her boyfriend and another couple along Archer Avenue when they suddenly saw a girl walking along the cemetery frontage.  At first glance, the apparition was very bright as though it was giving off its own form of luminescence.  She was walking very slowly.  Claire remembered thinking that it was Resurrection Mary and she felt her stomach starting to turn.  Claire was extremely scared however her boyfriend, now her husband Mark, was ready to swing the car around and go back. 

As they drove past her slowly, Mark was watching her and tried to get a glimpse of her face and was shocked to see that she had no face!  All that was seen was a black void where the face would have been!  He immediately turned around and by the time they had arrived at the point where they had previously seen her, she was no longer there.  She had vanished from sight. 

September 5, 1980 was apparently a very good and a very remarkable encounter that happened to a south side man.  Tony was a non-believer and was driving south on Archer after leaving a softball game on that Friday night.  As he passed the Red Barrel Restaurant on Archer near Kolmar , he saw a girl standing on the side of the road with a white dress.  He stopped the car and asked the girl if she wanted a lift.  The girl said sure and climbed in.

She asked him to take her down Archer.  He tried to draw her into conversation but it was no good.  Every question was answered with, “Just take me down Archer.”  He said to her, “You look like Resurrection Mary but I know there’s no such thing as Resurrection Mary.”  The ghost wouldn’t be drawn into that conversation at all.

He tried to get her to Chet’s Lounge.  He asked her if she’d like a drink.  No response.  From the stoplight at 63rd and Archer until he got past the main gates of the cemetery, his foot never left the gas pedal.  He was going 45 MPH.  He made one last attempt to get the girl who was in the car to his right to open up a bit, when suddenly she was no longer there!  He hadn’t stopped at all!  He was unable to explain what had happened to the girl.

Just before Christmas of 1980, she was seen dancing down the street, east of Harlem Avenue.  The two young men who saw her were instantly aware that there was something very unusual taking place.  They stood and watched this girl dance by them, and they got the strangest sensation.  There were other people walking by who didn’t even notice the girl.  The fellows ran home and told their father what they had seen.  They were not aware of Resurrection Mary but their father recognized her by the description they provided.  A week before this sighting, Mary had been seen dancing around the fence of Resurrection Cemetery .

On a warm night in mid-June 1981, Robin Scott and her husband were driving down a lonely country road when they saw a girl in a white evening gown with ruffles and a red satin sash walking along the highway.  She allegedly smiled and waved at the couple with a small white handkerchief.

They pulled over, rolled the window down and asked where she was going.  To the prom, she replied.  The couple decided to give her a lift to the school.  When they arrived, she got out and pleasantly said, “Thanks” and just vanished into thin air!

A woman who tends bar at Johnny’s Route 83, located on Rt. 83 across from 107th Street saw a ghostly figure of a woman in 1983.  She had been working there for about four weeks at the time of the sighting.  He first Friday night after work, she was driving down Archer near Fairmont Hills Cemetery when she observed a blond in a white dress on the right-hand side of the road.  She immediately hit the brakes, turns but no girl is there.  Mary has the ability to disappear just that fast.  Over the weekend, there were four other people who saw Mary on the 22nd of May 1983.

On a Saturday in October 1983, three employees of the Willowbrook Ballroom believed they may have caught a glimpse of Mary.  Nancy Buck and two co-workers were walking to the parking lot after finishing their shift when they spotted a young woman possibly in her early 20's, with long, dark-blond hair who was dressed rather strangely walking along Archer Avenue.  The dress for this encounter was quite different than the usual long white dance gown.  This figure was attired in an old-fashioned red velouror velvet dress that reached down below her knees.  She sported black and white saddle shoes.  However she was not wearing any coat or jacket.  She was also wearing a red veil that draped over her long hair.  She just walked, constantly staring at the ground until she was no longer in sight.

