Chicago’s most infamous ghost


The fascinating legend of Chicago’s lady in white.

Resurrection Cemetery Gates in Justice, Illinois

Resurrection Cemetery Gates

Jerry Paulus’s Story

In 1939, a Chicagoan named Jerry Paulus headed out to a dance hall called Liberty Grove and Hall. After a few glances at a woman he had seen multiple times, he presumably took another sip of his drink and headed towards the lady in white.

He asked her to dance and she accepted. Paulus danced with the distant, blonde woman the rest of the night. She had peculiarly chilly hands and told him sparse details about her life including her name Mary, and where she lived.

When the dance hall patrons started to look for the exit, Mary asked Paulus if he could give her a ride down Archer Avenue. Paulus puzzled, remembered the address she gave him. Archer Avenue was out of the way. But aware she didn’t have another way to get home, they scrambled into his car and ventured off onto Archer Avenue.

While driving past Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, IL she yelled “Stop.” Seconds later she again yelled “Stop.” He pushed his foot on the brakes.

Mary turned in her seat and faced Paulus. “This is where I have to get out,” she spoke softly, “but where I’m going, you can’t follow.”

She strolled towards Resurrection Cemetery gates. Before she reached the iron bars, her image evaporated into the night.

Paulus tried to think of a logical conclusion. But it presumably led to a flurry of questions. Why were her lips cold when they embraced? Why was she distant in conversations? Most of all, did I just pick up a ghost?

The next day, he went to visit the address she gave him. A woman opened the door and he inquired about the young woman he met the night before. She showed him a picture of her daughter, he knew instantly it was her. However, the woman said she died years earlier in a car accident, and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery.

Jerry Paulus met Chicago’s most infamous phantom, Resurrection Mary.

The gates of Resurrection Cemetery where Resurrection Mary is rumored to be buried.The main gates of Resurrection Cemetery on Archer Avenue in Justice, Illinois. Source: Wikimedia

Other Sightings of Resurrection Mary

Since the 1930’s there have been dozens of sightings. Mary has been a subject of countless books and popular shows including Unsolved Mysteries. She’s been known to get hit by vehicles, when the driver exits the car, there is no trace of a human being. It’s also been said she bent the iron bars on Resurrection Cemetery’s gates. (However, this has been claimed to be caused by a vehicle backing into them.)

But she isn’t Chicago’s first vanishing hitchhiker story. In the late 1800’s similar experiences occurred, with female figures launching themselves in front of ongoing carriages only to have their bodies vanish.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker Phenomenon

The vanishing hitchhiker story has been an urban legend for centuries. Vanishing hitchhiker stories have been recorded in Korean, Russian, Mormon, and Ozark mountaineer legends. Other famous vanishing hitchhiker sites in America include the Niles Canyon ghost in California.

There have been a few proposed explanations for the phenomenon. White line fever occurs when drivers have been traveling long distances when they zone out and experience hallucinatory phenomena while often falling asleep for a short period of time. Granted, this doesn’t explain multiple factors in the Resurrection Mary story including meeting her in dance halls.

Other skeptics believe the stories are fabrications, re-told folk stories revised for the modern day.

Whether Mary exists or not, (she has never been positively identified. Here’s a rundown of possible suspects), the vanishing hitchhiker story is a fascinating view into American folklore and a beloved Chicago legend.

Stop by Chet’s Melody Lounge, where bartenders leave a Bloody Mary for her at the end of the bar or stop by the other numerous bars claiming to have her patronage. Maybe you will end up giving a ghost a ride home.

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