I have to admit, dear readers, that I know that I have failed you.
I’ve written on the phantom hitchhiker archetype as it relates to American folklore at least twice, but it should not have taken me three years to finally write about the grandmother of all phantom hitchhikers in the US-Resurrection Mary.
Resurrection Mary is most likely not the oldest phantom hitchhiker in American folklore-the story only dates in its modern, popular form to the 1930s. That date definitely does not put it anywhere near the oldest stories of this type around the world (I believe the oldest that I’ve heard reference to involves chariots).
The legend is pretty typical for American hitchhiking ghosts [or maybe prototypical, because it may be hard to take apart what are organic developments and what are legends taken from Chicago and transplanted elsewhere]. The story goes like this: male drivers have reported picking up a pale, pretty blond with blue eyes dressed in white. She asks for a ride home-but never makes it there. By the time they reach her address, she has disappeared from the car. Sometimes she gets out of the car, but then disappears faster than possible.
The clincher? The address is always Resurrection Cemetery in Justice.
One of the earliest published claims of the story is dated to 1939. The story states that Mary was walking home from dancing at the O’Henry Ballroom, when she was struck and killed on Archer Avenue. Her parents buried her in Resurrection Cemetery-where she seems to keep returning. However, that story actually differs in that it’s not the O’Henry that she’s returning from-but the O’Henry is the traditional club cited in the story. It seems that Mary is keeping up with the times because the club that she is picked up seems to shift as bars open and close. Published sightings seem to date as late as 1989 but the legend is alive enough that the story still circulates online.
The 1970s were a particularly active period for sightings-which some of them sounding absolutely terrifying for the witnesses. In one story, Mary was hit again-only to disappear as the car hit her. In 1976 she was hit again; the police were called for a hit and run in which the driver reported that the body had simply vanished. Mary also seems to be willing to be seen by groups; in 1980 she was seen by multiple people along Archer Avenue.
I can’t imagine being stuck in an afterlife where I kept being hit by a car.