Like most major cities, Chicago has its fair share of supernatural lore and old cemeteries; including the infamous Bachelor’s Grove which is considered one of the most haunted in the world. I love a good graveyard. So when I discovered a group that met up every Sunday to do local tours, I quickly signed up. The first was about thirty-five minutes north in Justice, Illinois – Resurrection Cemetery. This Roman Catholic burial ground is over twice the size of Brookfield Zoo and home to Chicago’s most famous ghost, Resurrection Mary.
Described as a “vanishing hitchhiker,” Mary has been reported since the 1930’s – seeking rides along Archer Ave. The mysterious woman is described as wearing a white cocktail dress, shawl, and quiet. The story I grew up with is that she disappears soon after getting picked up, though I’ve also heard of vehicles crashing to avoid “hitting” her. This would the Windy City’s “white lady” ghost and there are other such examples throughout the world. The commonality is a female apparition in white who experienced a tragic death – usually involving a broken heart. In the upcoming Scary Monsters Magazine #108, I discuss New England’s version in my WEIRD USA column. Here in the Midwest, however, Resurrection Mary is our gal.
My kids joined me on this adventure with my daughter, Jade, acting as photographer. This was definitely a team effort since this is one of the largest cemeteries in North America. We met the rest of the group in a three-story Mausoleum that boasts the largest stained glass window in the world.
Finding the group wasn’t a problem as some were a bit, shall we say, garish. The man running the group seemed nice enough though far from knowledgeable. As soon as the last member of our motley crew arrived, he pulled out a sheet of paper he printed off the computer and proceeded to read us the entire thing, word for word; stopping every few moments to say, “Sorry…this is difficult see.” It made for the most awkward 10 minutes of our lives and at one point I remember staring through the ceiling window at a Jesus statue while thinking, “Please, God, make him stop!”
Later, I asked if he had Ursula Bielski’s great book Graveyards of Chicago. I knew after he responded ‘Ursula who?’ we were in trouble. Even the lady running the ghost tour in Chatanooga I attended a few years back knew of Chicago’s most famous ghost-hunter.
When we finally entered the Mausoleum, he said we could go our separate ways for which he didn’t have to tell us twice. The kids and I made a beeline in the opposite direction of the group before taking an elevator up to the third floor. Once there, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, give or take a few thousand bodies. It wasn’t the crypts that amazed us, however, but rather the building’s famed stained glass.
The glass depicted Biblical stories as well as other interesting features such as dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, an atomic explosion, as well as Saturn V in space – officially making it the only known depiction of NASA in stained glass.
There was nothing spooky about this beautiful place though we all got a bit of scare taking the elevator down. The doors were just about to close when a man with a hook hand (I kid you not) came out of nowhere and jumped in with us. He then started telling me (inches from my face) all the people he knows that are buried here. Though he was friendly – some may say a little too friendly, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest his disability made him creepy, he had an uncanny resemblance to the Vault Keeper from EC Comics. Also, I’m not kidding when I tell you the man came out of nowhere. We may not have seen Resurrection Mary this day but could very well have met up with Resurrection Marty! Once the elevator doors opened, we took off faster than the Scooby gang and never saw him again.
The lower level was highlighted by statues and a different style of stained glass that was very detailed. This Mausoleum could have also served as an art museum!
Before leaving, we drove around the outside which had more amazing sculptures and buildings. I swear this place was so big it could have had its own Starbucks. It even boasted a giant statue of Pope John Paul II that could give Godzilla a run for his money.
Though the tour was a bit of a bust, Resurrection Cemetery was beautiful and worth the visit. I had no idea about their stained glass nor its immense size. I now understand why Resurrection Mary disappears soon after getting picked up. The poor gal is just trying to get from one side of this giant cemetery to the other!