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The Myth and Legend of Coles' County Almshouse

Updated on October 5, 2011
A front view of Cole's County Almshouse, or Ashmore Estates. Illnois
A front view of Cole's County Almshouse, or Ashmore Estates. Illnois | Source

Ashmore Estates, Illnois. A story of death,diseases, to the mentally impaired and unexplained paranormal activity resides here.

Nestled in a small town of Ashmore, Illnois, on a 260 acre land, is a picture of a rural mid west sight to the home of Ashmore Estates. These grounds were originally the home of Cole's County Almshouse back in 1870. A poor farm that had housed and put to work the outcast of the surrounding communities. It had remained a poor farm until 1959 when the county had sold it to investors, in which they had turned the almshouse into a private Psychiatric Hospital. Established in 1857, the grounds were famous as being called the Coles County Poor Farm. Before welfare programs and broader government assistance was around, the Almshouse, or as commonly known as a poor house, was the home of that had distitued people, the elderly and even widows. In the days In 1841, Oliver D. Hawkins came from Kentucky. He had immigrated to Coles County where he was the superintendent of the County Farm. Most of the residents who lived here were those who had little or nothing. Poor farm residents had lived here as well until 1956 when the building turned into a house for the mentally disabled. As many as 250 residents at the almshouse had died on the property from 1870 to 1879.

The original structure of the Coles County Almshouse had been built as a small timber and brick building, with only two stories tall and a attached kitchen. Constructed by H.B. Truman, it was named after H.J. Ashmore. Til 1959, the Almshouse remained an actual working farm, with residents raising much of their own food. It was then sold to Ashmore Estates Company where they had in 1959, turned it into a psychiatric hospital and even adding a much larger and new building. After five years, it had closed due to lack of government funding and reopened in 1964. During that time, it was still a psychiatric hospital , only accepting patients from the state mental institutions. It housed forty nine residents, including several that were afflicted with epilesy until 1968. The Board of Commissioners of Public Charities had visited the facility in 1902. There, they had reported the hospital as having "no special provision for the insane" to even stating that "none of the patients were locked up or in restraints". By 1911, the almshouse was condemned because of the "vermin infected walls" to even flies that were swarming everywhere and noticeable on the poor food that was prepared for dinner.

Paul Swinford, in 1976, had bought the grounds of Coles' County Poor Farm. He had added an addition to the original building which was started in 1977 and finished around 1980. It had still operated as a institute, named "Intermediate Care Facility For the Developmentally Disabled". However due to lack of funding, the institute was closed down by 1986 and the residents had been transferred to area homes while Ashmore Estates shut its' doors. Three years later, in 1990, Paul Swinford had attempted to turn Ashmore Estates into a mental facility for teenage boys. Due to fire safety and code laws then, The Ashmore Village Board rejected Mr. Swinford's request. On a dark night, in 1995, on Halloween, a fire had destroyed an outbuilding that sat across from the entrance of the building. This is where the poor farm's superintendent house was. Prior to closure in 1987, the outbuilding was once used to teach the developmentally disabled motor skills. Resident Arthur Colclasure bought the property in 1998, stating he would renovate the building into his home. Due to continuous vandalism, the grounds of Coles County Poor Farm sat abandoned until 2006 when Scott Kelly purchased Ashmore Estates from Mr. Colclasure. Scott Kelly turned the structure into a haunted house in October 2006. Tales of the property being haunted had risen. From Pagan rituals to dismembered bodies. Tales of a story that involved a man named Darby, who along with his daughter, had once stayed at the poor farm during the Great Depression. Darby was being taunted by the ghost of a girl named Elva Skinner. In 1880, a fire had broken out in the original poor farm when Elva was only 7 and had perished in the fire.

