Friday, December 30, 2011

Ghost Picture from the Alley of Death and Mutilation

Only hours from the anniversary of the Iroquois Theatre disaster (which I just posted about a few days back), Brandon L got this nifty shot on one of my tours. He says there was no one there when he took the picture, and the person who was standing next to him said so, too; I wasn't watching at the time so I can't say for sure. But Brandon showed it to me at the next stop and had emailed it to me before the tour ended (probably setting a new record!)

Just looking at it, my first instinct would be to say the guy was photo-shopped in, but given the circumstances under which it was taken and sent, I don't see how he could have done it without leaving any traces (trying to do photoshopping on a phone with your finger while on a bumpy bus ride would be a unique and impressive feat by itself). 
As always, I'm not saying that this is a real ghost - I can think of a few possible explanations (though they may not be the RIGHT explanation). It's a pretty cool shot either way, and kids go nuts when I tell them about it - the "man in a black suit with no face" thing is a description of Slenderman, a ghost story that every kid seems to know about these days. 

 What do YOU think?

Update: a security guard who works in one of the buildings opening to the alley is fairly sure it's him in the picture.  But the guard in question has a beard, so...

Of all the stops on my tours over the years, this is the one I've used most frequently. I have several routes that I switch back and forth between, and a repertoire of plenty of different stops. But this one has been on every route - I can't think of any period when I was skipping it. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Archer Avenue's OTHER "Woman in White"

Resurrection Mary isn't the only woman in white reported along Archer Avenue. Indeed, as you can hear in our podcast, similar ghosts have been reported around the vicinity at various times, including Ray's story about a ghost at Fairmount Cemetery.

Long before stories of Mary began to circulate, the original vanishing hitch hiker was the raven-haired woman in white and her horse-drawn carriage that were seen around St. James of the Sag, further down Archer through the woods beyond Resurrection. The cemetery there long had an unofficial (but widely understood) policy of allowing anyone to bury a body for free, and throughout the 1800s, stories of drunken burials that turned into drunken brawls were common. Unmarked graves dot the sloping graveyard (which climbs up a hill towards the church - it's awfully spooky on a foggy night!).

In 1897, a pair of Chicago musicians hired to play at a dance (dance halls do tend to figure into these stories, don't they?) awoke in the night to sound of galloping horses. Frightening, they looked out their windows (which afforded a view of the cemetery) and saw a woman in white with long black hair wandering around the area, moving without any apparent effort. A team of snow-white horses with "electric lights" on their heads approached, pulling a carriage behind them. The woman raised her arms, the lowered them, and sank into the ground. As she vanished, the horses did, too. The tribune, which ran the story with testimony from locals attesting to the sobriety of the musicians, ran this wonderful picture:

Traditionally, this has been said to be the ghost of a woman who died in a carriage accident while in the process of eloping with her lover. I'm not sure if anyone's noted that this all took place roughly a week after the Tribune ran a BIG article on the cemetery and it's "open door" policy for free burials. 

It's also worth noting that only three monts later, in December of 1897, the New York Times ran an article stating that the skeletons of nine Indians had been dug up (in addition to several that had been dug up some years before, leading to a rash of ghost sightings). Most of the skeletons were re-buried, but others were taken to the Field Museum.  The owners of the property where the bones were found said their house was haunted and that they would have to move. 

The connections between this story and two other Archer Avenue legends - Resurrection Mary and the ghostly horse-drawn hearse that is reported now and then, are hard to ignore (not to mention the sobbing woman of Archer Woods, the Maple Lake ghosts, and so many others). Is it really all a part of the same ghost story, just evolving over time, or are there several ghosts along that spooky stretch of road? 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Podcast: Resurrection Mary Roundtable

New Episode!
Resurrection Mary
Roundtable Chat.

Chicago Unbelievable

(itunes link will
start leading to the episode by the end
of 12/19)

More Podcasts

above: Mary Bregovy,
from the Trib. article
about her death.

Last night I met with Ray Johnson, the Haunt Detective, and Dale Kaczmarek from the Ghost Research Society for a roundtable discussion about Resurrection Mary, Chicago's most famous ghost. Is she real? How old is the story? Who is she the ghost of?  Get the free episode on iTunes (or right here) now!

