1915 Decatur Fire, Ancient burial grounds, Apparitions, banging noises, Bob Hope, Death, Decatur, Decatur and Arcade Hotel, Decatur Illinois, Ghost, ghost experiences, Halloween, Halloween Tours, Harry Houdini, haunted, Haunted Decatur, Haunted places, haunted theater, Haunted Tours, Haunted United States, Lincoln Theater, Paranormal, Paranormal Activity, Places and Hauntings, spiral staircase, Troy Taylor, United States
HISTORY OF THE LINCOLN THEATER:
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.
THE LOCATION PRIOR TO THE LINCOLN THEATER
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.
The 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.
He 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.
- The Lincoln Theater – The History and Mystery of Decatur’s “Most Haunted” ~ By Troy Taylor – What a great website with such detailed history of this location!
- “The Lincoln Theater (Most Terrifying Places in America) – Featuring Troy Taylor.
- Haunted Decatur Website
- Picture marque of the outside found at Decatur Net Website
- Picture of the Lincoln Spiral Staircase found at Website, Asylum Eclectica
- Picture of the 1915 Fire at the Decatur & Arcade Hotel found at The Herald Review
Aspasia Worldwide - Malin said:
Amazing with all histiry we so easily forget!
This is so true. I am so grateful for the internet to be able to have it all at my fingertips. Thank you for visiting my page.
Kama Frankling (@DaringToBeGrey) said:
I find these posts really interesting. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thank you Kama! Even if someone doesn’t believe in the paranormal, at least the history of these places is amazing in and of itself. Thank you for stopping by and reading this post. I also have a second blog, http://www.PeaceAndHappinessProject.com. Enjoy your weekend.
There are so many sightings of spiritual figures here in England too. Just a short walk away, The Holly Bush Inn even had a television program made about it. I’ve never seen a ghost, but that doesn’t mean to say they don’t exist. By the way, A Jewish Rabbi is having extensive work done on the Inn and plans to live there. He said he hadn’t experienced anything–so far. Hehe. I’d love to see what a man of his stature did when confronted by a ghost.
I have done several pieces so far of the Massachusetts area. Just taking a break to venture outside for a bit. I will have to check the Holly Bash Inn out. That reaction would be priceless. I love when people open up places like this to the public too. I have a trip planned locally in Gardner, MA this coming Friday to the Haunted Victorian. I can’t wait.
I love this kind of urban history…great post..
Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad you liked it.
Amar Naik said:
i am always terrified when i saw programs such as ‘haunted house’. this is a information which i would love to pass rather than visit myself 😛
I can completely understand. Thank you so much for stopping by and checking it out again. I always appreciate it.
Kelly Mooney said:
oooooooo love a good old ghost story I do 🙂 great history – didnt get a chance to watch video as I’m on comp at home and I have a childlock on that I can’t get off! will check it out tomorow in work 🙂
Thank you Kelly! It’s a good video. I love that it shows the inside of this theater. It is amazingly beautiful!! I just saw a picture of their last night’s ghost tour and the marque shows they are playing recent movies. I’d so love to go see the inside in person!
Bonnie Gean said:
I got chills again, even though this is the 2nd time I’ve watched the video and tv show. 🙂
Nice job on the curation!
ScaryHalloween (@Scary_Halloween) said:
What a beautiful theatre – and it’s so wonderful when they’re steeped in such history. And nothing like some ghosts for giving it a bit of “life” ! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I completely agree with that statement! Beautiful, fascinating AND scary! Thank you for stopping by!
OMGEEEEEEEEEEEE why would they build anything on top of a burial ground!! Just waiting for stuff to happen.. eeeekkk!!! LOL This is great! My friends would love this.. BUT I AM NOT GOING with them… LOL
You’re funny Tamala. It’s a fully functioning theater with recent movies. I can’t believe how gorgeous it is inside. And, not just on top of a burial ground but it is on top of when a hotel burned down twice! There was another fire there on that location next door during a live performance but it didn’t affect the theater because they built it completely fire proof because of the previous fires there.
Just an fyi. It was built in 1916 not 1816.
Well, that’s a pretty big typo! Thank you so much for pointing that out. I’ll change it. 😉