Ashmore Estates has gone through 13 actual paranormal investigations and 31 groups whom have investigated the property. The poor farm has been aired on channels such as SyFy to the Booth Brothers and even "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel. The Booth Brothers had made a documentary filming from Ashmore Estates, "SoulCatcher-Trail of Fear". Travel channels, "Ghost Adventures" had visited the poor farm , which aired in September. Zak had interviewed meteorologist Kevin Orpurt, whom along with other speculators in October 2009 was attacked. Witnesses state that Kevin had sat down on a metal chair on the second floor when an unseen force picked him up , slamming him to the concrete floor inches away from the chair. He claimed that for three weeks after that incident he had feelings of anger, sorrow and darkness which he couldn't explain. Kevin tells the Ghost Adventures crew that the building is "not a pleasant place to be". In 2008, an investigator by the name of Brett Smock, was attacked in a stairway. He claimed that an unseen force went through him in which he couldn't explain. His family had noticed changes in Brett, which included anger attitude to talking to someone in his sleep. This as stated, could have been a demonic entity that might have taken over both Kevin and Brett in different attacks.

The crew had ventured into the property where from dusk to dawn they were locked down in the building. Zak, Nick and Aaron started their investigation walking around with the cameras and equipment on the first floor corridor. For forty five minutes they had captured nothing or let alone felt anything unusual going on. Zak had then brought a special recorder that would capture immortal voices. Asking questions as usual, they had captured the immortal voice of "Adam". When asked how he died there, you can clearly hear laughing from the voice of "Adam". They had heard other unexplained noises, in which they go down another corridor. They are guided by an immortal voice on the recorder to follow it. They go up a stairway, where Zak starts acting strange. Nick and Aaron notice the changes in Zak, when he stops in front of a metal ladder leading up to a attic. Nick climbs up to take a look with his camera and though nothing is captured on film, Nick swears that something had came at him when he was going down the ladder. On a recorder you can very clearly hear unexplained noises that sounds like something is coming down the ladder.

The guys split up, where Zak is on the second floor, Nick goes to the boiler room and Aaron is between the second and third floor stairway. There the guys provoke and taunt the spirits to come out and play. Zak is touched by an unseen force, where another spirit is captured on a EVP recorder saying "don't you dare touch him". He hears a loud crash, which makes Zak jump in his chair. Nick, being in the boiler room taunts with the spirits as well to come out and touch him. He feels he was scratched when at the same time on his EVP recorder a voice you can hear say, "I'll cut you" and even provokes the spirits more. A spirit is captured again on Nick's EVP recorder stating, "Don't bring that %*#? down here". Aaron , who is in the stairway of the second and third floor, decides to taunt for the spirits by whistling. On Aaron's EVP recorder you can very clearly hear a voice say "stop playing". Zak, who's walking around on the second floor where in the same spot, meterologist Kevin Orpurt was attacked, he picks up on his EVP recorder a voice stating that "you're gonna pay". The guys regroup of course, where they use their thermal imaging camera and capture in a snapshot, a dark shadow in the right side of the corner. Very intriguing as it is, the dark shadow itself was good evidence next to the evp sounds of immortal voices to hearing loud crashing noises.

Over a hundred years of residents that had lived in the almshouse, from little to nothing to the mentally disturbed. Such death, diseases and unexplained activity still walks these corridors in the building. It's no wonder that Ashmore Estates is quite a unique and popular Halloween attraction today.


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    • Gypsy1witch profile image

      Christine Marie 6 years ago from Milton, NY

      thanks admiral! yes this building of Ashmore Estates has been featured on channels such as "Ghost Adventures" to even the SYFY channel too. I was told its been aired on other shows for movies too; which is truly intriguing. I love my hauntings and i love to write about them as i come across new ones.

    • Admiral_Joraxx profile image

      Admiral_Joraxx 6 years ago from Philippines

      Spooky and haunted places like this are really interesting!, I guess this place has been featured a number of times in some horror and/or killing movies! the picture is so familiar. If not, it may have been used as a plot for movies. Nice post GipsyWitch! 1 Vote up!