March 10, 1934
Mary Bregovy dies in a car crash, eventually becoming associated with a local legend of Resurrection Mary
On March 10, 1934, Mary Bregovy (referred to as “Marie” in contemporary newspaper articles), was traveling with three companions when driver John Reiner lost control of his vehicle and struck an elevated structure at the intersection of Lake Street and Walker Drive in Chicago. The crash killed Bregovy (who was either 21 according to the Chicago Tribune or 17 according to her funeral home records), left Reiner (23) in serious condition with a skull fracture, and caused passengers Virginia Rozanski (22) and John Thoel (25) to be “severely shaken up and scratched.” Later accounts added an extra detail suggesting Bregovy was on her way to a dance hall and was dressed accordingly in a flowy gown and dance shoes. She was rumored to have been buried in Resurrection Cemetery wearing the same dress and shoes. Reporter Elizabeth Williamson, however, noted the location of the fatal crash makes it unlikely Bregovy and company were en route to a dance hall.
The first recorded sighting of the spirit later dubbed Resurrection Mary occurred in 1936, two years after Mary Bregovy’s death. Jerry Palus had spent the evening dancing with a woman at the Liberty Grove Hall in Chicago, and at the conclusion of the night offered the young woman a ride home. She accepted. The woman directed Palus to Archer Avenue toward Resurrection Cemetery and abruptly asked him to pull over once he approached the graveyard, explaining she could go no further. Palus pulled over as instructed, the woman exited the vehicle, and disappeared as she approached the gates.
As time went on, people began to see the specter of a young woman of about 18 to 19 years of age clad in a long, flowing white dress with billowing, champagne-colored hair. The woman would either dance with a partner for the evening and disappear at the dance hall, ask for a ride home after dancing, or appear on the side of the road while hitchhiking. She rarely appears to women, and the hitchhiking version of the ghost often mysteriously vanishes when the driver approaches Resurrection Cemetery where Bregovy’s body rests.
The visage of Resurrection Mary differs greatly from Bregovy, however, whose short, dark hair is the inverse of the long, flowing blonde hair of the spirit. Because of this striking difference in appearances, some have suggested that perhaps Bregovy and Resurrection Mary are not one and the same. As such, other nominees for the earthly tether to Resurrection Mary’s essence have been suggested. One possibility suggested is Mary Miskowski who apparently was killed as she walked across the street on her way to a Halloween party in the 1930s. I could find no records of graves, death certificates, or newspaper articles during those years for a person by that name, however. And apparently, I am not alone. According to Chicago historian Adam Selzer, no historian or ghost hunter has been able to find Miskowski’s death record or evidence of any woman being killed in a car accident on Halloween in the ‘30s.
Another candidate is Anna Norkus, who went by the name Mary, and was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 12. Anna and her father August Norkus had been on their way to a dancehall. Shortly after passing Resurrection Cemetery, the Norkus’ vehicle plummeted over an unmarked 25-foot railway cut, killing Anna instantly. August and the other four occupants of the automobile were injured in the incident. With yet another possibility, historical researcher Richard Crowe traced the human form of Resurrection Mary to a young woman who died of tuberculosis in 1928.
Selzer notes there are dozens of women buried in Resurrection Cemetery who died in their late teens or early 20s, between 1910 and 1935, who share the name Mary. And, as Crowe has admitted, if the spirit indeed exists, there may be more than one Resurrection Mary haunting the streets of Chicago.
The Resurrection Mary story was one of five ghost stories featured in the second issue of Demongrapher, a monthly zine which is currently available to all Patreon patrons beginning at the US$1 tier. To read this issue, other past issues, and to have access to upcoming issues, please consider becoming at patron of Horror History!
Mary Bregovy in the Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 (archived: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2542&h=1775145&tid=&pid=&queryId=f02cf2a369f9982b5832335094c09c87&usePUB=true&_phsrc=xCg1&_phstart=successSource)
McClelland, Edward. “Meet Resurrection Mary, the ghost of Archer Avenue.” Chicago Reader. June 26, 2018. Accessed: October 6, 2020. https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/resurrection-mary-ghost-story/Content?oid=51326055
Selzer, Adam. Three Terrifying Tales From Chicago. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2012
Bielski, Ursula. Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 1998
Williamson, Elizabeth. “Deathly dancer.” Chicago Tribune. October 25, 1992
Renkor, Betty. “Here Are Some Ghost Stories People Really Believe In…” Star Herald [Tinley Park, Illinois]. October 29, 1978
“Killed in Crash.” Chicago Daily Tribune. March 12, 1934
“Girl Killed in Crash.” Chicago Daily Tribune. March 11, 1934
“Girl Is Killed, 5 Hurt As Auto Falls In Ditch.” Chicago Daily Tribune. July 21, 1927