Resurrection Mary is one of those vanishing hitchhikers;  people pick her up on the South Side and give her a ride home - only to have her vanish as they drive past Resurrection Cemetery at 7200 S. Archer. We spent an hour talking about the story, its origins, and the various theories as to who Mary might be the ghost of (assuming she exists at all). There's some new information that we've recently uncovered - including stories of the cemetery gates, the night the police arrested "Resurrection Mary," what the cemetery's records say, and a whole lot more. 

We discuss each of the major candidates:

Mary Bregovy, (above) killed in a wreck at Wacker and Lake in 1934. Though she's brunette, not blonde (as most sightings say), she's become the "classic" candidate. Some suggest that there are actually several ghosts in the cemetery.

Anna Mary Norkus, killed in a wreck on the south side in 1927 (the above is her original funeral record, which Ray brought with him - it indicates that she's buried at St. Casimir, not Resurrection).

Mary Miskowsik (Mary Miskowsky) , said to be killed by a hit and run driver en route to a costume party in 1930 (now disproven).

We also touch on Mary Petkiewicz, a new candidate that Ray discovered, and Mary Bojacz, (above) who was killed in a train wreck while en route to a funeral at Resurrection in 1921, and the poor young women named Mary who were buried at Resurrection after dying in the Eastland disaster.

Here's the Wade Denning's Ghost Story version of "The Hitch Hiker." Chilling (if a little goofy - how convenient that they have a grave yard in the back yard!)

"The Night It Rained" from In a Dark Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz - the Easy Reader that introduced my generation to the vanishing hitch hiker legend.

The famous Unsolved Mysteries episode. Did they embellish Jerry Palus's account? We aren't sure he ever claimed to go to her house the next day.

And here is a pdf of a 1942 article on vanishing hitch hikers - the first known scholarly work on the subject. It's interesting to note that when the Mary story is told, elements common to these (going to the house, finding a jacket on the grave) are a part of the story. However, in practically every version of the story any of us had heard first hand, Mary simply disappears out of the car, leaving the driver confused. 


New Info Solves a Resurrection Mary Mystery

Tonight, we'll be recording a podcast about Resurrection Mary - a roundtable discussion with some notable Chicago ghost hunters.

In the process of studying up and refreshing my memory, I found some new info on one of the most popular candidates for the "real" Mary: Mary Miskowski. According to info given to Troy Taylor, Mary Miskowski (or Miskowsky) lived on the 4900 block of South Damen, and was killed en route to a costume party by a hit and run driver in 1930. She was a blonde, and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery. Hence, she (and she alone) met all of the criteria we look for in candidates for the who Mary might be the ghost of.

However, though census data shows that there was definitely a 19 year old named Mary Miskowsky living on that block in 1930, we could never verify her death. There was no mention of the car accident in the papers, no obituary, no mention of her in the death index.

While looking a few things up, I came upon the obituary of John Miskowsky, who died in 1963 (and was interred at Resurrection). The obit gave the names of the same wife and children mentioned in the 1930 census, indicated that this was the same guy - and one daughter was listed as the "the late Mary (John) Sutko."

So, Mary Miskowsky of South Damen married a man name John Sutko. And from this, we could establish that she was dead before 1963. Just typing her name into the Trib archives didn't bring anything up, but a Mary Sutko was listed as dying in Cook County in March, 1956. Calling up all the obits from that week brought up the following:

I've blocked out a few names because I tend to get really unpleasant emails about Resurrection Mary and don't wish for her surviving family members to be hassled. The names of her kids and her sisters' married names aren't really relevant to establish that this Mary and the one who lived on S. Damen are one and the same.

I'm not sure why this wasn't more searchable (that's usually more of an issue when the text is less legible), but the parents and siblings have, again, the exact names of the ones in the 1930 census.  So Mary Miskowsky of South Damen certainly didn't die in a car wreck in 1930; she died at the age of 45 under the name Mary Sutko.

