Shallow Graves’ Top Picks Tuesday: Urban Legends

Everyone loves a good urban legend, e.g. the vanishing hitchhiker, alligators in the sewers, the babysitter and the man upstairs.  There’s nothing like sitting around a fire with some friends and freaking each other out with a spooky story.  We love urban legends too, and one of the things we love most is how popular legends have their own little twists depending on the region and who’s telling the story.  Here are some of our favorites.

Lauren – The Vanishing Hitchhiker

My favorite urban legend would have to be the vanishing hitchhiker.  As the story goes, a driver picks up a hitchhiker, usually on a desolate road and usually at night.  Before the hitchhiker arrives at their destination, they disappear from the vehicle.  I remember reading one such story in a book from that children’s series “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”.  But, I think the real draw for me would have to be Resurrection Mary.  It’s the most tangible for me and a story I heard from an early age.

Gated Entrance to Resurrection Cemetery
Resurrection Cemetery

Resurrection Cemetery is right off Archer Avenue in Justice, IL.  The legend is that a girl named Mary got in a fight with her boyfriend and left the Willowbrook Ballroom (also along Archer Avenue) and was killed in a hit and run.  She is buried in Resurrection Cemetery.  Since the 1930s, drivers have reported seeing, picking up or, in some cases, hitting a girl in a white dress along the stretch of Archer Avenue between the ballroom and the cemetery.  She vanishes at the cemetery.  The real “Mary” has never been identified, but according to Wikipedia, the closest connection is that of Anna “Marija” Norkus who died in an auto accident in 1927. While I have never seen this mysterious vanishing woman, driving that stretch of Archer Avenue, especially at night, has always been eerie.

Yvette – Mercy Brown

One tale in particular has always been my favorite and that is of Mercy Brown, Rhode Island’s last known vampire.  Mercy Brown died on January 17, 1892 of consumption. Her mother, and two sisters (Mary Olive and Mary Eliza) passed away of the same disease a few years before. At the time of Mercy’s death the ground was too hard due to winter to dig a grave so Mercy was laid in the “Keep” (i.e. a crypt found in old cemeteries in New England where bodies were laid for safe keeping during winter until the spring thaw; it also served as storage in summer in case declaration of their death was premature).

Mercy Brown's GravestoneShortly after her death, her brother Edwin became ill, was sent off to get well, and returned after 18 months only to fall ill again. The local folk feared vampirism was to blame and sought permission to dig up the corpses of Mary Olive and Mary Eliza Brown. Mercy, who had not yet been buried, would be the last checked. Believing vampires did not exist, father and family patriarch George T. Brown finally gave in to the pleadings of the townsfolk but refused to accompany them to the graveyard.

Upon exhumation of the sisters it was found both bodies were well on their way to decomposition but Mercy, who was being held in the “Keep” until spring, had not only stayed “untainted” by death but her hair and nails had grown which was enough evidence for the townsfolk for her to be declared a vampire.  They cut out her heart and lungs, burned them on a rock in the cemetery and fed the ashes to her ailing brother Edwin with medicine. The cure failed and Edwin passed away on May 2, 1892. Accounts of this incident are recorded in The Providence Journal and the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner on March 25, 1892. Shortly thereafter people became educated on the dreaded disease, Tuberculosis (consumption), and its proper treatment.

The spirit of Mercy is among several ghosts that now haunt the graveyard. There have been many accounts from newspapers to visiting family members stating they have witnessed eerie phenomenon within the burial grounds. Many say a strange light hovers over Mercy’s grave and have heard a woman crying from among the gravestones.  You can find out more about Mercy Brown and haunted New England from my brother and paranormal expert, Thomas D’Agostino, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Marena – Goatman

Long before Goatman became a popular, reddit creepypasta, I heard tales of the creature growing up near and on the reservation.  It’s a popular tale among us Native people, and it serves as your typical “stranger danger” cautionary tale.

Goatman via Goatman Creepy Pasta Wiki

The story goes that Goatman is a half-human, half-goat hybrid with the top half looking human and the bottom half looking more goat-like.  Growing up on the rez, we often heard stories of people driving their cars down the long, dark, mostly abandoned highways and roads that run through the reservations in Wisconsin with the creature in hot pursuit.  If they drove faster, the creature ran faster, and kept up with their car all the way home or until they got into town.  A few stories claimed that drivers had been overtaken and dragged from their vehicles into the woods, never to be seen again.

My favorite and most memorable Goatman tale involves his supposed ability to shapeshift.  The story goes that the civic center, a popular social spot on the rez, was hosting a dance for young people to meet and greet.  Into the dance walked a mysterious and handsome stranger that no one had ever met or heard of before that night.  He danced like a devil, and he had his pick of women all night.  At the end of the night, he tried to convince his latest dance partner to leave the dance with him.  As they stood just outside, underneath the glow of the streetlights, she considered leaving with him but ultimately decided it probably wasn’t a great idea.  She made the right decision because as he left her standing there and retreated into the dark woods, she saw that he no longer wore shiny dance shoes but that his feet were hooves.

She ran inside to get some guys together to go after him but, by time they rushed outside, he had vanished.

What’s your favorite urban legend?