In October of 1989 Janet Kalal and Pamela Turlow-Wison set out on an evening drive.  After about an hour, they found themselves at Resurrection Cemetery.  Nearing the main gates, a woman dressed all in white suddenly ran out in the middle of the road into the oncoming car driven by Kalal.  She braked hard and expected to hit the woman.  There was no impact or thud but Kalal was sure that she had struck the woman.  Both women had seen the exact same thing but neither could explain where the woman had disappeared.

Reports slacked off in the 1990's with a few exceptions.  A local truck driver encountered a strange female figure in 1991 while hauling materials for a trucking firm.  A most unusual very recent sighting happened to GRS member, Mark Harry Gordon and his mother, Dolores Joan Gordon on Halloween night of 1997.

“Many a night we have gone to ghost sites visited previously with Excursions Into The Unknown, Inc., and sure enough lights were on in the Mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery which shouldn’t be.  One section was lit, while the rest were dark and organ music can be heard faintly.

“As we drove around Resurrection Cemetery on Halloween night about 8:40 p.m., street lights around the cemetery were going on and off at random, but in no particular order.

“We were looking around as we passed and saw nothing out of the ordinary other than the odd blinking of the street lights--not all of them just one on Roberts Road and one on Archer--nothing on 79th Street or around the southwest corner.  The blinking was not steady, but random.  Then as we came closer to the main gate, heading east on Archer, about 250 feet west of the main gate, was a young sandy blonde haired girl of about seventeen who was walking in the dark alone.  With an innocent face seeming in a world only known to herself and unobservant or even uninterested in the world around her; she came into view only as we were a few car lengths away.  Her step was deliberate yet with a gentle sort of ease.  She walked right in the middle of the grassy area between the cemetery fence and the Archer Avenue curb.  It seemed odd she appeared so suddenly--although it was dark--she was dressed in white and should have been easy to spot from quite a distance.

“Cars in front of us passed and looked at her in disbelief rubbing their eyes to be sure they really saw her as well as ourselves.  In fact we looked to see if there was a car or group waiting for her thinking it must be a Halloween trick and not a treat.

“She was all alone, not a care in the world.  No one was near by who might have been with her.  There was no place to go to a costume party or bus.  It was right along the fence of the cemetery.  In fact police were at the entrance so no one could enter.  She was coming from their direction so I’m sure they would not have let her pass without questioning or observing her.  The lady in the car in front of us made a U-turn in the middle of Archer and headed back west.  By the time we looked in the rearview mirror, she was gone!

“She was dressed in a white dress with tiers of a sort of lace only pictured in old pictures of the 1930's.  It had a limp look that just hung, not like the type of fabrics used nowadays.  She also had a lacy material on her head as well as holding in her two hands a spray of red roses attached to a holder like girls would carry in a wedding years ago.  Now it is not seen that way, as a nosegay or small bouquet or corsage would be the thing used.  There were red roses around the front of her neck and chest and it looked as if she had stood up to a wedding in days gone by, or buried that way.  You couldn’t see her shoes, as her dress was long and covered her feet.  It was truly out of the past, as it looked old-fashioned.

“People made U-turns to pass her again, but she was no longer there.  We made a round of the cemetery the long way in six and a half minutes.  By then no one was around.  After making four more rounds of the Resurrection Triangle, we noticed we were not alone, as a couple of cars in front of us and at least one directly behind us were the same ones from before.  They too were trying to get a second glimpse.

“Was she Resurrection Mary, the ghost that people have been seeing for about 70 years on Archer Avenue?  We don’t know.  She was a solid person, not a spirit, and had a determined action as though she had to get somewhere.”

On the 79th Street side of the cemetery passers by have experienced yet another unusual occurrence.  Many have seen a most remarkable vision or apparition.  They have observed hooded figures moving around a blazing bonfire.  They’re wearing hoods, which are up, and covering their faces.  Upon seeing this interesting image, motorists often slow down to look through their side windows or rearview mirrors after passing the site.  In the few seconds it takes to pass by this scene, the hooded figures are gone!

