Spotlight Blogger: My real world friend, Dina Darling, has a blog!!! Though when I knew her, we simply called her Dina Beans... Dina and I went to high school together and recently got together with another close friend for a girl’s night of silliness. She is one of the most genuine and caring people you will ever meet so if you get a few seconds, pop on by and welcome her into the blogger fold. Dina posts some poetry and verse and a lot of musical musings as well as photos – she freelances as a band photographer (how flippin cool is that?)
And on to the post...
Haunted Chicago... meet the neighbors
For those of you rolling your eyes bear with me here. One of the great things about studying the legends of an area is that it brings you closer to the place’s history. Chicago has a wide array of people from different parts of the globe and many of us are first or second generationers, which make us a little more intrigued by all things superstitious. Where there is a personal connection with these places, I’ll include it – otherwise, what follows is just a brief snapshot of some of our more infamous hauntings and the legends behind them.
Resurrection Cemetery is located on Archer Avenue in Justice Illinois, west of the actual city limits. Since the 1930’s there have been sightings of the woman who has become known as Resurrection Mary on a stretch of Archer between what is now Willowbrook Ballroom and the main cemetery gates. Sightings include men who’ve met with the young woman (usually described as a blond haired blue eyed girl in her late teens or early twenties) in the dance hall, one that was in fact there during the 30’s, then called the O. Henry Ballroom. The men tell varying stories – some danced with the young woman for most of the night, when driving her home she asked them to stop in front of the cemetery and then she ran toward the gates and disappeared. Others say she disappeared from within the car when they got to the cemetery gates.
Other stories involve men picking up the young woman hitchhiking on the road or, in fact, running her over – but by the time they exit their vehicle the apparition has disappeared. Chicago area ghost hunters have been on the hunt for the actual historical verification of the young girl for years. There are a few different theories on who she might be, usually identified as a girl of polish decent, sometimes a girl named Anna Norkus who was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from the O. Henry with her father in the 1930’s.
There are a plethora of pictures taken by amateur ghost hunters showing orbs and other variations of light play, but perhaps the most notable physical evidence of this legend, or that has been tied to this legend, are on the bars of the cemetery itself. One observer noted the girl’s hand grasping the bars to the cemetery gates as she disappeared. When he went to look at the place she had been, the bars were badly misshapen and burned where her hands had been. Cemetery officials claim that the damage to the bars is due to an accident involving a truck.
Photo of Resurrection Cemetery Bars, from Wikipedia Page on Resurrection Mary
When I was a teenager, this was a favorite spot to go at night and creep yourselves out. We’d stand at the bars and take turns putting our hands where Mary’s hands had supposedly left their imprint. The legend as I was told it... while drinking and scaring the bejeezus out of one another, was that the bars had been replaced once, but the marks came back in the same exact spot.
Theatre people have some of the best ghost stories. In Cicero, theatre is taken pretty seriously, oddly enough. As a side note for the star minded, Cicero and Morton High School and College are home to Joe Mantegna... and the kid from My Bodyguard of 1980’s fame, but I don’t remember his name.
Me loves me some Joe Mantegna - come on, he's adorable! Photo from his website
Emily is (or was) the ghost of the Morton College Theatre. Historically, she was an actual girl who was murdered in 1969 and the crime was never solved. At the time of her disappearance and death, the college campus was just about to be built – Morton College was, in its early days, operating out of Morton East High School Campus, and their Chodl auditorium has its own ghost story as well. Emily’s body was discovered when the construction crews went to break ground on what is now the site of the theatre portion of the college campus.
I had a lot of friends involved in that theatre and for a year or longer, I worked on sets and did lighting for some of their productions, so I’m pretty familiar with the lore. Emily had her own seat in the back of the theatre, to the right hand side of the booth. That particular seat got icy cold and no one who spent any time around the theatre would sit in it. In researching this particular post, I ran across a number of articles that indicated that Emily was known to frequent particularly violent productions – but I’d never heard that during my time around the theatre, so I don’t know where that bit of lore comes from.
What I do know is that sightings almost always occurred late at night. The janitorial crew was especially spooked by Emily as she seemed to like to mess with people when they were alone in the building. She did such things as play with the elevator buttons, appear on the roof and then jump off, and throw stones and small objects at people. As I recall, she was around for a lot of the musicals, or at least people seemed to think she was around. A friend of mine who’s been in and around the theatre in recent years informs me that Emily has finally moved on. She hasn’t been sighted in a long time and the theatre community no longer has a fear of the seat in the back row. The theory always was that Emily couldn't rest because her killer was never caught. There weren't even any leads at the time. So one theory is that her murderer may have met his demise or gotten caught on a different crime - there were all sorts of theories on who and why, but there never was a concrete suspect. Most of us aware of her story assumed it was a stranger, and in 1969 the idea of serial killers wasn't really well known.
Many of you know the story of John Dillinger, but I’ll refresh your memory if you’d like. John Dillinger and his band of bank robbers were notorious during the 1930’s. While FBI sources list him as a scourge and cold blooded killer, the public consensus at the time was much more forgiving. Remember, this was during the great depression and people were none too keen on banks, having been left penniless by these un-backed institutions after the crash of 1929. Dillinger was seen as a sort of robin hood, though he didn’t actually give his loot to the poor to my knowledge, but he and Baby Face Nelson and other criminals of the time did revel in burning the bank’s mortgage notes and debt records, which was a nice little boost to all those people getting ready to lose their homes.
Photo of Biograph as it appeared in 1934
Dillinger was set up and ambushed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago in 1934. He made the FBI agent upon leaving the theater, drew his gun, and tried to escape down the alley next to the building – but he was gunned down in the alleyway. The neighborhood still boasts Dillinger’s death as a claim to fame and the bar next door actually put a sign in the window the next day implying that Dillinger had his last drink there. You can go into the theater and sit in the seat that Dillinger occupied before his death and there’s a plaque erected near the ticket booth to commemorate the event. Most notorious for ghost hunters though is the appearance of Dillinger in later years. Witnesses claim to have seen him running from the theatre, a lone spector in the middle of a scene no one else can see, and then falling to the ground in the middle of the alley to disappear.
Photo of Biograph today
There are, of course, other haunts in the Chicagoland area, such as Hull House, Harpo Studios, and the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But this post has gotten far too long already, if you feel like researching haunts in your own hometowns though, let me know... I always love a good ghost story.
I'm an idiot!!!! I forgot to thank the wonderful Travis for starting the My Town Monday series... if you've just stumbled upon it here, go check out Travis' blog for a list of all the bloggers participating and to get a flavor for all the locations being spotlighted.