From “Bloody Mary” to “chain emails” to “Facebook is free if you share this post,” urban legends have haunted us. But, what are urban legends (urban folklore)? According to Alex Schnee, of the Salem Press Encyclopedia, urban legends are tall tales with macabre elements. Often created, and updated, to fit the time.
Jan Harold Brunvand of the University of Utah wrote a series of books, starting with “The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings.” He believes we can learn about other cultures by studying their legends and folklore.
Most of the stories have some truth to them, as they are the reflections of our fears. The legend of “The Hook” revolves loosely on the 1946 attacks in Texarkana, Texas, and Arkansas. Three of the attacks happened to young people parking on Lover’s Lane, on the Texas side. The fourth was a double-murder of a middle-aged couple in their farmhouse on the Arkansas side.
In Illinois, the top urban legend is a version of Chicago’s “The Vanishing Hitchhiker,” known as “Resurrection Mary.” Mary is rumored to be a 21-year-old Polish factory worker, whose full name is Mary Bregovy. She seems to be the source of this infamous tale, even though other girls fit this story, her story stands out.
Mary died in an automobile accident during the early hours of March 10, 1934. The legend starts a few months later, in the late spring. The myth is about a young woman who appears on Archer Avenue, trying to hitch a ride.
The March 11 edition of the Chicago Tribune described the accident as:
“Girl Killed in Crash”
“Miss Marie Bregovy, 21 years old, of 4611 South Damen Avenue, was killed last night when the automobile in which she was riding cracked up at Lake Street and Wacker Drive. John Reiker, 23, of 15 North Knight Street, Park Ridge, suffered a possible skull fracture and is in the county hospital. John Thoel, 25, 5216 Loomis Street, driver of the car, and Miss Virginia Rozanski, 22, of 4849 South Lincoln Street, were shaken up and scratched. The scene of the accident is known to police as a danger spot. Thoel told police he did not see the “L” substructure.”
Other Illinois Urban Legends
1. The Seven Gates to Hell
This urban legend is an inspiration for one story in my “Kassandra’s Diaries” series. The gates are in Collinsville, Illinois. The gates start on Lebanon Road and end at Bauer Road. The story goes, if you go through each gate, in order, when you pass through the seventh gate, a portal to Hell opens. You will either meet the Devil or the hellhounds.
If you start with the seventh gate and end with the first gate, the portal becomes a window, and you see the Lake of Fire. The catch, you must start before midnight, and pass the final gate at midnight.
2. The Witches Bridge
In Palmer Illinois, if you drive onto the bridge and stop, strange things can happen. If you look out your review mirror, you may see a woman, or a young girl, hanging by a rope. They sentenced her to death in the 1800s for being a witch. If you stay too long, your car will not start.
3. The Train Tracks by Moon Point Cemetery
Moon Point Cemetery in Streator, Illinois has hauntings of its own. I am not here to talk about the cemetery but about the train tracks beside the road leading to the cemetery. Here, there is a tale to tell. This urban legend story gives us a warning. If you are in the Moon Point Cemetery when a train passes by, you become trapped there. How? The legend states that your car will die and not start until the train has passed through.
4. The Albino Tracks
Do you know the urban legends about kids dying on railroad tracks? If you stop on the tracks and turn your car off, it will mysteriously move you off the tracks to safety. Here is a twist to that tale.
The train tracks are off Rentchler Road between Belleville and Mascoutah, Illinois. There are a few stories. One is about a group of children from a nearby farm taking the horse and wagon out for a joy ride. When they were crossing the train tracks, they saw the train approaching. The wagon was caught on the tracks and… well, you know the rest.
The story that makes more sense has to do with albino twins. They were born in the 1800s on a local farm near the train tracks and Rentchler train station. Many people did not understand albinism. The folks saw their births as supernatural. The residents of the area became sick, and they blamed the twins.
Believing the twin’s death would cure them of their sickness. The townsfolk kidnapped the children and tied them to the train tracks. Now, they haunt the train tracks.
The twist to this story, it is unsure if they are helping you cross the train tracks or trying to push you onto the train tracks out of revenge.
5. Bigfoot Sightings in Christian County, Illinois
An urban legend is not complete without a bit of Bigfoot activity.
Two miles southwest of Taylorville, Illinois, on a spring day in May 2008, a father and son traveling from Taylorville to Morrisonville drove over a small hill. The two witnesses saw a tall, upright animal walking across the road.
Another sighting takes place in the Fall of September 2008, near the father and son sighting, two miles southwest of Taylorville. A woman saw a giant hairy creature walk out of a ditch and cross the front of her car.
In Edinburg, Illinois, in the late Winter of 2013. A woman stopped at a T-road and saw several frightened deer running. She saw a large hairy creature on two legs chasing them.
In Clarksdale, Illinois, in 2013, a man saw juvenile creatures several times throughout the year.
Other reports of sightings are in Bulpitt and Lake Sangchris, Illinois.