Resurrection Mary

 

His name was Vince. By day he worked as a mild mannered bookkeeper for the infamous Chicago Stockyards — those that fueled the meat packing industry and gave us the name “Hog Butcher To The World.”  Vince, however, liked to reassure people he worked “Nowhere near the slaughter houses.” But most of the time he figured it was best to not mention his place of employment at all. Especially in polite conversation, when he hoped to make acquaintances with young ladies…  Which was his exact intention one spring evening in 1939 when he cruised out to the Oh Henry Ballroom.

A fan of the big bands,  Vince loved nothing more than to patronize Chicago’s many dance halls, tap a toe, and if he was lucky, get a pretty girl to dance with him.

And so, nothing was so very strange about that one Saturday night when a restless Vince slicked his hair with Bryl Cream, put on his best double breasted suit, and headed out to his favorite  jitterbugging joint. The Oh Henry Ballroom was located in the suburb of Justice, Illinois, just southwest of Chicago on Archer Avenue.

Vince spent a while grooving to the music and drinking Cuba Libres (rum and cokes) before he spotted one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. She was wispy and ethereal, what Vince would call “a real looker,” a blue eyed blonde dressed in a white ball gown and fancy silver dancing shoes.

Vince could not resist. He approached her, and, wanting to appear cool, said as casually as he could manage: “Hey, it ain’t right to stand still for Count Basie. Why don’t we cut a rug on this one?”

The girl agreed. The couple danced to a few loud, fast numbers. When the band took a break, Vince began a conversation. He found out her name was Mary and she lived in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago’s south side, somewhere near south Damon Avenue. Vince was from the same neighborhood.

The band played a slow, romantic ballad and the couple danced cheek to cheek. It was then that Vince noticed that Mary’s hands were cold and her skin brittle. Much colder and more brittle than they should have been, for Mary could not have been more than twenty or twenty one years old.

Vince sensed that she seemed self conscious as he cringed at her cold skin, so he made a joke. “You know what they say? Cold hands means  a warm heart.”

Mary smiled. The couple spent the rest of the night dancing together and when the ballroom closed, Vince offered her a ride home.

Mary gave Vince her exact address on south Damon. Vince knew the neighborhood well. A straight shot down Archer Avenue, not a bit out of his way. However, on the ride home something strange happened.

Vince was driving down Archer when they passed Resurrection Cemetery, the graveyard of Chicago’s Polish community. Mary insisted that Vince stop the car there.  Vince was baffled, but, not wanting to upset her, he complied. Mary opened the door, and stepped out of the car.

She looked at Vince, her eerie ice blue eyes piercing.

“I have to go now. You can’t follow me, so don’t try.”

With that, she turned and walked up to the cemetery gates. She put one hand upon the iron chain that bound the gates together. She then disappeared.

At this point the dumbfounded Vince began to wonder if someone had slipped a mickey into his Cuba Libres. He was terrified, but determined to solve this mystery. Not only was there the weirdness of her disappearing, but since she had danced with him all evening, Vince had an optimistic hope of beginning a relationship with this lovely girl.

Vince spent the rest of the night driving his Chevy up and down Archer Avenue, looking for a blond girl in a white dress. He drove until dawn, and then, when the cemetery gates opened, he entered. There, among the cement angels and monuments engraved with a variety of old world names like Barankowski, Ignasiak and Janulewicz, he explored.

The morning sun reddened his sleepless eyes. The Bryl Cream of the night before had lost its effect and Vince wandered, hair falling on his face, clothes disheveled and stubble of a beard now sprouting on his cheeks.

There was no sign of Mary.

Vince decided to drive to the address Mary had given him.

He drove to south Damon Avenue and parked the car. The street was a chain of near identical brick bungalows separated by narrow concrete gangways. Only the porch and lawn decorations differentiated the houses – American flags, statues of the Virgin Mary, velvet portraits of an all seeing Jesus whose eyes seemed to follow him as he walked up the street.

Finally he came to Mary’s “house”. He rang the doorbell.

The woman who answered looked (as you may have guessed) like an older version of Mary. Her mother! That, of course made perfect sense. Vince would introduce himself as politely as possible and inquire after the daughter, who no doubt had somehow made it home by now.

“Is Mary home?” Vince asked.

The woman stood silent for a few moments, then a look of fresh grief spread across her face. “Mary doesn’t live her anymore,” she said.

“She… She doesn’t?”

The woman took a deep breath. “My daughter Mary died in a car accident four years ago. Who are you?”

