Ashmore Estate’s Mysterious
- 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.
Ashmore Estates’ Foundation
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.
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.
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.
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.