I remember seeing this episode of Unsolved Mysteries when I was a teenager and being really, really freaked out by it. Some little thing about it just got into my head and scared the crap out of me. Thanks to the magic of youtube, I can see it again now. I really don't see what I found so scary about it now, though sometimes I wonder how I managed to go from having a terrible fear of cemeteries barely a decade ago to being a professional ghost buster today.
This is a pretty good summary of the story of Resurrection Mary, Chicago's famous vanishing hitch-hiker, though it puts too much emphasis on Mary Bregovy, who didn't resemble the vanishing ghost people describe even remotely.
Nowadays, we think (making the fairly bold assumption that it's not all just folklore) that there are actually THREE ghosts at the cemetery that we know collectively as Resurrection Mary. These are:
1. A girl who hitches rides from dance halls and disappears at the cemetery.
2. A girl who runs in front of cars, then vanishes, on Archer Avenue.
3. A girl who is seen roaming the grounds of the graveyard. This is the one that was seen grabbing the bars in 1972; the scorch marks stayed on the bars for thirty years before being torn down.
Bregovy has been named specifically by a 1930s caretaker as the one who roams the graveyard. For a time, a popular candidate for the hitchhiker was Anna Marija Norkus, who was killed in a traffic accident. However, as she was a day shy of her 13th birthday at the time of her death, she's probaby too young to be the hitchhiker, though she may be the ghost people are hitting with their cars. Based on new information Weird Chicago's own Troy Taylor has uncovered, we're reasonably confident saying that if the hitchhiking girl is real, it's probably the ghost of a girl named Mary Miskowski. Check out Troy's page on her, and find more information than you could ever possibly need on Mary in his Resurrection Mary book. We occasionally run Mary-themed tours that go by the cemetery itself, which is actually in the town of Justice, a south side suburb.
And for a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast episode!
I've always been on the fence about Mary; there are more documented sightings of her than many local ghosts (some of which have only ever been seen by one particular tour guide), but it seems more like an urban legend to me. Variations of the vanishing hitchhiker story are seen all over the world, going back in recorded history over 2000 years. Oddly, while I've had eyewitnesses to many Chicago ghosts on my tours, I've never met anyone who had a good Mary encounter to share. The story has gone around so much by now that it's difficult to know who to believe. But, one way or the other, it's a great story that has captured the imaginations of generations of Chicagoans.
NOTE: Jane Addams of Hull House once made a speech about Archer Avenue in the Florentine Room of the Congress Hotel - a regular tic-tac-toe of Chicago ghost stories!