Vince, who feared for his own sanity as well as his reputation as a “normal” person, made up an elaborate lie on the spot:

“I knew Mary in high school,” he said.

Vince claimed he had been Mary’s friend, but lost touch with her when he went to attend college downstate. He said he had only recently moved back to Chicago, and sought to rekindle their friendship.

Mary’s mother invited him into the house. The first thing Vince noticed was a framed photograph hanging on the wall.  It was indeed the same girl he had danced with the night before.

Mary’s mother went on to explain that, four years ago, Mary had gone out dancing at the Oh Henry Ballroom with a boy she had been dating. Sometime in the course of the evening, Mary had gotten into an argument with the boy. Mary stormed out of the Ballroom. Even though it was winter, she did not bother getting her coat. She wandered down Archer Avenue, dressed only in her gossamer white ball gown and silver slippers. It was then she was struck by a hit and run driver and instantly killed.

Mary’s family, who were of Polish descent, had her buried in Resurrection Cemetery. Her ghost has ever after been known as “Resurrection Mary.”

** NOTE: There are many similar stories of Resurrection Mary that have circulated over the years. Several people have claimed to see “a woman in a white gown” hitchhiking near Archer Avenue. Some have even claimed to pick her up. She inevitably pulls the same stunt Vince witnessed; asking to be let off near the cemetery, upon which she touches the gates and disappears.

I chose to relate Vince’s story because it seemed to have the most character. Vince was a patron of Chet’s Melody Lounge which is located across the street from Resurrection Cemetery.

Photo of Chet's Melody Lounge - Justice, IL, United States

According to patrons and bartenders, Vince told his story in the Melody Lounge for fifty years until his death sometime in the 1990’s. Reportedly, he told it in intimate detail and each time, looked as if he had, indeed, seen a ghost!

The bartenders at the Melody Lounge began a tradition which they keep to this day. Every Sunday, they mix a Bloody Mary for Resurrection Mary. The set the drink on the edge of the bar in hopes that Mary might show up and drink it. So far, no luck.

Vince never returned to the Oh Henry Ballroom. The place was later renamed The Willowbrook Ballroom, and remained open as a dance and banquet facility until it was destroyed by a fire in 2016.

Vince also never located Mary’s grave. He was apparently too spooked by the whole incident, plus he never asked her mother her last name (as this would have trapped him in the lie…)

For the record, I have two grandparents and a few other relatives buried in Resurrection Cemetery. I have also been dancing at the Willowbrook Ballroom. However, on no occasion have I see Mary, not near the ballroom, not on Archer Avenue, nor in the cemetery.

But hey! I am still a believer. Who doesn’t love a great ghost story? 🙂

Do you believe?

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Horror Anthology! (For a limited time.)

 

Dark Visions

With just twenty-five days to go before Halloween, I am pleased to announce the release of our second annual Horror Anthology, Dark Visions!

It will be available on Amazon on October 15. And I have a proposition for you.

We are looking for ARC’s  (advanced-copy-readers) who would be willing to read a free download of the book and post an honest review on Amazon for the release date.

Such a deal!  You’d be crazy to refuse.

I mean, like, really crazy.

 

As you may recall, last year I teamed up with author/editor Dam Alatorre and a group of very talented writers to bring you The Box Under The Bed.

This year, we have an even bigger and better anthology, full of spine tingling tales to haunt your dreams and nightmares.

If you are a horror loving loving lunatic like me, and would like to read this, please CONTACT ME through this blog.

I will need your email, but don’t worry, no one will see it except me. And I am sworn to secrecy. By Vito.

I will then send you a link for your FREE download.

Are you up for the challenge?

In case you’re wondering what you’ll get — here is a list of our stories. (Yes, three by me. Not one, three.)

