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 🙂

 

 

 

 

Walpurgis Night – Halloween in April?

 

I know, I know.  All you ghost and goblin lovers feel neglected at this time of year.  Horror aficionados begin lamenting as early as November. “Let’s plan for next Halloween!” they tell me.  However, you don’t have to wait that long! There is a holiday going on right now to appease your ghastly self, and it should not be ignored.

We all know of Beltane, the fire festival celebrated on May 1st. But the night before Beltane, called May Eve, Walpurgis Night or Walpurgisnacht, is a notable time for spooky celebration in its own right.

Just as Halloween/ Samhain marks the turning of the seasons, so does Walpurgis Night/ Beltane. In the Northern hemisphere we see the changeover from winter to summer, and in the Southern hemisphere from summer to winter. The cross quarter festival of Samhain corresponds exactly with Beltane, six months later in the wheel of the year.

It is a shoulder-season, marked by the quasi-reality of one thing merging into another.  Nature blooms or nature dies, depending on what side of the world you are on. During this time the veils are lifted, leaving us particularly vulnerable to the influences of all things other-worldly.  This includes, of course, the dead, the faeries, the vampires, the werewolves, etc. We should therefore prepare ourselves for hauntings, divination, costuming, scary movies and general mayhem.

What are the origins of Walpurgis Night, and what exactly IS a Walpurgis?

Well…

The festival of May Day was probably first celebrated by the ancient Romans.  At the beginning of summer,  the goddess Flora, a deity of vegetation and fertility, was honored with a five day festival.

The celebrations ended in a blood sacrifice offered to Flora, as a way of ensuring she would make the land prosperous all summer long. The Vikings also had a version of this feast, as did the ancient Celts, Picts and Goths.

Later, in medieval Germany, May Eve was called Hexennacht or “night of the witches”. On this night the local wise-women would gather on the Brocken, the uppermost point of the Harz mountain range. There they would call upon spirits to bless the land and prepare it for summer. Hexennacht was a wild time of dancing, bonfires and fertility rituals, as well as spells and divinity.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the Church began to merge Christian and Pagan holy days.  May Eve became known as Walpurga’s Night. This was a festival to honor the Saint Walpurga, an abbess who was canonized on May 1st, 870.

It seems Walpurga herself was a great health advocate who protected people from rabies, pestilence and all sorts of diseases. She was not so different from the witches at Hexennacht. The two festivals were probably a bit interchangeable and may have coexisted side by side. Some Scandinavian stories even describe Walpurga as a type of Valkyrie, and have her joining Odin in his ‘wild hunt’ through the sky.

However, in around the sixteenth century, when the Church decided to go crazy with witch hunts, they created a new legend and apparently appointed Walpurga as their guard dog against witches. The wise-women who had called for land blessings now  suddenly became suspect, as the Church linked them to the devil and Satanic myths. And of course, Walpurga’s feast day “just happened” to correspond to Hexennacht. The lines between good and evil were clearly plotted. Traditional bonfires became a tool to ward off ‘demonic’ witches. People were encouraged to fear, rather than embrace, the other-world and the lifting of the veils.

In later years, Saint Walpurga’s Night became known as “Walpurgis Night”, inextricably bound to evil and chaos. Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Faust (1808) in which the main character sells his soul to the devil, takes place in the Harz mountains on Walpurgisnacht.  Bram Stoker’s short story Dracula’s Guest (1914) also begins on this fateful night:

‘The dead travel fast.

There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me, which came under almost mysterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!

Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago. This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was alone—unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright…”

You get the idea.

In modern times, Walpurgis Night is celebrated in many European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Finland. The festivities include bonfires, dancing, dressing up in costumes, parades, feasting and music.

If it’s scary enough for Bram Stoker, it’s scary enough for me!

And so, if you find yourself  longing for a Halloween fix, despair no more!  Walpurgis Night is the perfect time to watch frightening films or create some witchy rituals of your own.  Go to the woods, light a bonfire, don a mask, bless the land. Whatever you do, feel free to celebrate April 30th with some good old fashioned horror, hallucinations, and of course hexes 🙂

 

 

 

 

Halloween Quiz! Which Vampire Are You?

 

female-vampire pd

Vampires are the quintessential outsiders. Often beautiful and ruthless, they will stop at nothing in their quest for survival.  Although some mortal folk become squeamish at the idea of blood drinking, there is no denying that blood is the life force of all humanity. We should welcome rather than fear it.

Personally, I feel there is a bit of vampire in everyone.

If given the chance to become immortal, would you accept it? Which vamp lifestyle would you prefer?  Are you southern charmer Bill Compton of True Blood fame? Perhaps the treacherous Lestat of Anne Rice’s lore? The horrifying Nosferatu? Or the indomitable Eric Northman?

 

eric-gif-5

Find out your undead identity!

CLICK HERE to take the quiz.

(If ads come up just skip them and go to the next question)

Let me know who you get!

As for me, no big surprise!  Having read so much Bram Stoker, such was my fate 🙂

You got: Dracula

You’re the quintessential vampire—snarky, wise beyond your years, and resourceful. You have a dramatic, commanding presence, a flair for throwing grandiose parties, and a way of charming the opposite sex. Just be careful not to abuse your immense power.