For a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast episode!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Iroquois Theatre Fire (or: How Bad WAS "Mr. Blue Beard?" )

The Iroquois Theatre fire is the subject of a fantastic new play, Burning Bluebeard, now running at the Neo-Futurist Theatre.  The fire in question took place on Dec 30, 1903, during a matinee performance of a spectacle known as Mr. Blue Beard.  It just now occurs to me that, while I've written here about the ghosts associated with the fire, I've never put up a proper post about the fire that occurred only five weeks after the theatre was opened, during an over-crowded performance of a children's show about a guy who murders his wives featuring a song about "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous."

In the new play by the Neo Futurists, many jokes are made out of just how dumb, inappropriate, and racist Mr. Blue Beard was. And it was all of these, all right. One paper wrote that, despite a new book and songs written for its American run (it had previously played in London), the show had never shed its "British stupidity."

Though reviews were known to go on and on about just how beautiful and spectacular the show was - with its cast of three or four hundred, its sparkling set-pieces and aerial ballet - and how gorgeous the theatre was. The Tribune wrote that only a few theaters in the country could possibly compare to the splendor of the Iroquois.

But as for the show itself, featuring such immortal classics as "Come and Buy Our Luscious Fruits, "Oriental Slaves Are We," and "A Most Unpopular Potentate," the papers struggled to find nice things to say.

Foy himself seems to have been underused. "Of the company," the Trib wrote, " Eddie Foy is the chief and ablest performer. He has little that is amusing to do, but his personality is in itself so good-natured, his humor so infectious, and his cleverness at unmaking so great that he cannot wait to with the tribute of applause." He had two solo numbers, "I'm a Poor Unhappy Maid" and "Hamlet Was a Melancholy Dane."

Eddie Foy as "Sister Ann" in the show. He stayed on stage WAY longer than it was safe for him to do so, and was (rightly) considered a hero.

"Of story," wrote the Trib, "there is little or none - nobody expected there would be any, and nobody cared because there was none. There is the usual loving couple who have hard times getting their love affairs to running smoothly, there is the usual wicked persecutor of the maiden in this enamored couple - in this case he is Mr. Blue Beard - and there is, of course, the regulation good fairy and the magic horn which calls her to the hero's aid....the music of the piece of hopelessly common, save bits here and there which are flinched from the classics."

This was the first show to run at the Iroquois, which, like most theaters at the time, was a freaking death trap. The hallways leading down from the gallery lead to locked doors and accordion gates. The three lower-level fire escapes into the alley were kept locked by a new kind of French locking system no one could figure out in the middle of a panic. The ventilation had been nailed shut. They had saved $56 by using an asbestos fire curtain was actually a blend made mostly from wood pulp (a common trick - wood-pulp based curtains were cheaper and lasted longer than pure asbestos. The only trouble was that they were useless in a fire). There were no sprinkler systems installed. Doors opened inward, toward the lobby (contrary to popular belief, this did not become illegal after the fire - it had already been illegal for a good twenty years). It wouldn't have made a difference if they opened towards the street, though - the manager testified that they were also locked.

Above: a rare shot of the promenade

And fires were a problem from the start - as I understand it, the muslin drapes near the stage had actually caught fire a couple of times during performances when they caught fire again on December 30th. But this time the fire caught on the scenery. And when the backstage door opened, that created a backdraft resulting in a "balloon of fire" that shot out into the audience while Foy frantically (and heroically) tried to keep people calm. Of course, keeping people calm when a fire ball just shot out at them is not really possible.

And, of course, there was the gallery, where at least one of the fire exits was not yet connected to a fire escape. Stories that a teacher directed students out the door one by one are basically nonsense (the sheer idea that anyone would have formed a single-file line in such a riot is just nuts), but in the pushing and shoving, over a hundred people fell to their doom. Some were saved only when the pile of bodies got high enough to break their fall (I didn't believe this angle when I first heard it, but there WERE contemporary reports that described this, as well as a few of people making it into the alley below on the ground level only to be killed by people falling from above).