Prologue: Now Comes Death, part one

  1. The Corner Shop – Dan Alatorre
  2. The Stranger – Allison Maruska
  3. The Right Time To Move On – Jenifer Ruff
  4. Devil’s Hollow – Adele Marie Park
  5. Where The Black Tree Grows – MD Walker
  6. The Storm – J A Allen
  7. The Bloody Dogwood Tree – Dabney Farmer
  8. Ghosts Of Tupelo – Sharon Cathcart
  9. Cabin 5 – Heather Kindt
  10. Bella And Button – Allison Maruska
  11. Doll’s Play – Bonnie Lyons
  12. Spirit Lake – Sharon Connell
  13. Ice Cream – Geoff LePard
  14. A Glimpse Of The Monster – Anne Marie Andrus
  15. A Best Selling Lie – Christine Valentor
  16. Normal Things – BA Helberg
  17. Roadkill – Ernesto San Giacomo
  18. Behind The Leather Apron – Alana Turner
  19. Clicking And Clacking – Nick Vossen
  20. The Haunting Of William – Robbie Cheadle
  21. Where The Power Hides – Anne Marie Andrus
  22. Nightmare Man – Betty Valentine
  23. The Willow Tree – Robbie Cheadle
  24. The Changeling – Christine Valentor
  25. What If – Geoff LePard
  26. Swimming – Frank Parker
  27. The Call – Juliet Nubel
  28. La Garconniere – Bonnie Lyons
  29. Lucifer’s Revenge – Christine Valentor
  30. The Nightmare – Lori Micken
  31. Who Am I – Chuck Jackson
  32. The Documentary – Ellen Best
  33. The Doctor’s Walk – Betty Valentine
  34. Excavation Murder – Victoria Clapton

Epilogue: Now Comes Death, part two

 

After you are finished reading, we ask that you post an honest review on Amazon on October 15.  That’s it! Simple 🙂

But hurry! This promo is available for a limited time only!

Let me hear from you  before the door of opportunity permanently closes…

Anne Rice, Mother of Vampires

 

She is the mistress of the macabre, the weaver of witch tales, a native New Orleanian who may never have made her mark in the world if it weren’t for her near blood thirsty curiosity about what it would be like to interview a vampire.

We are only twenty seven days away from Halloween, and no countdown would be complete without a tribute to Anne Rice, my all-time favorite living author!

Luckily, today happens to be her birthday.  (I’m sure it is no coincidence that this woman came into the world so near to Halloween.)

Anne Rice was born on October 4, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the second of four daughters. Her parents, Howard and Katherine O’Brien, were of Irish Catholic descent. The family lived in the hard-scrabble, impoverished section of town known as the Irish Channel, where they rented a 3-room shotgun house. Most of Anne’s childhood was spent dealing with the hardships of poverty and her mother’s alcoholism.

Curiously, Anne is not her real name – her parents actually named her Howard, after her father.  Regarding her unusual name, Rice has said:

“My birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father’s name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world.”

In their defense, it is true that women with androgynous names sometimes do get certain advantages in life. This idea of boy-girl names for little girls became more popular in later decades. Consider Taylor, Beau, Ricki, Sammie, etc.  In the 1940’s, however, it must have been a pretty shocking thing to do.

Little Howard did not like her name at all. When she went to first grade at St. Alphonsus School, the nun asked her name and she replied. “Anne.”  It stuck. Her parents agreed to legally change her name in 1947.

New Orleans is a spooky and beautiful town, known for its ghosts and cemeteries. The dead are famously “buried above ground.” This is not so appalling as it may sound – it simply means that New Orleans adapted the French-Catholic custom of burying the dead in above ground in tombs and mausoleums, rather than underground coffins.

The cemeteries of New Orleans are legendary, hosting tales of folklore sure to fire any imagination. The Louisiana government takes no part in maintaining the tombs, so the upkeep of a deceased loved one is purely a family affair. This leads to a certain beauty – each tomb is personal, a work of art.

Here I am with my niece at St. Louis Cemetery #1 in the French Quarter.  In the tomb behind us lies none other than New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau!

New Orleans Cemetery

The O’Brien family lived right around the corner from Lafayette Cemetery #1. This was Anne’s childhood playground. It was in Lafayette that Anne would later place the tombs of her characters Lestat the vampire and the Mayfair witches.

Anne’s childhood was heavily influenced by her Catholic religion.  Black cloaks, dark confessional booths, rosary beads, candlelight vigils and marble statues that seemed to come to life were all part of her sensibilities. Not to mention symbolic blood drinking as designated by the sacraments.  Mix that with extreme poverty, family dysfunction,  cemeteries, voodoo, hoodoo, Mardi Gras – and we can easily see what fueled Anne’s wicked imagination.

When Anne was just fifteen years old, her mother died due to complications of alcoholism. Her father, unable to cope with four daughters, placed the girls in foster care at Saint Joseph’s Academy.  According to Anne, Saint Joseph’s was: “something out of Jane Eyre … a dilapidated, awful, medieval type of place. I really hated it and wanted to leave. I felt betrayed by my father.” Charles Dickens was Anne’s favorite author, and it seems her own childhood was a bit of a Victorian Bleak House.

