(Orig. Published 3/2003)
Sometime in the 1930’s in Cleveland, a young woman named Mary Ann was walking along West 25th Street near the old Farmer’s Market (now the West Side Market). She never made it home. Mary Ann was brutally raped and murdered in a dark alley near the market. Her murderer was never found.
After her untimely death, neighbors reported “strange things” in the alley where she was killed.
Witnesses claim seeing the apparition of a woman dressed in black clothing, walking in the alley. When approached by anyone, she would just stare and say nothing.
The ghost soon came to be known as “Black Mary Ann.”
It is believed that Black Mary Ann wanders the alley to search for her killer.
However, her ghost does not just seek vengeance. Neighbors say that she also appears when someone is in danger.
In the 1973 anthology, Ohio’s Ghostly Greats, David J. Gerrick writes of one instance where Black Mary Ann’s ghost appeared to protect a girl who had taken a short cut through the alley on her way home from a school dance.
Unfortunately, as with most ghost tales, the story of Black Mary Ann seems to be based more upon legend than fact.
Certainly, the time period involved–Cleveland’s “Eliot Ness Era”–seems appropriate. Especially on the West Side during this time, criminal activity was rampant. In fact, Ness oversaw heightened law enforcement efforts in this area, and even frequented the nearby Great Lakes Brewery Company.
Yet, research could not substantiate any unsolved murder of a woman named Mary Ann. Furthermore, there are two alleys near the Market, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of Mary Ann’s murder. To be safe, photographs from both alleys are posted here.
Further persuading us that this story is simply an urban legend is its similarity with another, more famous Black Mary. That “Black Mary” was actually Mary Kelly, the last victim of Jack the Ripper.