Above: the "alley of death and mutilation." As the overcrowded (or missing) fire escapes became useless, a ladder was extended from the Northwestern University building (the former Tremont House hotel that had been owned by Ira Couch, now the namesake of the alley) on the other side of the alley. It was useless, but soon replaced by more useful "planks." Only 12 people were saved by these, though. 

Most reports today say that one only one performer, aerialist Nelly Reed, was killed. Exactly how she died is sort of an open question - some reports say she was still suspended in the air when the fire ball shot through, others say she died of burns in the alley. Another says she was afraid to use the elevator that led from her dressing room to the fire escape, and instead ran down a staircase right into the fire.  I haven't seen a testimony from the time talking about her being suspended above the stage, and suspect the less dramatic versions are probably correct. A rather detailed 1904 account said that she was in her sixth-floor dressing room and had collapsed from inhaling too much smoke, and was carried out by an elevator boy named Robert Smith, only to die later.

In reality, though most early reports said that no performer had died, it seems that Reed and two other performers were killed: another aerialist who was either a man named Florine or a woman named Floraline (little is known) and a bit part player named Burr Scott. This, of course, is in addition to the six hundred or so spectators known to have died. A temporary hospital was set up in nearby Marshall Fields, and a morgue was created in a nearby saloon. 

The stage door led into a vacant lot fronted by Dearborn Street - roughly where the McDonald's and the Oliver Typewriter Co. building are now.  Foy was able to get his son out the door with most of the cast and crew before running back INTO the fire to try to hold off a stampede. He yelled for the curtain to be lowered (he had never seen the curtain himself, but assumed that they must have one), even as he felt a "cyclone of fire" building behind him. Exactly what he said onstage is not known (different reports gave different quotes), but by all accounts he begged people to remain seated until the curtain could be lowered, then began asking them to leave the theatre slowly. This is exactly what he should have done, too - the panic killed more people than the fire. To keep people calm, he begged the orchestra leader to play the overture. "Play anything!" he shouted. 

THough most considered him a hero, Foy was very hard on himself. Interviewed only minutes later in his room at the nearby Sherman House hotel, Foy has wracked with guilt and badly shaken as he recounted the story, mentioning that he'd also been in Chicago (his home town) during the great fire in 1871. He truly believed that he had failed the audience. In fact, he probably saved hundreds of lives. 

Lots of people were brought to trial, including the mayor, but none got in trouble. A few "ghouls" reported by the New York Times to have run into the theatre to steal necklaces, rings, and money from the dead may have gotten in trouble, but I've never found a good report about it. The Trib wrote that earrings were torn from women's ears. One story goes that man was eventually arrested for stealing gold fillings from teeth (this is usually said to be Mr. Thompson, who owned the Thompson's Restaurant next door, but this is certainly untrue, though Thompson's WAS used as a morgue and hospital). 

What REALLY started the fire is still a bit of an open question. It's generally believed that the light they were using for the "moonlight" in Act 2, during an octet called "Let Us Swear In the Pale Moon Light,"  arced, sending up sparks that set fire to the drapes. A stagehand, though, said this was impossible, and that the sparks had come from the wiring. 

The theatre was re-opened less than a year later under another name, and then operated as the Colonial Threatre starting in 1905. This lasted until the 1920s, when it was torn down. The Oriental Theatre now stands on the spot (one foundation wall down at the basement level, invisible to the general public) is still original. I've never found out what happened to the time capsule that was placed in the cornerstone.  Interestingly, one of the shows in line to open at the Iroquois was the musical comedy revue version of The Wizard of Oz. Just over a century later, Wicked opened in the same space.

Here's the ill-fated ad, with the infamous bug stating that the theatre was "absolutely fireproof." And it was, for the most part - the building itself was just fine. But the seats, the scenery, the drapery, and everything else IN it was flammable, all right:

Since it's hard to read, here's a transcript describing the whole show:

ACT 1.
Scene 1— The Market Place on the Quay, near Baghdad. (Bruce Smith.)

Mustapha plots to separate Selim and Fatima and sell the beautiful Fatima to the
monster Blue Beard. Blue Beard arrives; purchases slaves. Sister Anne falls in love
with Blue Beard and spurns Irish Patshaw. Blue Beard seizes Fatima and takes her
on board his yacht.

