Historic Willowbrook Ballroom destroyed in fire

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A fire destroyed a historic ballroom in Willowbrook. / ABC-7 photo

Just days before Halloween, a building at the center of one the Chicago area’s most well-known ghost stories burned to the ground.

About 2 p.m., a roof fire was reported at the Willowbrook Ballroom at 8900 Archer Ave., according to Fire Chief Daniel Niemeyer of the Tri-State Fire Protection District. Upon arriving, firefighters found smokecoming from the roof, which broke out in flames minutes later.

According to legend, that is where the teen girl spent her last evening in 1927 before she was killed in crash on her way home. From then on, there were numerous accounts of “Resurrection Mary” sightings in and around the ballroom, dressed in a white gown and slippers.

Those sightings were particularly common around Halloween.

The typical story involves a young man who dances with a pallid girl at the ballroom and then offers her a ride home, which involves driving about 3.5 miles northeast on Archer Avenue past Resurrection Cemetery in Justice.

When the vehicle passes the cemetery gates, the girl either jumps out and disappears into the gate, or vanishes from the car.

Friday’s fire at the Willowbrook was deemed “a total loss” and the cause remained under investigation, officials said.

The original ballroom burned down in 1930, according to the ballroom’s website. It was rebuilt at a then-staggering cost of $100,000, complete with a soda fountain, restaurant and flower shop. It also hosted some of the biggest bands of the day.

The ballroom celebrated its 90th birthday in August.


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