Tag Archives: modernism

Cemetery of the Week #170: Resurrection Cemetery

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.48.28 PM

By MrHarman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18595013

Resurrection Cemetery
7201 Archer Road
Justice, Illinois 60458
(708) 458-4770
Established: 1904
Size: 540 acres
Number of interments: approximately 158,000
Open: everyday 8 am to 7 pm

On the outskirts of Chicago, in Justice, Illinois, lies the massive Resurrection Cemetery.  It’s the home of Resurrection Mary.

In the early 1930s, blue-eyed Mary had gone dancing with her boyfriend at the Oh Henry ballroom. After they argued, Mary decided to walk home and cool off.  On her way, she was stuck and killed by a car on Archer Avenue. The driver, who fled the scene, was never found.

The first reported sighting of Mary’s ghost was in 1939. Jerry Palus danced with a pretty blond girl, who didn’t talk much, at the Oh Henry Ballroom (named for the candy bar), three miles southwest of the cemetery in Willow Springs. At the end of the evening, Jerry offered her a ride home. On the way to the address she had given him, she vanished from the car.

The next day, when Jerry stopped at the address Mary had given him, her parents told him she had been dead several years.

More than two dozen people have picked Mary up as she walked along Archer Drive. Sometimes she dematerializes from the car as it passes the cemetery.  Other times she gets agitated and demands to be let out.  Or she flings open her door and races toward the graveyard, vanishing when she reaches the locked iron gate.  Sometimes she’s seen on the other side of the fence, walking toward her grave.

If the driver didn’t stop to pick her up, sometimes she’d jump onto the running board. Other times she would run out into the street to flag the car down. More than once, she’s thrown herself into the path of the oncoming car. The driver would feel and hear the collision, but when he went back to help, the body had vanished. People have been seeing a blond girl in a long white dress hitchhike for more than 60 years.

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.57.00 PM

Lakersnbulls91 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sightings tapered off in the 1960s.  Then on August 10, 1976, the local police got a phone call from a passing motorist who had seen a pale young woman trapped inside the the cemetery.  When the cop showed up to investigate, the cemetery was empty.  But the center bars of the fence were bent about waist high. A series of indentations, spaced inches apart, looked like fingerprints. The cemetery claimed that a maintenance truck had backed into the fence and bent it, then a repairman had tried to straighten the bars with an acetylene torch. No one bought that explanation.

Graveyards of Chicago says, “Though the cemetery administration had the bars removed and repaired, it is said that the damaged areas will not take paint.”

The free-wheeling phantom known as Resurrection Mary has been traced to a half dozen occupants of this cemetery, all young accident victims buried in the 1920s and 30s. Not all of them named were Mary. The Midnight Society has a really good rundown.

Resurrection Cemetery itself has been described as “sparse, rural, and vast.”  However, it’s dominated by the Resurrection Mausoleum, a New Formalist white concrete building that dates to 1969. The building has walls made of dalle de verre stained glass — the largest glass installation in the world.

The glass tells the story of the bible, starting with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden on into the modern day.  It ends with satellite dishes, jet planes, and a mushroom cloud.

That frightens me more than a hitchhiking ghost.

Please check out the stained glass photos here: https://chicagomodern.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/a-treasure-trove-of-20th-century-art-resurrection-cemetery-mausoleum/

Useful links:
Resurrection Cemetery’s website: http://www.catholiccemeterieschicago.org/Locations/Details/Resurrection

On Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/107652/resurrection-catholic-cemetery-and-mausoleums

Ghost Research Society report: http://www.ghostresearch.org/sites/resurrection.html

Other Illinois cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #36: Rosehill Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #89: Oak Ridge Cemetery

A provocative exploration of houses for the dead

Monument Builders: Modern Architecture and Death (Academy Builders)Monument Builders: Modern Architecture and Death by Edwin Heathcote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit I was so intimidated by this book that I didn’t crack the cover for months after it was given to me. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not a big fan of modern mausoleums; my taste in grave monuments runs more to Victorian angels. Despite that, this book has taught me more than any cemetery book I’ve read in a long while. Don’t let the title put you off.

Heathcote’s “introduction” to the book spans 73 pages and gives a thorough background on the architecture of death. He continually introduces theories that had me setting the book aside to give them due consideration. The first appears in paragraph two of the preface: “The first substantial houses were the dwelling places of the dead.” I’m not entirely convinced that is true, but it’s certainly provocative. He also posits that our thirst for ghost stories and haunted houses is attributable to “the absence of a physical place of death in our culture.” Mortuary architecture, he suggests, could help fill that void.

Beginning with the necropolises of antiquity, Heathcote’s introduction summarizes burial in churches, museums as monuments to the dead, Piranesi’s fabulous engravings, Père-Lachaise Cemetery, World War I memorials, and culminates in the impossibility of memorializing the Holocaust. Like the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, anything less than Auschwitz itself trivializes the enormity of the evil done. That said, he discusses Yad Vashem in Israel and the Memorial to the Deportation in Paris. His thoughts on why the architecture succeeds in those places were mind-expanding.

Heathcote also writes about cremation at some length, because architects have tried repeatedly, with varying success, to design crematoriums as a new vernacular to express the possibilities of architecture to comfort and give hope. I found this section particularly interesting because my only experience with a crematorium took place in a featureless warehouse. Apparently in Europe, they treat their dead better.

Heathcote’s knowledge seems encyclopedic, spanning time and crossing the globe. Although he does occasionally lapse into architectural jargon (a glossary would have been hugely helpful), the book was so crammed with things I could understand that I recommend it wholeheartedly.

The remaining 150 pages document mausoleums, chapels, and crematoriums around the world. Starting with Gunnar Asplund’s Nordic-style Woodland Chapel, Heathcote ranges across the world to Ishimoto’s Tone Complex (which calls to mind Terry Gilliam’s Brazil), from Maya Lin’s stark Vietnam Memorial to the cantilevered bronze monument to Federico Fellini, from Imre Makovecz’s Farkasret Mortuary Chapel in Budapest where the ceiling was designed to look like a ribcage surrounding a bier where the heart should be (Heathcote likens it to Pinocchio) to Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Necropolis Extension in Italy, which looks like a scar carved into the ground.

The photographs of most of the monuments are adequate, but Ove Hidemark’s Chapel of Light is exquisitely captured, as are the points of light flickering inside the Children’s Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Even though this looks from the outside to be a coffee table book, it’s a reference work I intend to keep safely close to hand.

Get your own copy here: Monument Builders: Modern Architecture and Death

View all my reviews on Goodreads.