Opening Chorus—

a. "Come, Buy Our Luscious Fruits."

b. " Oriental Slaves Are We."

c. " We Come From Dalmatia."

d. Algerian Slave Song and Chorus.

aa. Grand Entrance Blue Beard's Retinue. Medley Ensemble.

bb. Song—" A Most Unpopular Potentate," Blue Beard and Chorus.
a. "Welcome Fatima."
Song: "I'm As Good As I Ought To Be," Blanche Adams.
Finale: "Then Away We Go."

Scene 2-On Board Blue Beard's Yacht. (Bruce Smith.)
Fatinia with Selim attempts to escape from Blue Beard's yacht, but is prevented.
Selim jumps overboard.

Opening Chorus— "There's Nothing Like The Life We Sailors Lead."
Duet— Miss Rafter and Miss Adams.

Song: "Beautiful World It Would Be." (Harrv Von Tilzer.) Harry Gilfoil.
Song: "I'm a Poor Unhappy Maid." (Jerome and Schwartz.) Eddie Foy.
Finale—" He's Gone."

Scene 3— The Isle of Ferns. (H. Emden.)
Fairy Queen appears to Selim, promises him her aid and the power or the Magic
Fan to reunite him to his loved one and to protect them from evil. 

Scene 4— The Laud of Ferns. (H. Emden.)
Ballet of Ferns- Procession and waving of the Magic Fan, by the Fairies and
Grand Corps de Ballet.

Scene 1—The Terrace
Fatima believes Selim dead and agrees to marry Blue Beard. She gets
the Castle from Blue Beard, who enjoins her not to open the Blue Chamber.

Opening Chorus—" Davlight is Dawning."

Song: "Songbirds of Melody Lane," Beatrice Liddell, Elsie Romaine, and Chorus. (Ed-
wards and Brvan.)

Song: "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous." (Harry Gilfoil, Bonnie Magmn and
Pony Ballet.

Sister Anne and the Pet Elephant.

"In the Pale Moonlight." (Jerome and Woodward.)

"Ma Honey." (Hoffman.) Bonnie IMaginn and Chori-

Scene 2 — Chamber of Curiosities.
Conquered by curiosity, Fatima opens the Blue Chamber and discovers Blue Beard's
awful secret.

Blue Beard's (dead) wives discovered.

Scene 3— Home of the Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe. (E Albert, i
The disobedient children.
Song: " Wake Up Mammy," Maude Nugent.
.Song: " Mother Eve." (Schwartz.) Eddie Foy, Pony Ballet, and Chorus. 

Scene 4— Hall in Blue Beard's Palace. (E. Albert.)
Dancing Specialty by Frank Young and Bessie De Voie. Music by C. Herbert Kerr. 

Scene 5— Triumph of the Magic Fan. (H. Emden.)

Tableau 1— The Land of Palms. Tableau 4— Japan.

Tableau 2— Egypt Tableau .5— Parisian Rose Garden.

Tableau 3— India Tableau

Nellie Reed, Premiere, and Grand Corps de Ballet.

Scene 1— Hall of Pleasure in Blue Beard's Palace. (E. Albert,)

Scenes of revelry in Blue Beard's absence. 

Opening Chorus— "Let Us Be Jolly As Long As We Can."

Song: "Spoony Mooney Night." (Gus Edwards.) Bonnie Maginn and Chorus.

Pony Ballet Specialty. Music by Jean Schwartz.

Song: " Julie." (Wm. Jerome and Jean Schwartz.) Herbert Cawthorne and Chorus.

Blue Beard returns unexpectedly.

Sister Anne gives evidence of temporary insanity. Imagines herself Ophelia.
Song- "Hamlet Was a Melancholy Dane," Eddie Foy. (Wm. Jerome and John Schwartz.)

Blue Beard discovers that Fatima has disobeyed him and threatens her and her
friends with death.

Scene 3— Below the Ramparts. (Hicks and Brooks.)

Blue Beard gives Fatima one hour in which to accept his offer of marriage or perish with her friends. Selim summons Fairies' aid. Attack on the castle by the Fairy Army. Fatima and friends in peril . . .

