Photo by Joe Boyle
Author Ursula BIelski holds a brick that she said was part of the warehouse wall in which the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place in 1929 on Chicago’s North Side.
Ursula Bielski always enjoyed a good ghost story, a tradition that was passed on to her by her father and other relatives.
Bielski, author, historian and parapsychologist, shared some of those stories and reported sightings of ghosts before 90 people at the Green Hills Library in Palos Hills on Oct. 3. She is the author of several books including “Chicago Haunts,” “More Chicago Haunts” and “Graveyards of Chicago.” Her father was a Chicago police lieutenant. She even believes her old home was haunted.
She grew up on Chicago’s North Side but did admit a preference as she spoke to the large audience.
“I was fascinated by the South Side of Chicago. I realized that’s where the best ghost stories are,” she said.
Bielski then passed along details of Resurrection Mary. Different stories attributed to Resurrection Mary date back to the 1930s and 1920s.
Stories of a young woman dressed in a white dress hitchhiking alongside Archer Avenue near the cemetery have been told over the years. According to folklore, the young girl has been picked up by drivers and does not engage in any conversation. Some of these drivers reported that she just disappears. According to Bielski, stories have her entering vehicles only to later open the passenger door and run to the entrance gates of Resurrection Cemetery along Archer Avenue and disappear.
A report on Resurrection Mary appeared on “It’s Incredible” on ABC-TV in the 1980s. During that program, a man driving in from Summit reported that he did pick up a young woman hitchhiking along Archer Avenue in Justice. She suddenly opened the passenger door and she races toward the cemetery gates and disappeared. Bielski relates another segment from that show in which a truck driver reported seeing a young woman clutching the cemetery gates. The truck driver stopped his vehicle and arrived at the gate, but the young woman dressed in white seemingly vanished.
The truck driver then drove to the Justice police station. He returned with a Justice police officer, who examined the gates. According to the program, portions of the gates were burned and the small fingerprints were visible. The truck driver and Justice police officer reported seeing the burned gates and fingerprints. Bielski said the gates had been replaced several times only to have the burned indentations continuously reappear. Five years, ago, the gates were sprayed gold, BIelski said.
The identity of Resurrection Mary has narrowed down to two young women, Bielski said. Mary Bregovy was from Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She had been dancing at the O Henry Ballroom (which became the Willowbrook Ballroom in 1959) that evening in 1934 and was later killed in a car crash on Lake Street and Wacker Drive. According to Bielski, some of Mary’s friends said they had seen her after she died along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery.
Anna Norkus, 12, lived in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood and went out dancing one evening on July 20, 1927. She was accompanied by her father, relatives and friends. Unfortunately, according to Bielski, the adults drank too much that night. She died in a car crash after leaving the dance. Many believe that she is Resurrection Mary, Bielski said.
Bielski is also fascinated with the old Bachelors Grove cemetery. Her latest book is titled “Haunted Bachelors Grove.” The cemetery is located just off 143rd Street in Rubio Woods between Ridgeland Avenue on the west and Central Avenue on the east. Bielski had taken a tour of the old cemetery grounds. She returned another night at the suggestion of a friend, who had links to the cemetery.
Now BIelski admits that since this is part of the Cook County Forest Preserves, it is closed at night. She told the audience that they should not enter the grounds in the evening. But in a sense of adventure, she traveled through the cemetery grounds with her friend on a sweltering night. Bielski said they saw a mysterious set of lights that they could not tell where it originated from. The two got lost when they tried to retrace their steps and took over four hours to leave.
“My friend knows every inch of that cemetery but could not explain how we got lost,” said Bielski.
Bielski had also received reports of other people seeing bright lights that could not be accounted for and those travelers also became lost for hours.
“I have never been so scared in my life,” said Bielski, who said the spirit that haunts Bachelors Grove is malicious.
Even the notorious Al Capone was not immune to ghostly visits, said Bielski. Legend has it that Capone complained to guards while he was in prison that he was visited by Jimmy Clark, the brother-in-law of his nemesis, Bugs Moran. Clark was murdered in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Chicago’s North Side in 1929. Moran was one of the intended targets but he did not accompany members of his gang who were killed that day. Capone reportedly wanted Moran eliminated. Bielski showed the audience a brick that she said was once part of the since demolished building where the murders took place.
Bielski said Chicago’s North Side has its share of supernatural tales including Lincoln Park Zoo, which she said is haunted due to the fact that this was a cemetery before the Great Fire of 1871. She recalls one story in 1933 in which a Chicago cabdriver picked up an elderly nun who he took to Columbus Hospital. As the nun entered the building, she left a Bible in the back seat. The driver took the Bible and entered the hospital looking for the nun.
A group of sisters greeted him and seemed to know who the nun was. They told him that she is St. Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded their order and the hospital. They informed the cabdriver that she is dead but this happens all the time.