At night, hooded figures wearing dark clothing can certainly give you the slip by running into the shadows or hiding behind larger tombstones.  But how easy is it to hide a blazing bonfire in just a few seconds?  That is exactly what happens.  It is a true enigma.

After all the years of silence and alleged cover up of the story and identity of Resurrection Mary, suddenly the day before Halloween 1983, the Southtown Economist released a story by Rich Szczepkowicz of everything you wanted to know about Resurrection Mary but were afraid to ask.  Or at least told that she did not exist at all.

Some believe that she is Mary Bregovy who died in an automobile accident on March 10, 1934 and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Grave Number 9819, section MM near 79th Street.  However don’t attempt to find the grave because it’s unmarked and was said to have been bulldozed just after World War II when the graveyard needed more space.  This was evidently before the cemetery began perpetual care.

She was born April 7, 1912, used to live at 4611 S. Damen Avenue in Chicago and was waked at the Satala Funeral Home, 4744 S. Damen Avenue.  John Satala remembers preparing the body and how she was dressed.  She had a very pretty orchid dress and he remembers having to stitch part of her face due to the accident.

The accident was reported briefly in the Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1934:

“Girl Killed in Crash.  Miss Maries [sic] Bregovy, 21 years old, 4611 S. Damen Avenue, was killed last night when the auto in which she was riding cracked up at [word missing] Street and Wacker Drive.  John Reiker, 23, of 15 N. Knight Street, Park Ridge, suffered a possible skull fracture and is in the county hospital.  John Thoel, 25, 5216 S. Loomis, driver of the car, and Miss Virginia Rozanski, 22, of 4849 S. Lincoln [now Wolcott] were shaken up and scratched.  The scene of the accident is known to police as a danger spot.  Thoel told police he did not see the El substructure.”

The El substructure in question is located in downtown Chicago.  So according to this report, if we are to believe it, she was not killed hitchhiking down Archer Avenue from the O’Henry Ballroom.

After the article came out in 1983, Vern Rutkowski, who knew Mary Bregovy in real life produced several faded photographs showing Mary standing on the running boards of old Model A’s and T’s.  However these photographs show her as having short brown or dark wavy hair cut just past her cheekbones and not the long blonde hair always reported in the Resurrection Mary encounters.

A 1992 Chicago Tribune article indicated that records kept at the Satala Funeral Home described Mary Bregovy as a 17-year-old factory worker who died en route to the Iroquois Hospital even though death records clearly indicate she was just a month shy of her 22nd birthday.  Another discrepancy.

So what does this all add up to?  We have a beautiful blond or dark brown haired young women who was either killed in downtown Chicago from being thrown from a vehicle that had struck an elevated train support or was run down by a hit and run driver along Archer Avenue, who ranges in age from 17 to almost 22 and was supposedly buried in Resurrection Cemetery in a plot that cemetery officials in unmarked, was moved or never existed.  A ghost that either bent the cemetery bars in an attempt to prove her existence or a careless cemetery worker simply backing into the bars.  The debate ranges on.  What is for sure are all the many credible, sober, reliable and highly educated people who have encountered something unusual along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery for over 70 years.

Local residents, ghost researchers and the patrons of Chet’s Melody Lounge are firm believers in Mary.  Every Halloween bartenders place a drink at the end of the bar just in case she decides to make an appearance.  The Ballad of Resurrection Mary is played in the jukebox and T-shirts, sweatshirts and buttons now flood the market as well.  Even a rap version entitled “Rez Mary” was released a few years ago.

If you ever find yourself along Archer Avenue or plan a visit, the best times when most people have seen Mary are after 1:30 a.m. on the night before a full moon.  Don’t be surprised to find yourself mystically enchanted by the ghost called Resurrection Mary.

This is probably the only known video footage of the bent bars by the main gates. It was shot in 1976 with a Super8 camera.

Resurrection Gates 1976 

             Courtesy of Suburban Tribune, January 31, 1979 and Bill Geist

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