In 1948, Stanley Skridla and Mary Jane Reed were violently murdered in the tiny Illinois town of Oregon. The deaths made national news and inspired a county-wide manhunt, but no suspects were ever detained. In the late ’90s, Chicago Tribune reporter, Ted Gregory first heard of the lover’s lane murders from an obsessed local business man named Mike Arians. He quickly became obsessed as well.
In his new book, Mary Jane’s Ghost, Gregory details his decade-and-a-half-long research into the case and the eccentric Oregon residents trapped in its orbit, unearthing small-town conspiracy theories and whispers of paranormal activity. As a general assignment reporter, Gregory is too often pulled away from his passion project to investigate flying fish in the Illinois River, the resurrection of a hideous statue of Abraham Lincoln, downstate towns confronting shameful pasts, and at-risk teens communing with dementia-afflicted seniors.
More than your average true crime volume, Mary Jane’s Ghost is an inside look into the life of a modern newspaper reporter. Gregory exposes the stories of the Tribune’s struggles to remain relevant during the rise of social media and internet-base journalism. The book meanders across Illinois, but like Gregory himself, it always finds a way to return to Oregon, where Mary Jane’s ghost might still walk.