Jessalin Jemison

Written by Jessalin Jemison

Modified & Updated: 21 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


Decatur, Illinois, is a city steeped in rich history and vibrant culture, with a tapestry of local legends and folklore woven into its heritage. From tales of mysterious sightings to fabled characters and unexplained phenomena, the lore of Decatur captures the imagination and curiosity of residents and visitors alike. Exploring the local legends and folklore of Decatur offers a captivating journey into the past, providing insights into the traditions, beliefs, and stories that have shaped the community. In this article, we’ll delve into 15 fascinating facts about the captivating local legends and folklore that have become an integral part of Decatur’s identity.

Key Takeaways:

  • Decatur, Illinois is filled with captivating local legends and folklore, from haunted theaters to mysterious disappearances, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to the city’s history.
  • The tales of ghostly apparitions, vanishing hitchhikers, and haunted landmarks in Decatur, Illinois create a rich tapestry of supernatural lore that continues to captivate residents and visitors alike.
Table of Contents

The Ghost of Greenwood Cemetery

One of the most enduring legends in Decatur, Illinois is the tale of the Ghost of Greenwood Cemetery. According to local folklore, the ghost of a young girl haunts the cemetery, appearing as a misty figure in a white dress. Many visitors have reported eerie encounters with this apparition, adding to the mystique of the cemetery.

The Piasa Bird

Legend has it that the Piasa Bird, a mythical creature depicted in a Native American petroglyph, once roamed the skies over Decatur, Illinois. Described as a fearsome creature with the body of a lion and the wings of a bird, the Piasa Bird is said to have terrorized early inhabitants of the region. The petroglyph, located near the city, has become a symbol of local folklore and heritage.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Decatur, Illinois has its own version of the classic urban legend of the vanishing hitchhiker. As the story goes, a young woman is said to appear on the roadside, soliciting a ride from unsuspecting drivers. After accepting the ride and engaging in conversation, the driver turns to find the back seat empty, with the mysterious hitchhiker having disappeared into thin air.

The Macon County Screamer

Local lore in Decatur, Illinois includes the chilling tale of the Macon County Screamer, a creature described as a large, hairy, and bloodcurdling beast. Sightings of the Screamer have been reported in the rural outskirts of the city, sparking fear and fascination among residents. The legend of the Macon County Screamer continues to capture the imagination of locals and visitors alike.

The Phantom of the Avon Theater

The Avon Theater in Decatur, Illinois is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a former projectionist. According to local legend, the phantom of the projectionist lingers within the theater, occasionally making his presence known by flickering lights and unexplained sounds. This spectral tale adds an extra layer of intrigue to the historic theater.

The Mystery of the Underground Tunnels

Whispers of a network of underground tunnels beneath the streets of Decatur, Illinois have persisted for decades, shrouded in mystery and speculation. Some believe that these tunnels were used by bootleggers during the Prohibition era, while others claim they served as secret passages for the Underground Railroad. The enigmatic nature of these alleged tunnels has fueled local folklore and urban exploration.

The Legend of the Lincoln Theater

The Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois has its own share of folklore, with tales of ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena. Stories of spectral figures and inexplicable occurrences have cemented the theater’s reputation as a hub of paranormal activity, drawing the curious and the daring to seek out glimpses of the supernatural.

The Curse of the Old Mill Bridge

Local legend speaks of a curse surrounding the Old Mill Bridge in Decatur, Illinois, where tragic events in the past have given rise to eerie stories of supernatural retribution. It is said that those who dare to cross the bridge at midnight risk encountering the vengeful spirits of the departed, leading to chilling encounters and unexplained phenomena.

The Haunted Haines Mansion

The Haines Mansion, a historic residence in Decatur, Illinois, is steeped in tales of hauntings and ghostly manifestations. Visitors and residents alike have reported encounters with unexplained sights and sounds within the mansion, adding to its reputation as a hotbed of paranormal activity. The enduring legend of the haunted Haines Mansion continues to captivate those with an interest in the supernatural.

The Legend of the Disappearing Train Car

Decatur, Illinois is home to the enigmatic legend of the disappearing train car, a tale that has puzzled locals for generations. According to folklore, a spectral train car is said to materialize on the tracks, only to vanish without a trace, leaving behind bewildered witnesses and a lingering air of mystery. The legend of the disappearing train car remains an intriguing part of the city’s lore.

The Ghostly Guardians of Rock Springs Cemetery

Rock Springs Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois is said to be watched over by ghostly guardians, spectral figures that are rumored to appear at dusk, keeping a silent vigil over the hallowed grounds. Locals recount eerie encounters with these ethereal sentinels, adding to the mystique of the cemetery and its enduring place in local folklore.

The Mystery of the Devil’s Bake Oven

Decatur, Illinois is home to the perplexing legend of the Devil’s Bake Oven, a natural rock formation that has sparked tales of supernatural origins and eerie occurrences. According to local folklore, the site is imbued with an otherworldly presence, leading to reports of strange phenomena and unexplained events that have piqued the curiosity of those intrigued by the paranormal.

The Legend of the Vanishing Schoolhouse

Among the tales of Decatur, Illinois, is the legend of the vanishing schoolhouse, a mysterious structure that is said to materialize in the moonlight, only to fade away at the break of dawn. Stories of the spectral schoolhouse have been passed down through generations, weaving a captivating narrative of the supernatural and adding to the rich tapestry of local folklore.

The Haunted History of the Transfer House

The Transfer House in Decatur, Illinois is steeped in a haunted history, with reports of ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena dating back decades. Local lore speaks of spectral figures and eerie encounters within the historic structure, perpetuating its reputation as a focal point of paranormal activity and captivating the imagination of those intrigued by the unknown.

The Legend of the Wailing Woman of Lake Decatur

Legends abound of the wailing woman of Lake Decatur, a spectral figure said to haunt the shores with mournful cries that pierce the night. Tales of this ghostly presence have woven a haunting narrative into the fabric of local folklore, drawing the curious and the brave to seek out glimpses of the supernatural along the tranquil waters of the lake.


Exploring the local legends and folklore of Decatur, Illinois, unveils a rich tapestry of stories that have been passed down through generations. These tales not only add a touch of mystery and intrigue to the city but also provide a unique insight into its history and culture. From the eerie accounts of haunted locations to the fascinating myths surrounding mythical creatures, Decatur’s folklore captivates both residents and visitors alike. By delving into these legends, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the community’s traditions and the enduring impact of storytelling. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a fan of the supernatural, or simply curious about the local lore, Decatur’s folklore offers a captivating glimpse into the city’s enigmatic past.

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