Lincoln Theater Investigation

The Lincoln Theater located on North Main Street in downstate Decatur, Illinois is truly one of the most haunted theaters in the country. The theater was built in 1916 by Clarence Wait on the exact same site of a tragic fire in 1915 which destroyed the Decatur Hotel killing an unknown amount of people inside. It opened for it's first performance on October 27, 1916 and had seating for over 1200 people. The first performance was a comedy entitled Hit The Trail Holliday by George M. Cohan. It was opened as the Lincoln Square Theater but later was simply called the Lincoln. When crowds began to dwindle, the theater closed up for a time and today through the help of restoration, is again open to the public and ghost hunters alike.

Some of the many actors that graced its stage include Ethel Barrymore, Jeanette MacDonald, Tallulah Bankhead, Al Jolson and Bob Hope. Harry Houdini even performed onstage and used a trapdoor that can still be seen today to make one of his fantastic disappearances.

Telephone: 217-422-1711



There are many ghosts associated with the theater including one seen and encountered around the stage called "One-Armed Red". Nobody recalls his real name but "Red" was apparently a stage hand back when vaudeville graced the stage. One night, he was working high above the stage in the metal grid work when he slipped and fell. He fell but tried to catch himself from hitting the stage, many feet below, by reaching out to stop his plummet but his arm became snagged between two beams and his arm was torn from his shoulder. He was allegedly found dead the nest day. Throughout the years many people have heard eerie sounds and footsteps inside a vacant theater. Reports of whispering and voices have also been heard as well as a strange figure seen in the balcony from time to time.



Other reports include sounds of footsteps climbing up the spiral staircase in the back of the stage. This was reportedly heard by several persons quite clearly while filming a segment for television. Troy Taylor, President of the American Ghost Society, was showing show reporters around and ventured up the staircase. About halfway up, they all clearly heard the sound of footsteps on the metal staircase following them. Thinking it was the other reporter coming up to join them, they shined their flashlights down to guide her up, but there was no one to be seen but the footsteps persisted. Needless to say, the other reporters didn't hang around much longer and left in a hurry.







The Ghost Research Society has investigated the building many times as part of an after hours event preceding the annual American Ghost Society Conference and we've never been disappointed. On one investigation while exploring the main floor of the theater a distinct shadow person was seen visually by Art Schramm and also photographed by Jason Tito. The image was shown to shadow person expert Rosemary Ellen Guiley who found it one of the most interesting shadowy images she'd come across to date. During that same investigation, the command center was situated in the main lobby and even though no one was around me at the time, I had a dime appear out of nowhere and strike me in the head. I found that rather amazing but cheap. If ghosts are going to start throwing money around, they should be more generous.

There have been numerous meter fluctuations near some of the radiators just inside before entering into the theater and quite a few EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) has been recorded including most recently in 2009, a very distinct voice saying the word "Magic" which I find fascinating considering the Houdini connection! In 2008 Guiley first used a device known as "Frank's Box". The idea behind this device is two-way real-time communication with spirits. While conducting an experiment on the stage area when asked if the spirits knew anyone there that evening it clearly said the name "Joey" for Joey Tito, videographer for the GRS. They then asked, do you mean the Joey here, it replied in the affirmative. This theater is definitely a ghost hunters paradise and never fails to produce something to make even the die-hard skeptic scratch their heads in disbelief.

Evidence collected:

Here is a video from that session: Mini-box

During an EVP session in the dressing room of the Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois, a question was asked, "How many of you are here?" A whispery voice is heard in the background.

A static IR camera on the stage of the Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois picks up a disembodied breath with no one around.


Lincoln Theater Investigation June 22, 2013

GRS members present: Stan Suho, Marge Sucha, Kathie Para, Sandy Weber, Nicole Tito, Lisa Krick, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Dale Kaczmarek.

Equipment setup: The Command Center was set up on the main stage with a camera and illuminator positioned in the downstairs vestibule area between the two restrooms. Everything else was conducted with handheld equipment.

Experiments performed: EVP, Ghost Box and Ovilus X sessions were conducted in the big room downstairs and the projection room.

Personal experiences:

Kathie Para: We investigated the Lincoln Theater after the conclusion of the weekend long paranormal conference. There was also a public investigation taking place at the same time with approximately 30 people besides our group.

We conducted an EVP session in the basement after setting up our equipment for the night. GRS members there were Dale, Sandy, Marge and me. There were several additional people in the room with us during this session and others were coming and going during this time. We used the Ovilus and ghost box in addition to our recorders, cameras and infra-red camera. There were several responses to us that seemed relevant to our questioning at the time, but after listening to my audio I didn’t hear anything clear enough to say that it was paranormal. There was too much contamination with all the people in the area at that time.

We (Dale, Sandy, Marge and me) then went to the projection booth. The tri field meter was active and Marge felt as if there was a spider web on her hand for a short time. When we asked if someone had touched Marge’s hand the Ovilus responded with “nice”. We got some other interesting responses from the Ovilus but, once again, nothing on my recorder. I did feel there was some paranormal activity in this area but it was subtle. This is an area I would like to return to.


