Ashmore Estates is one of the most storied and haunted buildings in the Midwest.
The energy held within its walls and across its grounds make this one location you shouldn’t miss.
As you make your way through Ashmore Estates looking to communicate with spirits, be forewarned; the spirits here are known to also move about the building and look to communicate with you.
While many have come and gone from this former poor farm and asylum, some of the residents still call it “home”. Won’t you come in?
Standing against a midwestern sky near Charleston, Illinois, is a truly ominous structure.
A lonely road winds it’s way through fields and stops right at a hulking, massive abandoned structure.
You’ve arrived at Ashmore Estates and it’s time for you step inside and meet the spirits that remain.
In 1870, Coles County, Illinois purchased property near the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad in Ashmore Township for the construction of a poor farm. This poor farm would replace the original poor farm, which existed in the community of Loxa from 1857-1869. This new poor farm in Ashmore was a small brick and timber building which stood two stories tall with a kitchen and dining room attached to the first floor.
In 1879, superintendent Joshua Ricketts recorded 32 deaths out of 250 Inmates who resided at the poor farm since 1870. These individuals were buried in a small pauper’s cemetery on the northern part of the grounds. Several years later, another pauper’s cemetery was established just south of Illinois Highway 16 and contains somewhere between 60 and 100 sets of human remains.
On the morning of February 15, 1880, 4-year old Elva Skinner woke up and got out of bed. As she dressed by the fire, her clothing ignited, and Elva Skinner burned to death. In 1881, a school was in operation for the children of the poor farm. Mentally ill inmates could freely roam the property.
In 1902, the Board of Commissioners of Public Charities visited the poor farm and found that the mentally ill were not locked up in restraint and no plumbing or fire protection existed. It was noted that the stove was a sufficient source of heat and the easy access to fresh air would serve well for ventilation.
In 1904, an inspection found no separation between men, women, or the mentally ill. All parties lived in a mixed environment on both floors. In 1911, the Auxiliary Committee of the State Board of Charities condemned the poor farm. The stated reasons were rough floors, small windows, improper ventilation, vermin-infected walls, and flies that swarmed everywhere. Flies were especially noticed swarming over the food being prepared for dinner.
In January of 1915, the Almshouse Committee solicited bids for a new “fireproof” building to replace the current poor farm. On May 21, 1915, the poor farm was described as a brick shell with rotting, vile-smelling wood, vermin-infested plaster, no bathtubs, and nearly no furnishings at all. A significant number of Inmates were soiling themselves regularly without being cleaned, and many of the rooms were rotting into holes. The building was finally condemned and demolished.
In March of 1916, J.W. Montgomery was granted the contract to build a new almshouse for $20,389. On May 17,1916, the cornerstone of the building was laid, and this signified the new chapter of the freshly built almshouse, known today as Ashmore Estates. A white farmhouse that formerly sat on the property served as a residence for a full-time caretaker and his family, who also spent part of their time living in the almshouse.
The new almshouse stood two stories tall. Each floor contained 16 rooms, which were divided into sections of 8. The sections served the purpose of separating the men and women on each floor, with each section also containing their own bathroom area. The lower floor of each section held a large living room. The basement held a fuel room, large kitchen, and separate dining rooms for men and women.
The almshouse held anywhere from 18 to 56 Inmates, with the numbers higher during the winter months. The almshouse was also noted and highly regarded for its ability to be self-sufficient in providing almost all their own food through gardening and butchering.
On May 31, 1921, Joseph Bloxom suffered severe injuries from what is believed to be an incident with a passing train. He attempted to walk back to the almshouse, and although the superintendent and doctors attended to his injuries as best they could, the 68-year old Bloxom passed away the next day, on June 1, 1921. Bloxom was buried in what is known as “The Little Green Plot”.
In 1959, the modern welfare system resulted in the closure of the almshouse. Coles County retained the land but sold the building to Charles Boyer and John ed Carpenter in 1961. Boyer and Carpenter named the almshouse “Ashmore Estates” and used the building as a private psychiatric hospital. The hospital closed a few years later due to debt but reopened in 1965 as a psychiatric hospital that housed Inmates from state mental institutions. In 1968, the building housed 49 patients, to include 10 that were affected with epilepsy.
