Tangled into the story of our Flapper Ghost are two other legendary hitchhiking ghosts native to Chicago – “Resurrection Mary” and the vanishing little girl on the CTA bus in Evergreen Park.² Each surely fits into the same puzzle, or should at least be mentioned in the same story, given their obvious affinities and the general tendency of storytelling to spur offshoots with time.
Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski places the sightings of Resurrection Mary at the intersection of Cline and Fifth Avenues near the Calumet River. By this account, she is often seen as a Woman in White, which is yet another obvious motif or archetype that is hard to ignore. According to Adam Selzer in The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City’s Most Famous Haunts, the little girl reported on CTA buses in suburban Evergreen Park is usually glimpsed around 95th street.
With more than one legendary vanishing hitchhiker in the region, one has to stop and wonder whether these cases are related, the same, or are well-engrained motifs in local ghost lore.
Fortunately, there are some major differences to consider that separate the accounts; either proving that the story deviated at some point into separate paths, or they were indeed separate occurrences from the start.
Let’s first consider the general description of Resurrection Mary in the words of Selzer, in search of similarities and differences.
“Some have described giving Mary a ride home, only to have her jump from the car and run up to the gates of the cemetery and vanish… but more often, she’s said to vanish out of the car altogether, leading the confused driver to run into the nearby tavern, Chet’s Melody Lounge, to tell his story.”
Later on in the footnotes of the same passage, Selzer reveals another interesting anecdote about our Flapper: “The flapper is usually said to look for rides at the old Melody Mill club…but my own investigation indicates that the Waldheim flapper and the Melody Mill hitchhiker probably weren’t the same ghost; surviving accounts of the Melody Mill story say their hitcher went to Wood Lawn Cemetery, not Waldheim.”
With all of the cases on the table, it’s a lot to digest. Clearly there are multiple stories happening at once under different names and then even within the established cases of the Flapper Girl and Resurrection Mary, there are yet more variants to untangle.
At the end of the day, there are enough inherent similarities between the Waldheim ghost, the Wood Lawn Cemetery ghost and Resurrection Mary that ignoring them would be negligible. Yet the differences – vanishing from the car versus running up to the graveyard (Mary versus the flapper), deviations in where they are picked up (Mary versus CTA versus Flapper), taking drivers to Waldheim versus Wood Lawn (variants of the Flapper) and also physical descriptions of a brunette Flapper girl versus a (sometimes) blonde Woman in White – are also hard to discount.
Selzer does throw the same caution to the wind, noticing the obvious folkloric undercurrents by pointing to a 1942 California Folklore Quarterly article written by Richard Beardsley and Rosalie Hankey that identifies the central motifs and variations to the “vanishing hitchhiker” narrative (see page 183 of his book). Here he is speaking to Resurrection Mary, and ultimately admits that she doesn’t “fit into these categories very well.”
In all instances, there is enough evidence drawing the accounts together and pulling them apart that it is easy to argue on either side of the fence. Certainly a short article is no place to weigh all of the evidence as there are enough accounts and evidence to fill dozens of books on the subject (which others well-versed on the subject certainly have).
Nonetheless, the stories are each compelling enough to last the test of time and continue along, thanks to the right mix of occasional eyewitness testimony, historical testimony and a general ‘creep-factor’ to stay relevant when discussing Chicago ghosts.
Ripples through Time
The Roaring Twenties are earmarked by tumultuous cultural change and the shedding of generations-old moral and cultural norms in the aftershock of WWI. With our men at arms coming home in lockstep with war-hardened women in stride, the “Bright Young Things” of the 1920s left a searing mark on the collective memory of America as their dress, customs, wild appetite for partying and blatant disregard for gender stereotypes shattered imposed boundaries to pieces.
Perhaps, in the end, this helps to explain the continued interest surrounding the Flapper Ghost and the mystery that defines her.
© Legends Of America, Marlon Heimerl – August 2013
About the Author: Marlon Heimerl is a writer and paranormal researcher for HalloweenCostumes.com.
2. Selzer, Adam. (2013) The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City’s Most Famous Haunts.