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The Lincoln Theater in Decatur, IL, opened October 27, 1916, built atop ancient burial grounds and the ashes of two hotels that once stood on it’s very location.

This is an amazingly beautiful theater with its high balcony, basements and sub-cellars, private seating boxes, mezzanine seating, ivory colored columns, 1346 seats and amazing acoustics.

Upon it’s opening, the theater was most used for stage shows and vaudeville acts as well as high school graduations.

Many famous people performed upon its stage such as, Bob Hope, Fighter Jack Dempsey, Magician Harry Blackstone Jr.  and some may argue that  Harry Houdini may have even put on a show there early in his career.

When motion pictures became popular, the audience demanded to see more, leading to a large decrease in stage shows.

The theater closed shortly after December of 1980, except for a few live music shows on occasion.  The theater was abandoned by 1990 and was not in use for quite some time.  It has since undergone quite an extensive restoration project that has not stopped performers from putting on a show or two.  It has been reported by many to have experienced ongoing paranormal and unexplained activity in the theater during these events.


In 1860, the site was first the home of The Priest Hotel which was bought out in 1880 and the name was changed to the New Deming.   Later in 1892 it changed hands again and was renamed The Decatur & Arcade Hotel.

Fire Decatur Arcade HotelThe building caught fire in 1904 and was rebuilt only to later, in 1915 catch fire again (see photo left) due to some oily rags near a furnace, this time, taking 2 lives that have been documented but several other guests were unaccounted for.  It is unsure if they escaped the fire as their bodies were never recovered.  Of the two men who were recovered, one, William E. Graham was an engineer and the other, C. S. Guild, a traveling salesman.

Troy Taylor, author of “Haunted Decatur,” on his web page listed below, talks about how there have been reports of haunts at this location since the 1930’s.

One legend has it that the most reported to be a stagehand named, “Red,” who’s love of the theater and performers may have him coming back to haunt the place.  One night, while working on the catwalk, some 75 feet above the stage, it is said that Red lost his footing and fell to his death.  However, after investigation, Troy states this story is inaccurate.  According to his sources, Red died in his sleep while taking a nap in the theater in 1927.

Since Red’s death, there have been reports of unexplained footsteps, whispers, strange voices, cold chills in certain areas, having been touched by someone who is not there, apparitions, theater seats raising and lowering on their own and other noises in the otherwise empty theater.

A second figure, that of a woman in a long dress has been seen in the balcony area.  Yet, others have reported to have described what they have seen and they do not match either description, leading some to believe there are several occupants.

Troy states he has had experiences himself while working alone in the theater.  He has heard footsteps climbing the steps of the stage while he was alone.

staircase Lincoln TheaterHe tells also of a performer who heard whispers while he was getting ready to go on stage and when he turned toward them, he saw a shadowy figure on the spiral staircase that he described as being male.  When the staff checked into it, there was no one there, yet there was nowhere the “man” could have escaped to.  At the time, the performer had not known of the haunted reputation of the theater.  This was the same staircase that Troy reports being followed on by one of the ghosts.

Check out this 4 minute video to see the inside of this grand theater and hear Troy’s recollection of another spiral staircase event…

There are haunted tours of Decatur taking place this month, most of which are sold out.  There are however, two dates that have availability.  The tours are inexpensive at $30 per person.  They start at the Avon theater.  The 2 open dates are November 1st and 2nd (2013.)  According to the website, Haunted Decatur, public tours are also offered April through August and mid September through early November.  Private tours are also available.  Please check the above link for prices and details.