Scene 3— The Fairy Palace.

Blue Beard is overthrown and the lovers are reunited.

Entrance and triumph of the Fairy Queen.

Grand Transformation Scene. 


That the theatre site and alley are said to be haunted probably goes without saying. I've never spoken to an actual witness of the famous ghost of a woman in a white tutu (presumably that of Nellie Reed), but several employees of the Oriental (speaking on condition of anonymity) have described seeing odd black forms zipping through the theatre at night, from roughly where the stage would have been in the direction of the exits. A little girl is often heard giggling (sometimes in conjunction with flushing a backstage toilet). One employee describes hearing a solitary scream in the middle of the night. Several strange audio recordings have been made, including some thought be from BEFORE the Iroquois (a decade or two earlier, that section of Randolph Street was known as "hair-trigger block," the area where shell-shocked Civil War vets would come to drink, gamble and shoot at each other. On a rather unrelated note, lip-prints left on the wall by a vaudeville dancing troupe in the 1930s were recently discovered in the organ room. 

As for the alley, we've recently had a spate of odd photographs there (odd shadow pictures have gotten particularly common). Camera batteries often go from fully-charged to drained in the few minutes that we're out there on tours. 

One interesting side note: in an article I read just this morning, one of the survivors was listed as living at address instantly recognizable as that of the H.H. Holmes "Murder Castle."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Resurrection Mary and the Eastland Disaster

While we're looking up possible candidates for the "real" Resurrection Mary, why not look back a few years further than we normally do?

In 1915, when the Eastland capsized in the Chicago river, killing more than 800 people, it was the worst tragedy in Chicago history. The dead had come from all over the city, though most came from the West side, and the most notably-large chunk were of Bohemian descent (though suggesting that Resurrection Mary may not have been Polish tends to generate some pretty odd hate mail).

At least five young women named Mary who perished aboard the Eastland were buried at Resurrection, and one other may have been.

 One was Mary Malik, age 20 or 21 (depending on the source you're looking at), who was buried in the same casket as her 18 year old sister,  Stella (their parents could only afford one - this sort of flies in the face of stories I hear about the Western Electric company bending over backwards to make sure everyone had a coffin). Both girls lived at S 3023 48th Court in Cicero. Mary was born in Moravia, Poland and settled with their parents in the Chicago area as a girl. Upon completing her education at St. Mary's Polish school at 13, Mary got a job with the Western Electric Company and had been with them for 7 years at the time of the disaster. Stella had been working there for four years herself.

Also listed among the casualties of the disaster buried at Resurrection:

Mary Ceranek - age 17 according to modern casualty lists, though the Tribune said she was 20 at the time. She lived at 2838 S. 48th Av, Cicero, and had five brothers and sisters. She had been working for Western Electric for four months.

Mary Krzyzaniak-Dudek. 27 year old wife of John Dudek - probably too old to be the ghost.

Mary Kaszuba, 24. A single women who worked for the Novelty Candy Co, lived at 8042 Throop, had four sisters and two brothers.

Mary Kupski (or Cooper) - age 23, lived at 2832 Lawndale Ave. An employee of Western Electric, she was the family's only means of support, as the rest of the family was unemployed.

Another -the "maybe" - was Mary Bizek (or Bezik), who was buried along with her sister Anna. The two, aged 19 and 16 respectively, lived at 2828 S. 50th Court. They had been raised in Chicago. Mary worked for Sears and Roebuck as a mail stamper, and both helped to support the family. The Eastland casualty list I consulted said that both girls were actually buried at Bohemian National, as does , though the funeral description in the Trib certainly makes it sound like it was at Resurrection.

The description is part of a section of the Trib that also speaks of the Maliks:

As one of the motor trucks left the church it contained two coffins. They contained the bodies of Miss Mary Malik, 21 years old, and her sister, Miss Stella Malik, 18...They worked on the same bench in the Wester electric plant, went on the steamer together, and found death at almost the same moment. A single grave in Resurrection Cemetery received their bodies.  Two other households contributed two members each to the cortege. They were Antonia and Agnes Ignaszak....and Angela and Ladisslaus Latwoski... In the afternoon services were held for Mary and Anna Bizek. 

