Peter Reed was almost finished with work on November 7, 1889. It was 6:00p.m. and he had put in a long day at the Rockford Union Furniture Factory. Peter was a well-respected carpenter and his role on that day was as a supervisor for some of the work being done on the new factory. Peter turned to head down the darkened staircase. For some reason, he decided not to use the light that he carried. That would prove to be a fatal error.
Peter did not realize that his location was not where he imagined it to be. He raised his foot to descend the staircase but instead stepped into the open doorway of the elevator shaft. Peter’s scream could be heard all through-out the building as he fell twenty six feet down.
The men that arrived on scene were very surprised to find Peter still alive. They loaded him into a wagon and took him to his house on Kishwaukee Street. Dr. Catlin was summoned by some of Peter’s co-workers and he rushed to treat the semi-conscious man. Peter suffered a nasty gash across his face, broken ribs and appeared to have bruises all over his body but Dr. Catlin feared that the worst damage was internal.
Peter suffered horribly from his injuries through that long night before finally succumbing to his injuries. He was only fifty years old when he died. Peter’s funeral was held at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church where his family had belonged for years. Over 5,000 people came to pay their respects to Peter’s wife Johanna and their four children. Peter’s body was taken to the Scandinavian Cemetery where he was laid to rest.
But that was not the end of Peter’s story. Rumors started to circulate a few weeks later. One of the night watchmen of the Union Factory reported that he heard sounds in the building when there was no one else in the building. The report stated that the guard heard the sounds of footsteps and terrible moaning that seemed to come from all directions at once. He would search the building but there was never anyone else around. According to the guard the sounds would continue throughout the night, filling him with terror. He would become so frightened that he would lock himself in one of the offices until it was time for him to leave.
This night watchman shared the story with some of the other workers that arrived in the morning. He was very frightened by the possibility that the factory had a ghost. The guard believed that Peter Reed was haunting the factory because of his awful accident.
The story leaked to the press after one particular night when the guard became so frightened by the moans and shrieks that he finally left his job vowing never to return. Towns people began to gather outside the building on 18th Avenue to see if they could witness the claims made by the guard.
Word got back to the family and Johanna was very distressed to hear that her husband’s spirit was not at peace. She begged the newspaper to print a statement that the claims of Peter haunting the building were false. The newspaper wanted to help the young widow so they honored her request. But by this time, the story had spread to all parts of the city. Many people would wait all night outside the building.
Surprisingly, this went on for weeks until finally no new stories were reported and the crowds dwindled away. Peter’s family was left in peace to continue mourning the loss of their beloved husband and father.
Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events