Saint Joseph’s Academy

Two years later, in 1958, Howard Rice retrieved his daughters and moved the family to Richardson, Texas. There, Anne met her future husband Stan Rice, while both were students at Richardson High School. Although Anne left Texas after high school and moved to San Francisco, she remained in touch with Stan.  While Anne was in California, Stan sent her a telegram asking her to marry him.  She said yes! The two were wed in Texas in 1961 when Anne was twenty and Stan was just eighteen. They were married for forty one years until Stan’s death in 2002.

While living in San Francisco in 1973, Anne wrote her first novel Interview With the Vampire.  She has stated that vampire literature was nearly nonexistent at the time, but she thought it would be “fun to interview one.”  The novel was published in 1976 and quickly became a best seller. Anne then wrote The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. The Vampire Chronicles had begun!

In 1988 Anne moved back to New Orleans with her husband and son, Christopher. Having become wealthy from her book sales, Anne purchased a mansion in the garden district. She then began writing The Witching Hour, the first of the Mayfair Witch Trilogy. The house that Anne lived in was located at 1239 First Street. It is the coolest house ever! It became as much a character in the books as the Mayfair witches themselves.

Here’s me in front of the magnificent house — a must-see if you are ever in NOLA!

New Orleans Anne Rice House

In 2004, after the death of her husband, Anne moved back to California and has lived there ever since.

Interview With the Vampire was made into a movie in 1994. It starred Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kiirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. The movie received critical acclaim. Three more of Anne’s novels were made into movies – Queen of the Damned, Exit To Eden and The Feast of All Saints.

For many years, Anne had given up film rights to her own novels, because movie studios had optioned them.  In 2015, Anne regained the rights and set about trying to turn the entire Vampire Chronicles into a television series. In 2017, Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books. The series was picked up for broadcast on Hulu, and should be premiering sometime in 2019. I can’t wait!

Fun Facts:

  • To date, Anne has written 41 novels.
  • In addition to Gothic and horror, Anne also writes erotic novels under the pseudonyms A. N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine called her “the queen of sexy vampire fiction”.
  • Although her vampires are known for their charm and sensuality, none of them actually have sex. Because they are, you know, vampires…

  • Anne tried reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a teenager and was too terrified to finish the book. As an adult she attempted it again and loved it.
  • Anne became a self described “Atheist” after leaving the Catholic Church at age 18.
  • In 1998, Anne returned to the church. After twelve years as a practicing Catholic, she renounced Christianity, stating: “I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity.”
  • Anne almost joined the world of the dead herself, in 1998, when she fell into a diabetic coma. She came close to death once again in 2004 when she suffered a bowel obstruction and surgery.
  • For several years, after her return to New Orleans, Anne held an annual Halloween vampire ball at the mansion on First Street. The ball is still going strong, now operated by the Anne Rice/ Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

image

  • The Rice’s first child, a daughter named Michele, died from leukemia when she was just six years old. The loss devastated them.
  • Anne, a self-described ‘alcoholic’, stopped drinking in 1979 after the birth of her son Christopher. She has stated that she did not want him to have the same childhood she did, in dealing with an alcoholic mother. Anne has made public service announcements regarding alcohol and sobriety.
  • Anne has stated that she chose vampires as her means of self expression, because she was facing painful issues which she could not discuss directly.
  • Regarding the movie Interview With the Vampire, Anne claims “Brad Pitt played me, because I am Louis.” Louis, as you may recall, was the most ‘human’ and conflicted of the vamps.

Happy Birthday Ms. Rice! Wishing you Immortality 🙂

 

 

 

 

Welcome October! Day 29

 

“October had tremendous possibility. The summer’s oppressive heat was a distant memory, and the golden leaves promised a world full of beautiful adventures. They made me believe in miracles.” 
― Sarah Guillory,  from Reclaimed

“October proved a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween.” 
― Keith Donohue

As we welcome in big, bold October, today we find ourselves with twenty-nine days until Halloween. Are you prepared?

Twenty-nine can be considered a sacred number, because of its reduction to eleven. Its core value is two.  Numerology always reduces numbers to the lowest value. Thus: 2 +9 = 11, and 1 +1 = 2. Eleven is a mystical number, representing the “doorway” or the pillars to enlightenment. Eleven itself even looks like a doorway!

Therefore, today (also a 2, October 2nd) is the perfect time to welcome in our new month.

The intrinsic meaning of the number 29 is a combination of 2 and 9.  The number 2 represents duality, opposites, teamwork, collaboration and cooperation. The number 9 — which is the last before 10, or 1 —  represents the “end of things”. It is care in the final stages that lead to completion and perfection. It also represents health, humanitarian interests and care for our fellow beings.  Both numbers deal with esoteric knowledge — in two, as exploring the nature of duality, and in nine as the striving for completed perfection.

