Danzeisen Meat Packing Plant
History & Mystery of One of Decatur's "Lost" Locations

One of the most thriving businesses in Decatur of the late 1800's, and one that has been almost completely forgotten, was the Danzeisen Meat Packing Co. that was located on South Main Street, across from Greenwood Cemetery. The packing plant was an expansion of a retail meat business that was started by G.J. Danzeisen and Adam Blenz in 1871. After a number of profitable years, the two men decided to enlarge the company and constructed the brick plant next to the Illinois Central Railroad tracks, which provided an easy access point for shipments going out and for cattle to be off-loaded for slaughter. The brick building still stands as part of the Christy-Foltz Company --- but no one seems to know if its ghosts still linger behind.

During the early 1900's, the packing house became the source of numerous rumors and legends, including that G.J. Danzeisen kept a long string of mistresses who came to covert meetings with him at the plant. It was whispered when he tired of one of them, she left town and was never seen again.

No one seemed to consider the implications of this until another tale began making the rounds a few years later. According to this story, two cowhands rode the train to Decatur with a herd of beef for the Danzeisen plant. In those days, there was a wooden walkway that spanned the distance between the Illinois Central tracks and a loading door on the third floor of the packing house. This was the floor that was used for slaughtering, while the fourth floor was used for cold storage. The two young men followed their cattle into the building with plans to bunk down for the night and possibly even help themselves to a free meal from the cold room.

The Old Danzeisen Meat Packing Plant

As it happened, the cowhands were never heard from again and rumors spread that, while they had completely disappeared, they had come out of the packing house again ---- but as freshly packed sausage!

Many years later, long after the packing house had closed down, a construction firm called Longbons took over the building. There was a sheet metal shop in the basement of the building and it was here that a number of people witnessed what may be the only haunted elevator in Decatur.

The elevator had a wooden gate on the front of it that had to be closed by hand but this did not deter invisible occupants from using it on nights when the elevator seemed to run by on its own. The heavy gate would roll open and then slam shut, even though no one had gone near it. Then the sound of clanging metal would echo through the building as the elevator noisily rattled up to the fourth floor. Anyone who was working in the shop that night would hear the gates open and close again on the fourth floor and then the elevator would come back down again. This would often continue all night long ---- or at least as long as the living occupants of the place could stand it. Once they had had enough, they usually put away their tools and went home.

Even though many of the employees tried to explain the bizarre behavior of the elevator, no one could. Some believe the spirits of the past were still using it to wander the building at night and restlessly repeated their actions over and over again until one day, they faded into history, just as the Danzeisen Meat Packing Co. did.

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Copyright 2006 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.