Most of the former Peter Cooper Glue Factory on Fifth Avenue in Oak Creek burned down more than two decades ago, and what remains — set back several hundred yards from the road, behind a locked, chainlink fence that warns, “No trespassing” — is not an impressive sight.
At more than 100 years old, the massive brick building appears dilapidated, with smashed windows and crumbling concrete. Surrounded by other businesses that have since closed up shop, too, the rest of the site looks just as forlorn.
But it is not those images that draw curious visitors. Rather, it is the promise of what they might see or hear or feel; the promise of something ghostly lurking near the site that could leave them screaming or fleeing in terror.
Urban legend has it that as many as 30 employees died while working at the factory. Many were murdered. Some, perhaps, were turned into glue.
Sherry Strub, author of “Milwaukee Ghosts,” has heard a variety of haunted tales about the site, which she recounts in her book.
“You’ve got one story that will say two people died there, and you’ve got another story that say 30 people were murdered there,” Strub said.
The Oak Creek Historical Society’s collection of mostly newspaper clippings and old photographs of the glue factory and surrounding community, formerly Carollville, does not include any mention of employee deaths.
Despite the lack of historical basis, a common thread is the sense of evil and danger perceived by visitors who have ventured into the building, Strub said. For those who are inclined to believe, that means something.
“When you have groups of people that come away with the same story time after time after time … there has to be some basis to it,” she said.
Haunted or not, the property’s trespassing signs should be taken seriously. The site is dangerous, Oak Creek Police Chief Thomas Bauer said, and his department follows strict orders from the property owner to arrest anybody found on the property.
— Julie Becker, Staff Writer
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