Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Resurrection Mary

The "vanishing hitchhiker" is a story that is told over and over, a good campfire story to have in one's repertoire.

The basic story is this: A man, driving down the street late at night, sees a young woman in a pretty dress waving at him. He stops, and she tells him that she needs a ride home. He agrees, and offers her his jacket, since it is cold outside and her dress is thin. When they arrive at the address she gave him, he is shocked to discover that she is no longer in the car. It's far too late for him to knock on the door of the house, so he returns the following day. The door is answered by a weary-looking man or woman, and the young man tells of the woman who asked to be brought home.

The homeowner tells him that the young woman was the daughter of the house. She was killed in a car accident near the place where he picked her up.

Unable to believe it, he drives to the cemetery where (he was told) she is buried. He finds her tombstone easily enough, because draped neatly over it is his jacket.

This story has a factual basis. Starting in the 1930s, dozens of men have reported picking up a young woman, wearing a fancy but thin dress, when driving northeast on Archer Avenue in Justice, Illinois. The routine was the same, every time. As the driver neared Resurrection Cemetery, his passenger asked to be let out, and promptly vanished into the cemetery. Hence, the name "Resurrection Mary".

Was Mary real? She may well have been. The popular story is that Mary was dancing at a nearby ballroom in the 1930s when she and her date had an argument. Mary stormed out of the ballroom into an Illinois winter night, clad only in her dress, shoes, and shawl, clutching her purse. She never made it home. A driver struck her as she walked along Archer Avenue, and immediately fled the scene. Mary died in the street; her parents had her buried in Resurrection Cemetery, wearing a white dress and her dancing shoes.

Mary has spent more time out of the grave than in it, according to reports. She is usually seen in the winter months; sometimes walking down Archer Avenue, sometimes hitching a ride, sometimes inside the cemetery gates, looking out. The TV show Unsolved Mysteries did a segment on Mary as part of a series of shows on the supernatural, with many fascinating stories, including one from a couple who saw her walking down the street, but could not see her face.

It's Halloween. Will Mary come out to dance tonight?

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