In July of 1976, Paul Swinford and Galen Martinie purchased the building. Their initial plan was to build a single-floor building that could house up to 100 patients. The state planning committee did not approve their plan, which led Swinford and Martinie to invest more than $200,000 into constructing a modern addition onto the original building. Construction began in 1977 and was completed in the 1980’s. This construction resulted in an additional 12 rooms added to the building.
In February 1986, issues with receiving the proper licensing and certifications led to Swinford gaining permission to close Ashmore Estates. By April of 1987, all patients had been transferred, and Ashmore estates was shut down. In 1990, Swinford and Corrections Corporation of America sought to re-open Ashmore Estates as a mental health facility for teenage boys. On December 18, 1990, the Ashmore Village Zoning Board declined Swinford’s zoning request, citing public opposition and issues with fire safety.
After being abandoned in 1987, Ashmore Estates became a target for urban explorers, amateur ghost hunters, and vandals. These unauthorized entries led up to a fire on October 31, 1995, which destroyed an outbuilding. Continuous vandalism also resulted in Arthur Colclasure, who paid $12,500 for the building in 1998, failing to realize his plans of turning the building into his home.
In August 2006, Scott Kelley purchased Ashmore Estates from Colclasure with plans for renovation. Kelley moved onto the property, erected signs to deter trespassing, and began to cleanup the mess left by years of neglect and vandalism. To help finance Kelley’s cleanup efforts, he offered flashlight tours and a haunted house attraction that opened on October 13, 2006. Kelley also offered overnight stays which featured psychic mediums and guest speakers, who Kelly called “Night of Insanity”.
In the summer of 2008, brothers Christopher and Philip Booth filmed at Ashmore Estates. This resulted in the Daily Eastern News proclaiming “There couldn’t be a more perfect place for a paranormal investigation than Ashmore Estates. The book Paranormal Illinois was also written, including a chapter on the history and haunted stories of Ashmore Estates.
In January 2013, a severe storm resulted in damage to Ashmore Estates. Winds of more than 80 miles per hour blew the room off and destroyed the support gables. The Coles County Emergency Management Agency held the opinion that Ashmore Estates was beyond repair. In April 2013, Kelley sold Ashmore Estates to Robert Burton and Ella Richards for $12,700.
On May 3, 2014, Ashmore Estates was purchased by Robbin and Norma Terry. The Terry’s began repair of Ashmore Estates, which included replacing every window, and twice replacing the roof due to further storm damage. The current plan for Ashmore Estates is continued use for paranormal investigations.
Ashmore Estates is a haven of energy from its former time as a poor farm, private asylum, and overflow facility for a state hospital. As you walk the dark and haunted halls in search of activity, the spirits here are also looking for you. Find out what you might encounter on each of the three floors during your 12-hour sleepover.
Will you be the one to experience the intense activity that has caused guests to flee the building? Dare you make your way to the boiler room and make contact with an unpleasant spirit who likes to call names and even scratch people on occasion? Can you sit in one of the old dining rooms which have reports of light anomalies and shadows roaming along the walls?
Perhaps it will be you who hears the cries for help from a seemingly empty room. Or, as you walk from floor to floor, you may be the one who hears a whisper in your ear, a brush from a ghostly hand, or the apparition of a former resident.
You have a chance to solve the mystery of who knocks on the windows of the former kitchen. Should you elect to go to sleep, you’ll find out if you’re one of those who have been awakened by a touch or the presence of something near. That may be the point where you decide what your limit of fear really is.
Ashmore Estates has more than a century of history that is sad and tragic. The more than 100 deaths on the property have resulted in a powerful energy that can be felt as soon as you step inside the building.
During your ghost hunt with us, you’ll have some time to venture off and investigate on your own. But, let us warn you now. Here at Ashmore Estates, you’re never truly alone.