Sandy Weber: Equipment:       Sony camcorder set on night shot with very sensitive microphone

                        EMF: (Tri-Field Natural EM Meter)

                        Infrared: FLIR

 Phenomena witnessed by investigator

While Stan was setting up his equipment on the stage, I walked around the stage and first floor of the auditorium, taking readings with the Tri-Field set on electro-magnetic every 3 – 4 paces, stopping each time to allow the needle to adjust before moving on.  I climbed the spiral staircase to the catwalk area above the stage, taking readings along the spiral staircase and at the top of the staircase on the catwalk, but I did not climb onto the catwalk, feeling rather shaky at that height.  (Later an investigator from another team climbed onto the catwalk, where he asked how many people were present up there and heard an audible “two!”)  The only area where the Tri-Field registered above 0.5 was in the “stage left” area past the curtains.  There the Tri-Field jumped to 2.0.  I came back to that spot later and took another measurement, but it did not jump above 0.5 the second time. 

I surveyed the stage, first floor and balcony of the auditorium again with the FLIR but there were no unexplained readings. 

While Dale did a session in the basement in a room under the “stage left” area, I took Tri-Field readings again.  There was possibly a brief jump under the area where I had previously measured the 2.0 reading, but it dissipated, and I cannot be sure it was not just a measurement taken before the Tri-Field stabilized.  While Dale attempted to contact entities with the Ovilus and Frank’s Box, I placed the Tri-Field on a table next to me and set it to alarm above 1.0 and used the camcorder set on night shot, continuously scanning the room.  There was a small “orb” that moved around the room but spent most of the time around Dale.  At that point, I began using the FLIR simultaneously with the camcorder, continually scanning the room.  I asked any spirit present to touch Dale’s right arm, but the orb did not move to a position near his right arm.  I asked Dale if he was aware of any insects flying near him, but he did not know of any.  I found nothing interesting with either the camcorder or FLIR.  The Tri-Field did not alarm during the session.

I took readings with the Tri-Field and FLIR in the basement in the dressing rooms and in the area outside the restrooms.

While Dale used the Ovilus in the projector room off the balcony, I used the camcorder and FLIR, with the Tri-Field on a surface next to me.  I did not collect any interesting data.

Final Record

Rolls of film used:  NA

Audio tapes used:   NA

Video tapes used:   NA

Number of Psychic Photos:  None.

Number of EVP recorded:  None heard on camcorder with very sensitive microphone

Phenomena captured in photos:  None

Summation:  I made no paranormal findings.  


Stan Suho: Well this was a return visit for our group. We were somewhat time restricted and had to co-exist with the regular Ghost Tour groups walking through the Theater. We got somewhat of a late start thanks to the Blackhawk's, and decided to return to the stage are for our setup. Because of the aforementioned problems, I decided to do a minimal setup. This consisted of the Ghost Microphone and the Ghost Camera with remote shutter control. The camera was connected to a 5in Monitor and the Microphone was connected to a Laptop running Audacity software. The area being monitored was a downstairs hallway where the Restrooms were located. This area was chosen because of several occurrences of "Full Bodied Apparitions" to various people, including one of our members. Of course this assured that we would have some contamination with people passing through, but I always wanted to investigate this area. The hallway lights were controlled by a motion sensor, so as a result the lights were on most of the investigation.

When set up and running I busied myself taking IR Pictures and looking for our EVP team.  


Well nothing showed up on my Monitors, but this was somewhat expected with all the Human traffic through the area, as all the reported events in the past were when the observers were alone. I'd like to re-do this investigation with just our group and the lights out.


Evidence collected:

Both.MPG while conducting an Ovilus X session in the Projection Room, a question was asked, “Do you like to visit this place? Do you have a lot of happy memories?” The Ovilus X responds with, “Both.”

Manifest.MPG while conducting an Ovilus X session in the basement, a question was asked, “You were supposed to give a sign of your afterlife.” (referring to Harry Houdini who once performed here) The Ovilus X responds with, “Manifest.”

Nope.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement, a question was asked, “So you don’t like us being down here bothering you?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Nope.”

Strange sound.MPG while conducting an EVP session in the basement, a question was asked, “Can you touch one of us of the right shoulder?” A few seconds later a strange unexplained sound is recorded.


Conclusions: As with previous public investigations of the Lincoln Theater, there was a great deal of background noise and some contamination due to the public event that was going on at the same time. It was kept at a minimum in the basement by simply closing the door but you could still on occasion hear footsteps on the stage above and some muffled talking in the downstairs hallway. This was to be expected and was tagged. All in all, it was a very quiet evening for evidence and meter readings. I don’t believe that many had personal experiences of any kind; at least they weren’t brought to our attention.

The Lincoln Theater is still one of my favorite places to investigate in Decatur as it has produced visual and audio evidence numerous times in the past and probably will continue to do so for many years to come.

Ghost Research Society (
© 2013 Dale Kaczmarek. All rights reserved.
Web site created by Dale Kaczmarek