Twenty nine is a combination of these two.

The essence of the number 29 is relationships, and working together as we strive to create a better world for all involved. Imagine all magick channeled into a beautiful coexistence, with its source used as the primary requirement to maintain its own existence. That, in a nutshell, is 29.

It might look something like this.

Or this:

Happy October, and Blessed be!

Circle Dancing

 

 

 

Thirty-Three: The Spooky Side

 

In just thirty-three days, the ghostly and ghoulish festivities of Halloween will be upon us! Are you prepared? In honor of Halloween I will be posting  Halloween countdowns to help get you in the mood. Stay tuned for all things Halloween —  the macabre, the mystical and the mythical, as well as the silly, the satirical and the sadistic!

I thought a countdown of 33 days would be a good place to start. Why 33?  Well…  The number 33 has a sacred and spooky history.  According to some numerologists, 33 is the most significant of all esoteric numbers. It is an important part of many spiritual, occult and religious practices.

First of all, three is a magical number. In Faerie tales, we get three wishes.

We are given three tasks, and the “third time is a charm.”  Baseball gives a chance for three strikes before you are “out”. Mother, father, and baby makes three, thus ensuring the continuation of humanity.  Three is part and parcel of our culture. In Tarot, three is the Empress, who gives birth to all human creativity.

Three is also significant to many religions. Christianity uses the Trinity of three — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Pagan faith involves the veneration of the Maiden, Mother and Crone, as attuned to a woman’s life cycles and the phases of the Moon. Three is great on its own, but two threes put together is considered extremely powerful. Two threes facing each other make a mirror-image design that is said to represent the ancient Hermetic maxim  “as above, so below.” The heavens mirror the earth; the spirit world reflects the human world. This maxim is often shown as the Tree of Life. (Note the outline, 3 and inverted 3.)

Thirty-three was also important in English literature. The number is often hidden within significant texts. Take Shakespeare, for example.  In Julius Caesar, Caesar himself is stabbed 33 times.  The ghost of Caesar visits Brutus in a passage that starts with a 33-character sentence: “That shapes this monstrous apparition.” Brutus recovers from the shock and addresses the ghost in a 33-word sentence: “It comes upon me. Art thou any thing? Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, that makest my blood cold and my hair to stare? Speak to me what thou art.” 

In Hamlet, Horatio first questions the Ghost in a 33 word sentence: “What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, together with that fair and war like form, in which the majesty of buried Denmark did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!”  Horatio also addresses the ghost in a 33 word sentence as he leaves: “O, speak! Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life, extorted treasure in the womb of earth, for which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,speak of it: stay, and speak!”  The number here is used to represent the link between normal, waking life and the ghostly realms.

Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queen is full of allegory and characters ranging from King Arthur to Gloriana (Queen Elizabeth I). In Book 3 Canto 3 (3 + 3 = 33) the opening line begins with a 33-letter sentence: “Most sacred fyre, that burnest mightily.” Spenser linked the number 33 with the concept of a human spirit and at the same time a mirror image in the celestial realm.

Fun Facts:

  • Jesus is said to have performed 33 miracles. He was crucified at age 33.
  • The mystic Edgar Cayce wrote that there were 33 incarnations of Jesus.
  • According to some Islamic teachings, when people reach Heaven they will exist permanently at the age of 33. (Sounds good to me!)
  • The Ancient Hindu text of the Rig Veda describes “33 deities”. 11 are of heaven, 11 are of earth and 11 are of the realm in-between.
  • In Buddhism, the goddess and bodhisattva Kuan Yin is said to take on 33 different likenesses.
  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead tells of 33 heavens ruled by Indra (the Protector) and another 33 ruled by Mara (the Evil One.)
  • The ancient city of Babylon was very near the 33rd-degree latitude line, while modern Baghdad is on the 33rd parallel. This area was once thought to be the Garden of Eden.
  • Dallas, Texas, the place where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is on the 33rd parallel. The date of his assassination, November 22, or 11/22 adds up to 33. (I know! Creepy…)
  • A complete sequence of human DNA contains 33 turns.
  • There are 33 vertebrae in the human spine. In India, it is believed that vital spiritual energy which must be awakened is located at the base of the spine. This coiled-up energy is known as Kundalini. Through Yoga practices, this energy ascends to the brain and beyond.

 

Pretty cool stuff, huh? I bet you’ll never think of 33 in a mundane way again! Enjoy this day as a “sacred countdown” to the sacred festival of Halloween 🙂