Date: October 28, 2008 05:23AM
It's Halloween time, and though I don't really get into the whole Chicago ghost hunter thing, I do have some interest since I am a local historian and researcher. I while back I came across a book on Chicago haunts by Ursula Bielski that mentioned a new discovery on Resurrection Mary. I've tried to contact her through E-mail, but have yet to get a response. In any case, I have a few ghost cases that I want to suck the wind out of. No - I don't really make it my practice to debunk stuff like this, but I would like to get this information out there to people like you all who care about local history, and perhaps set the record straight - well a bit anyway.
Ursula wrote an article on the web stating in summation that Ressurection Mary is the ghost of 12-year-old Anna Norkus. The connection of Anna Norkus to Resurrection Mary was solidified through the rigorous research of Frank Andrejasich of Summit, Illinois. Frank had written Ursula a letter in 1997 that explained his version of Anna Norkus' fate, and eventually they met personally and Frank relayed his research that went into Ursula's Chicago Haunts book. . The following text is taken in part form the article written by Ursula Bielski on the www.ghostvillage.com web page.
<I>"In August of 1994, Andrejasich's brother had sent Frank a newspaper clipping telling the tale of Resurrection Mary, and, asking around at coffee after Mass one Sunday, Frank found that there were many local versions of the famous tale -- and many "candidates" for the role -- especially at his own St. Joseph parish, in the heart of Resurrection Mary country. Andrejasich was startled by the prevalence of the story in local memory -- and by the opinionated responses to his often-asked question: who was she? As it turned out, one of Frank's church buddies was a man named Jake Palus, who turned out to be the younger brother of the now-infamous Jerry Palus. Jerry is believed by many hard-core Mary researchers to have been the phantom's first encounter; till the day he died, Jerry claimed to have danced with her "all night" in 1936 at the old Liberty Grove and Hall ballroom on 47th street, in the storied Brighton Park neighborhood.
After pondering the variety of accounts, combing early editions of the local papers, and checking with funeral directors and cemetery managers, Andrejasich came to believe that the ghost known as Resurrection Mary is the spiritual counterpart of the youngest of all the candidates: a 12-year-old girl named, surprisingly, Anna Norkus. Born in Cicero, Illinois in 1914, Norkus was given the name of Ona, Lithuanian for Anna. By the time she neared her teenage years, Anna had grown into a vivacious girl. Blonde and slim, she loved to dance, and it was her relentless begging that convinced her father, August, Sr., to take her to a dancehall for her 13th birthday. On the evening of July 20, 1927, father and daughter set out from their Chicago home at 5421 S. Neva for the famous O Henry Ballroom, accompanied by August's friend, William Weisner, and Weisner's date. On their drive home, at approximately 1:30 a.m., the travelers passed Resurrection Cemetery via Archer Avenue, turning east on 71st Street and then north on Harlem to 67th Street. There, the car careened and dropped into an unseen, 25-foot-deep railroad cut. Anna was killed instantly.
After the accident, her father, August Norkus was subject to devastating verbal abuse, even being told that Anna's death had been God's punishment for allowing the girl to go dancing at such a young age. In reality, the blame rested with the Chicago Streets Department, who had failed to post warning signs at the site of the cut. In fact, another death, that of Adam Levinsky, occurred at the same site the night after Anna's demise.
Between July 28th and September 29th, an inquest was held at Sobiesk's mortuary in adjacent Argo. Heading up the five sessions was Deputy Coroner Dedrich, the case reviewed by six jurors. The DesPlaines Valley News carried the story of the inquest.
Mary Nagode described to cousin Frank Andrejasich the sad procession that left the Norkus home on a certain Friday morning: First in line was Anna's older sister Sophie, followed by her older brother August, Jr. The pastor, altar boys, and a four-piece brass band preceded the casket, borne on a flatbed wagon with pallbearers on each side. Relatives and friends followed the grim parade for three blocks to the doors of St. Joseph's in Summit, where Anna had made her first communion only a year before.
Anna was scheduled for burial in one of three newly-purchased family lots at St. Casimir Cemetery, and it is here where Andrejasich found the "if" that may have led to an infamous afterlife for Anna : as the world-famous Resurrection Mary, or as Anna called herself, Marija.
