Ashmore Estates

The spirits of the sick and poor don’t seem to want to let go of their countryside safe haven

Ashmore Estate’s Mysterious
Paranormal Activity

  • The vivid apparition of a dead inmate is often spotted in the building
  • A child spirit is said to hold peoples' hands and tug on their shirts
  • A spirit is said to shove and accost people in the boiler room
  • Two female spirits reportedly respond to being read to by visitors
  • Unexplained sounds and disembodied voices are often reported
  • Moving shadows are frequently encountered throughout the building

Welcome to Ashmore Estates

Standing amongst the farm fields of southern Illinois is a brick structure with a sense of hollowness to it. Though just a few stories tall, this old building looms intimidatingly over the sprawls of corn that spread out in every direction. Though the signage out front welcomes you to ‘Ashmore Estates,’ this hardly looks like what you’d picture when you imagine the word ‘estates.’

The History of Ashmore Estates

In the era of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public assistance programs, it can be hard to imagine how the world ever functioned without these safety nets for the vulnerable. But, if you hearken back far enough, you will find an intricate patchwork of services helping keep the poor, elderly, and infirm on their feet. Many remnants of this past have long since been bulldozed, perhaps out of the interest of modernity or simply out of a vested interest in forgetting unfortunate chapters of history. Ashmore Estates is an example of that past, as it was a prominent poor house during its time.

First established in Ashmore Township in 1870, the local Coles County Poor Farm originally consisted of 260 acres of farmland and a collection of ramshackle buildings to house the poor, insane, and otherwise indigent members of society. The first main building – a 38 x 58 wooden structure – was two stories tall, with a small attached kitchen building. It served well-enough for the first few years, but as has often occurred in places like this, the infrastructure was allowed to be used well beyond its useful life.

Early Claims of Patient Mistreatment

By 1902, the situation at the poor farm was first identified as lacking in several aspects, most notably that there were no special rooms or processes to deal with violently insane ‘inmates’ The criminally insane were simply allowed to live amongst everyone else at Coles County Poor Farm, with less than ideal results. Still, despite this, a review of the space in that year deemed it adequate, remaining that way until 1911 when another review was conducted.

The 1911 review differed greatly from the 1902 review, so much so that the original building was immediately condemned following the investigation. That review found, among other things, vermin in the walls, the building infested with bugs and flies, unsanitary food preparation, lacking ventilation, and inmate sanitation almost non-existent. In the end, funds were raised to build a new poor farm building addressing all of these concerns and providing the residents with modern amenities like plumbing, ventilation, and sanitation measures.

Ashmore Estates’ Foundation
is Constructed

The new building, which was completed in 1916, housed the poor and infirm of the surrounding community in much greater comfort, providing them with warm places to sleep, hot meals to keep them sustained, and work around the farm for those who could manage it. Additionally, the new facility allowed for some management of the dangerously insane, removing a long-standing danger to poor farm residents while still being able to house the violently mentally ill.

But, despite the new facility, the era of poor farms and almshouses was nearing its end.. New initiatives were created to address poverty, and Social Security was soon established, providing some funds to those too old to keep working and avoid the poor house.

Additionally, women’s rights were greatly expanded in the decades that followed the new poor farm’s opening. Many inmates at poor farms were widowed mothers of young children, unable to find work due to societal pressures against women working, as well as the needs of childcare requiring them to be home. As women earned more rights to work independently and provide for their children through labor, many widows and poor mothers were able to avoid the poor farm life completely.

Ashmore Estates gains its
now-famous name

By the 1950s, due to the safety nets put in place after the Great Depression, the population of the Coles County Poor Farm had been rendered slim. In 1959, the building was sold off to Ashmore Estates, Inc., who sought to convert it into a psychiatric hospital.The conversion to mental healthcare was swift, but the first version of the Ashmore Estates facility didn’t last long. In 1964, after just five year in operation, the facility closed due to debts. It reopened in the same capacity the following year, this time accepting overflow patients from state institutions, as they were populated well beyond capacity.

A Change in Direction for Ashmore Estates

The facility continued to house and care for the mentally handicapped for twenty more years before the tides of society changed once more. Throughout the 1980s, many of the large-scale state mental institutions that Ashmore took overflow from were closed due to national and state-level austerity measures. By 1986, there weren’t enough patients to keep the doors of Ashmore Estates open, and it finally closed in April of that year.

After almost a decade of emptiness, Ashmore Estates was purchased in 1998, though development plans fell through and it was sold again in 2006. The new owners at the time moved onto the property and, to both satiate the public’s curious desires and generate some revenue, they opened the building to guided flashlight tours.

Is Ashmore Estates Haunted?

Tours proved a big success, and as more people got the chance to wander through the mysterious old building, stories of strange encounters became more and more common. It wasn’t long before Ashmore Estates had garnered a local reputation as the realest haunted house in southern Illinois. And from there, Ashmore’s story and reputation only grew.

A ghost that is frequently encountered by Ashmore visitors is thought to be that of Joe Bloxom. So many died at the poor farm over the years that Ashmore had its own private cemetery, but Joe Bloxom is the inmate most visitors have come to know. According to legend, Bloxom was walking back to the poor farm on the train tracks from a day of labor when he was struck from behind by a train. Not one to go out easily, Bloxom reportedly limped all the way back to the poor farm before collapsing and dying of his injuries. Now, his tall apparition is often spotted inside and outside the building, sometimes appearing clear enough to be identified as Joe simply by his facial features.

Ashmore Estates’ most famous ghost

Another well-known entity around the building is said to stem from the original almshouse. The tale tells of a little girl, Elva, who lived at the poor house with her mother in 1880. Unfortunately, one day a spark from a stove heater caught her dress on fire, and she soon succumbed to the burns she received. Now, it is said that visitors to Ashmore Estates can look forward to Elva holding their hands or tugging on their shirts to get their attention.

Aggressive Entity in the Boileroom

Though not every spirit at Ashmore has a name, there are many well-known for their styles of activity and the ‘hotspots’ they’re known to reside in. One spirit on the lower floor is said to be particularly aggressive, shoving people when they linger too long in the boiler room. Those who have encountered this ornery spirit believe he is an old boiler room worker, annoyed by people interrupting his work and crowding his already small boiler room.

Upstairs, in one particular room near the front of the building, two female ghosts are said to reside. Reportedly the spirits of two good-natured, mentally handicapped former patients, these two spirits are frequently read to by visitors in hopes of inspiring them to manifest themselves. Many people have reported odd sounds, disembodied voices, and EMF spikes in the room once they begin reading to the girls. Beyond these reports, strange things have been encountered all throughout Ashmore Estates, from disembodied voices, potential EVPs, anomalous photographs, shadow figures, odd smells, and shifting furniture; almost everyone who has come to visit Ashmore Estates has left with some unexplainable story to share.

The building has become famous in paranormal circles in recent years, particularly after appearances on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, and in movies like Children of the Grave II. In many ways, Ashmore Estates has come to personify the next generation of ‘famously haunted’ paranormal locations in the US, being redeveloped to include cabins, bathrooms, showers, partial kitchens, presentation space, and wall-and-ceiling infrared lights to support night vision filming. Ashmore Estates now books tours and overnights months in advance, and it seems it only gets more in-demand with each passing year. So though it started life as a poor farm, Ashmore Estates has since gained a wealth of ghost stories and paranormal encounters.