Counted among the Windy City’s premier burial grounds, Rosehill Cemetery, at 5800 N. Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, sprawls over 350 acres and is the final resting place for over 55,000 of the city’s former residents, including several mayors. At least four Congressional Medal of Honor winners are buried here: George Kretsinger, Peter O’Brien, William George Stephens, and James Curtis Watson.
Rosehill’s neoclassical mausoleum, the largest in Chicago, was designed by Sidney Lovell and opened in 1914. Four marble Doric columns distinguish its main entrance, and its floors are made from Italian marble. Department store tycoons Aaron Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears are interred inside, as well as Illinois Governor Richard B. Ogilvie.
Books about Illinois ghostlore have become a “copy and paste” industry, and literally dozens of paperbacks devoid of original content line the shelves. That cannot be said for The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City’s Most Famous Haunts by Adam Selzer. Published by Llewellyn Publications in 2013, The Ghosts of Chicago is a necessary addition to any collection of books on Chicago ghostlore. It retails for $18.50 and is 340 pages in length.
“Professional ghost hunter and historian Adam Selzer
pieces together the truth behind Chicago’s ghosts, and brings to light
dozens of never-before-told firsthand accounts,” the cover promises.
Selzer delivers on this promise, not necessarily by adding new locations
to our catalog of tales, but by greatly expanding our understanding of
well-known stories. That is what makes The Ghosts of Chicago so great—it takes on a simple task and does it better than it has been done for nearly a decade.
Two examples of this are the chapters on Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and Resurrection Mary. Both are obligatory inclusions in any book about Chicago ghostlore, and you would think not much more could be written about them. Selzer pushes the stories beyond their usual retelling, however.
In the chapter on Bachelor’s Grove, for example, he goes into detail about the famous “ghost photo” of the lady dressed in white sitting on a broken headstone. Unlike most other accounts, he explains the who, when, and how of the photograph—giving credit to the photographer and telling her story.
Monument to William Kimball (1828-1904) in Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. Kimball made a fortune in real estate, but his passion was making pianos and pipe organs. Chicago’s Kimball Avenue is named after him.
Established in 1860 by Thomas Bryan, Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, is the city’s premier burial ground. Approximately 45,000 people are interred in these 121 acres, including many of Chicago’s most prominent former citizens, including Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman, John Altgeld, and Allan Pinkerton.
This lovely neoclassical bronze monument is dedicated to department store mogul Marshall Field (1834-1906). Field rose from farmer’s son to wealthiest man in Chicago when he got into the merchandising business and eventually established Marshall Field and Company. Marshall Field and John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1890. The statue of a sitting woman holding oak leaves (symbolizing courage), called “Memory”, was designed by architect Henry Bacon and sculptor Daniel Chester French.
This Granite knight, designed by Lorado Taft and called “Crusader”, commemorates Victor Fremont Lawson (1850-1920), Norwegian-American publisher of the Chicago Daily News. Lawson ran the Daily News for 29 years. His monument is unmarked, except for the epitaph: “Above al things truth beareth away the victory.”
Resurrection Mary is undoubtedly Chicagoland’s most famous ghost, hitching rides from unsuspecting commuters in the southwest suburbs for decades. Folklorists and ghost enthusiasts alike claim that Mary’s story dates back to the 1930s, when the ghost of a burgeoning Polish girl was first seen along Archer Avenue near Resurrection Cemetery. According to Kenan Heise, who would later go on to write a novel about the ghost, “she is a minor cult, a shared belief and an initiation rite for teenagers. When you learn to drive… you test the myth’s reality.”
Richard Crowe originally popularized the story in the 1970s, when he began collecting firsthand accounts and theorized that the real- life Mary had perished in a car accident in the early 1930s. “Mary supposedly was killed in a car wreck 40 years ago, and she’s been coming back and going dancing ever since,” he remarked in a May 13, 1974 article in the Chicago Tribune. Later, he elaborated that the sightings usually occurred around 1:30am.
In July 1979, the Tribune published a letter that claimed the last time the ghost of Mary had been seen was in August 1976 or ‘77, by two policemen near the gate of Resurrection Cemetery. That anonymous writer was probably referring to the most intriguing event of all related to this saga: the night that Mary left physical evidence behind.
Although most accounts of the incident vaguely refer to a “man” or “someone” at “sometime” having seen a woman in white clasping the bars of the cemetery gate, Richard Crowe revealed that the man in question was none other than Pat Homa, a Justice police officer who had responded to a trespassing call the night of August 10, 1976 and discovered two of the bars burnt and bent irregularly, with what looked like finger impressions melted into the bronze.
Compared to Chicagoland’s more notorious haunts, Evanston’s Calvary Cemetery is barely a footnote, yet it is not so obscure as to escape the pages of most books on Chicago and Illinois ghost lore. This picturesque resting ground along the shore of Lake Michigan is home to a tale too strange to resist even brief mention. It is the tale of “the Aviator,” or as he is sometimes affectionately known, “Seaweed Charlie.”
The Aviator’s ghost story appears in Ursula Bielski’s Chicago Haunts (1998), Jo-Anne Christensen’s Ghost Stories of Illinois (2000), Richard T. Crowe’s Chicago’s Street Guide to the Supernatural (2000, 2001), and Troy Taylor’s Haunted Illinois (2004).
Richard T. Crowe, as always, has done impeccable research on the tale and found its likely origin in a real event. Unlike most hauntings, that would make the story of Evanston’s “Aviator” grounded in historical fact as well as geography and folklore.
The story begins along Sheridan Road between Lake Michigan and the eastern gate of Calvary Cemetery. During the day, there is hardly ever a break in traffic and bicyclists and joggers navigate the winding path along the boulders overlooking the lake. It is a charming scene.