Andrejasich discovered that, at the time of Anna's death, a man named Al Churas Jr., lived across the road from the gates of Resurrection Cemetery, in a large brick bungalow that was recently torn down as part of a subdivision development. Al's father was in charge of the gravediggers and was given the house to live in as part of his pay. In the mid-1920s, gravedigging was hard, manual labor, rewarded with low pay. Strikes were common. As Resurrection was one of the main Chicago cemeteries, the elder Churas was often sent to the cemeteries of striking gravediggers to secure the bodies of the unburied. Returning to Resurrection with a corpse in a wooden box, Churas' duty was to bury it temporarily until the strike ended and the body could be permanently interred in the proper lot. Because of poor coffin construction and the lack of refrigeration, a body could not be kept long, except in the ground. If the strike dragged on, identification at the time of relocation could be gruesomely difficult. Thus, reasons Andrejasich, if the workers at St. Casimir were striking on that July morning in 1927, it is quite possible that young Anna Norkus was silently whisked to a temporary interment at Resurrection, and that a rapid decomposition rendered her unidentifiable at the time of exhumation. The result? A mislaid corpse and a most restless eternity, if only one is willing to believe." </I>
Now there are a lot of issues with this story. First off, one would not drive north on Harlem from 71st in 1927, because it did not go through. And if it did, why would someone living on the 5400 block of Neva take 71st street home from Willow Springs anyway. Harlem avenue north of 63rd street and 63rd street east into Clearing was closed for sewer and water main work. This is what really happened as printed in the DesPlaines Valley News. I consolidated it a bit as it stretched over a few issues.
July 21st 1927 – Car accident takes life of 13 year old girl as car rolls over into old abandoned cut. A thirteen-year old girl was killed and five other members of an automobile party were injured, one perhaps fatally, last night, when in making a detour on Harlem avenue at 63rd street near the Community High School on their way to Clearing their machine ran into an old abandoned railroad cut and rolled over and over to the bottom. The dead girl is Anna Norkus, 5421 S. Neva, Archer Limits, who was crushed under the car and who was dead when taken out. Adam Levinski, 58 years old is at the Archer hospital with a badly fractured pelvis and with possible internal injuries. While the injury may prove fatal the physicians at the hospital say he has a good chance for recovery. August Norkus, father of the dead girl, incurred a broken colar bone which was set at the hospital. William Weisner and two girls Sophie Norkus, 16 years old and Loretta Gwozdz, 14, suffered minor injuries. All were treated at the Archer Hospital, Weisner staying over night and the girls being sent home. August Norkus and his two daughters were on their way with the others in Weisner's car to give bond for a man who had been arrested in Clearing. They came from the limits via Archer avenue to 63rd street, which was closed for the laying of water mains and sewer, and at Harlem they attempted to detour by riding south to 65th street. Passing 65th street in the darkness they ran into the old abandond cut, and at its edge their machine struck the guy wire of a telegraph pole so that it turned over and plunged down top first. Having passed 65th street the prarie flattens out into a smooth plateau and a few hundred feet farther on comes a steep drop as from a table’s edge to an old abandinded railroad cut, 25 feet deep. Summit police and County Highway Police and a number of volunteers were attracted to the scene and rescued the injured persons from the wrecked car. The body of the girl victim was taken to the mortuary of George A. Sobiesk whose ambulance had been called. An inquest was set for this afternoon. Mr. Sobiesk also will have charge of the funeral.
July 28th 1927 -Action was taken at the inquest held Thursday and Friday of last week at the Sobiesk mortuary in Argo to establish responsibility for the “death trap” at the 63rd and Harlem detour which on Wednesday night caused the immediate death of a young girl and the death on the following day of a man from Archer Limits. The girl victim was Anna Norkus and the man Adam Levinski, the latter passing away at Archer Hospital. Anna Norkus, a pupil of St. Joseph’s school, who had met with an instantaneous death at Harlem avenue and 66th street, when the automobile in which she was riding plunged into a deep pit, was buried from St. Joseph’s church Friday at 9 am. Burial took place at St. Casimir’s Lithuanian cemetery. The pastor, Rev Joseph A. Sehnke, celebrated the requiem high mass and preached the sermon in the church. The remains were escorted to the church and accompanied to the cemetery by the pastor and altar boys. May her soul rest in peace. The funeral was in charge of George Sobiesk.
Poor Mr. Andrejasich - he got the wrong Mary here!