We don't have photos of and of these women, as far as I know, and they died a few years before most Mary "candidates" did. But they're roughly the right age, the right name, and at the right cemetery, which makes them just about as good as candidates as anyone else we know of. The "ideal" candidate is a blonde girl named Mary, age 16-24 (give or take), who died on or around Archer Avenue some time before about 1935, preferably after going out dancing, and was buried at Resurrection. Once again, no one fits all of those criteria, as far as we know. Of the three "major" candidates, Mary Bregovy was a brunette who died in the Loop, Anna Norkus was only 12 and buried at a different cemetery, and Mary Miskowski actually died in her 40s, not at 19, as the story goes.

To consider any of these candidates, you have to jump to some wide conclusions:

1. That the ghost is real in the first place.
2. That her name is really Mary. Most of the eyewitnesses don't seem to get her name at all. And, even if one of them did, was she giving her real name?

Reading all of these obituaries is really terribly depressing. That the people in charge of the ship were never tried for criminal negligence, after adding tons of cement to the deck, raising the capacity after simply adding more life boats, etc,  is simply shocking (they were only ever tried for conspiracy to run an unsafe ship, of which they were innocent). Yes, I'm familiar with the argument that the ship tipped over because the out-of-control government required it to have too many lifeboats (since the Titanic had just gone down without enough boats, prompting a handful of new regulation), but that theory doesn't hold water with me. The added weight from the boats didn't concern them so much that they didn't add all that cement, and they RAISED the capacity instead of lowering it. The government probably never should have allowed that ship -which was known as fussy both before and after - to be used as a passenger ship at all.

For a whole lot more information and speculation, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Resurrection Mary: Mary Bojacz?

The great scavenger hunt (or wild goose chase) for the true identity of Resurrection Mary, Chicago's famous vanishing hitchhiker, continues. Just to re-iterate, what we're looking for here is a woman, roughly in her late teens, and probably a blonde named Mary, who died circa the 1920s or 30s and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery, most likely after dying in a car wreck, preferably on Archer Avenue. We can be sort of flexible on a number of these, partly because no one has yet been found who meets ALL of these criteria. The closest match is probably Mary Miskowsi, but stories of her death in 1930 have not yet been verified (no record or contemporary news account has been found, though census forms indicate that she was a real person).

Here's a new entrant into the field that I ran across while doing some research this morning: Mrs. Mary Bojacz, who died in 1921 in a tragic accident that claimed 11 victims, many of who were en route to burial service at Resurrection Cemetery.

She's not blonde, and there's really no telling how old she is. The newspaper reports did not list her age, and I can't find any other record of her yet (most likely, Bojacz was not the correct spelling of the name). All we really know about her is that she was married and lived 2658 West 25th Place. This doesn't necessarily mean she's too old to be the ghost, though; one other candidate was a 17 year old bride. She may not have been buried at Resurrection, though the fact that she was going there at the time of her death is an interesting twist.

The accident that claimed her life was one of the most tragic I've seen. Two cars were headed to Resurrection Cemetery, and the car in the back didn't see the California Limited train coming down the Santa De line as it crossed over an unguarded track at 50 miles an hour. Bodies were mangled, and parts of them, including several heads, ended up scattered as far as a mile away down the railroad tracks.  All of this happened so quickly that the the front car made it all the way to the cemetery before it realized that the car behind it was no longer following it. 11 people from the funeral party, including the undertaker, were killed, and three others were injured so badly that their deaths were expected at the time the article was published.  Another man was killed in another train-crossing accident that same day.

Mrs. Bojacz doesn't meet all the requirements for Mary - she's probably too old, and certainly wasn't a blond, but nearly any Mary killed in a tragic wreck who can be associated with Resurrection qualifies as a fringe candidate. Click the "Resurrection Mary" label below for more information on the other candidates, including Anna Norkus, Mary Bregovy (who is also not a blonde) and others. I'll update this posting when we get a better idea of Mary B's age.

For a whole lot more information, check out our Resurrection Mary Roundtable podcast!


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