BERLIN, Wis. (WFRV) – First built in the mid-1800s, The Berlin Tannery, located at the intersection of E Union Street and South Wisconsin Street, in Berlin, was one of the few tanneries in the state, only to soon become the last one left standing after a string of mysterious ‘accidental fires’ burned down its counterparts.
And while the tannery thought it had survived the strange fires that plagued its peers; In the early 1900s, a fire erupted in The Berlin Tannery, nearly destroying it. Luckily, the building wasn’t a total loss and the facility was able to be rebuilt and resume all operations before it closed permanently in the early 1990s.
Soon after its closure, the vacant building was up for demolition before a former Berlin Tannery employee, Dan Hoppa, purchased the building in 2000.
Hoppa, who still owns the tannery to this day, shared with Local 5 that he has always known The Berlin Tannery to be a place where paranormal activity is fairly common.
There’s always been strange things happening at The Berlin Tannery. They [former Berlin Tannery employees] would have tools missing, the power in specific tools would go out, people [former Berlin Tannery employees] would get the heebie jeebies and get cold chills, and they [former Berlin Tannery employees] would feel like they were being hovered over.”Dan Hoppa, The Berlin Tannery Owner
In fact, Hoppa hasn’t only heard stories from his former coworkers but has actually had several paranormal encounters of his own.
“One night I was 14 feet up in the air welding on a water pipe when something in my body, mind, or soul, told me to stop welding and lift my helmet up look to look around. I suddenly had chills all over my body and just out of the blue I said ‘look, I know you’re here, and you know I’m here. Just let it be known that if you scare me out of this building, I’m the only thing standing between you and a bulldozer’… I have no idea why I stopped or why I said that, but I believe that was my first encounter with the spirits here at the tannery.”Dan Hoppa, The Berlin Tannery Owner
Since that first chilling experience up on that water pipe, Hoppa would go on to experience many more paranormal encounters raising the question of why Hoppa continues to work in The Berlin Tannery.
In my own way, I feel that they [the spirits] protect me and there have been many investigators who agree and can sense that the spirits would not harm me in any way shape or form; that they [the spirits] actually love and respect me for keeping the building up.”Dan Hoppa, Berlin Tannery Owner
Surprisingly, Hoppa isn’t the only one that believes the ‘sprits’ in the tannery care for him. Hospice Care Consultant and Berlin resident, Amber Lider, is currently running one of two haunted houses taking place in the tannery and says she believes the ‘spirits’ have a sense of ‘respect’ for Hoppa.
When Dan’s around you know in our part of the haunt with us stuff doesn’t typically happen, or if it does you’ll say something to Dan, and he’ll have a conversation with them [the spirits]. They [the spirits] respect him so much. You know he has told them [the spirits] time and time again ‘if it wasn’t for me being here saving this building you wouldn’t have a place to be,’ and they [the spirits] dont bother him and they [the spirits] don’t scare him.”Amber Lider, Hospice Care Consultant
Granted, while the ‘spirits’ may bring Hoppa comfort, the same cannot be said for Lider and others working inside the tannery. Lider shared with Local 5 a chilling experience she had in the tannery just a few weeks ago that scared her to her very core.
I’ve heard footsteps. I’ve had people touch me. I’ve seen people standing in the corner, and you would think that would be something that would scare me the most- but it’s not. The spookiest experience I’ve had happened a couple weeks ago when I was by myself. I was walking in and I did my normal shpeel saying things like ‘so no scaring me today guys, I gotta get work done,’ and I heard somebody say ‘yes,’ and I said ‘no. No scaring me today,’ and I heard ‘yes’. I got even more scared and I just kinda froze, and I said ‘yes. You need to leave me alone today. I need to get work done,’ and it sounded like somebody was two feet away from me and in a deep male voice, it said ‘no’. I booked it. I ran. I ran down the hallway and out the door. I was gone… Even today I have a hard time going in there by myself.”Amber Lider, Hospice Care Consultant
Furthermore, the ‘spirits’ in the tannery have not only negatively affected Lider, but have also affected the actors currently working in the haunted house.
We’re in full swing of our haunted house and last weekend was our second weekend opened on a Saturday night and we legitimately had five of our actors at the same time all start crying and they were all getting really panicky and really sad. We actually had to shut down the haunted house and not let anyone in for about 15 minutes because these people were being so affected by these spirits because they [the spirits] don’t like it when the haunted house is going on. They [the spirits] get very, very active. We’ve had prop failures. We’ve had stuff disappear and later find it at the other end of the haunt.”Amber Lider, Hospice Care Consultant
While Lider and her team of actors were able to recuperate from that strange and shared emotional paranormal experience, they have not forgotten about it since. Yet, despite the paranormal occurrences that continue to affect those in the Berlin Tannery, Lider says the haunted house will remain up and running all through Halloween.
Additionally, The Berlin Tannery does offer year-round paranormal investigation tours where residents can join a group of investigators as they travel through the tannery attempting to connect with the ‘spirits’ residing in the tannery.
However, if after reading these first-hand paranormal accounts you’re still skeptical, maybe you’re the kind of person who needs to see it to believe it. The photos pictured below were taken by Amber Lider while inside the Berlin Tannery. Lider believes these photos may have captured some of the paranormal entities lingering around the tannery. What do you think?
This story is part of a Local 5 Halloween series which includes the following blood-curdling stories:
- Paranormal Encounters: Chilling stories from Hotel Retlaw
- Paranormal Encounters: Chilling stories from The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley.
- Paranormal Encounters: Chilling stories from A Fond du Lac local