Ashmore Estates Investigation 2016

This former almshouse, once part of the Coles County Poor Farm, was built in 1916 and operated until 1959, when it was purchased by Ashmore Estates, Inc. for use as a private psychiatric care facility. Ashmore Estates closed in 1987 and stood abandoned until 2006, when it was opened as a commercial haunted house.

From 1857 until 1869, the Coles County Poor Farm was located in Charleston Township near the small town of Loxa, Illinois. In 1870, the county purchased 260 acres from A. N. Graham in Section 35 of Ashmore Township for a new farm, which sat astride the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad. This small timber and brick building, constructed by H. B. Truman, was the first to sit on that property. It was 38x58 feet and two stories tall, with an attached kitchen. The initial superintendent or "Overseer of the Poor" of the county farm was Oliver D. Hawkins, who immigrated to Coles County from Kentucky in 1841.

Many of the inmates died at the farm, and the county maintained a small cemetery somewhere north of the grounds. In 1879, Joshua Ricketts, superintendent of the county farm at the time, had recorded 32 deaths out of the roughly 250 inmates who had stayed at the farm between 1870 and 1879. Another pauper cemetery, established a few years later, still exists south of Route 16 and now contains the graves of between sixty to one hundred persons.

The Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities visited the poor farm in 1902. "The heating is by stove and is sufficient", they reported. "There is no regular system of ventilation, but plenty of fresh air is easily obtained. There is no plumbing ... There is no fire protection." As for the condition of the mentally ill at the farm, they wrote: "There is no special provision for the insane ... None are locked up or in restraint." By 1911, however, the Auxiliary Committee of the State Board of Charities condemned the almshouse for its "vermin infected walls", "rough floors", "small windows", and improper ventilation. It was reported that "flies swarmed everywhere" and "were especially noticeable on the poor food prepared for dinner". In January 1915, the Almshouse Committee, headed up by John Goodyear, Ivory W. Merritt, Jr., E.N. Carter, W.R. Zimmerman, and William Knollenberg, received bids for the construction of a new "fireproof" building at the location.

The building contract for the new almshouse was first awarded to S.C. Sailor of Oakwood, Illinois, but he backed out of the project in late February 1916. The contract was then granted to J.W. Montgomery in March for $20,389, and the cornerstone was ceremoniously laid on May 17, 1916. A full time caretaker and his family took turns living in the almshouse and a white farmhouse that formerly sat on the property. Nancy Swinford, the daughter of Leo Roy and Lura Andrews, lived at the home for eight years during the 1940s and 1950s. In a 2009 interview with the Times-Courier, Swinford said: "It certainly did a lot of people a lot of good. They were warm and had good food on the table. And, they loved working and earning their keep. They weren’t moochers ... They mostly grew their own food, did their own butchering, and smoked the meat. They smoked their own bacon and hams in the smoke house; they killed and dressed all their own chickens, and made their own butter."

Coles County retained the farmland around the property, but sold the almshouse to Ashmore Estates, Inc. in February 1959. That corporation opened the building as a private psychiatric hospital by the same name. In October 1964, after only five years in operation, the psychiatric hospital closed down because of debt. The institution reopened in 1965, but changed its focus from a private facility to one that accepted patients from state mental institutions. By 1968, the shelter care facility housed forty-nine residents, including ten afflicted with epilepsy.

Paul Swinford (no relation to Mary Swinford) and Galen Martinie purchased the institution in July 1976. The two originally envisioned building a brand new, one floor residency to house up to one hundred patients, but the state planning committee refused to approve that plan after considering it for six months. Consequently, Swinford and Martinie invested over $200,000 in the construction of a modern addition onto the old building. Construction began in 1977, but was not finished until the 1980s. Once the addition to Ashmore Estates had been completed and the rest of the building was brought up to code, the institution's future appeared brighter. On December 12, 1981, Barbara Jean Clark became director of the care facility. "We have the opportunity to be one of the best facilities of our kind in the area", she remarked in their eight page in-house organ, The Ashmore Review.

In February 1986, Paul Swinford entered into a limited partnership with a Peoria-based company known as Convalescent Management Associates, Inc. to help manage the institution's finances. The departments of Public Aid and Public Health dragged their feet over the issuance of proper licenses and certificates for nearly a year, leading Swinford to file for permission from the Illinois Health Facility Planning Board to close the facility. At that time, Ashmore Estates' financial losses exceeded $1.5 million. By the end of April, all of the residents had been transferred to area homes, and Ashmore Estates closed its doors.

It would be three years before anyone endeavored to reopen the institution. In 1990, Paul Swinford, in conjunction with a Tennessee company known as Corporation of Corrections America, attempted to turn Ashmore Estates into a mental health facility for teenage boys. On the night of December 18, the Ashmore Village Board rejected Swinford's request for a zoning permit five to zero, effectively dooming the project over concerns related to fire safety, as well as consideration for public opposition. On Halloween night in 1995, a fire destroyed an outbuilding that sat across the lawn from the front entrance of the main building, where the poor farm superintendent's house once stood. The outbuilding had been used to teach motor skills to the developmentally disabled prior to the facility's closure in 1987.

In 1998, a resident of Sullivan named Arthur Colclasure paid $12,500 for the property and announced that he planned to renovate the building and turn it into his home. However, continuous vandalism prevented him from ever realizing his plans.

In August 2006, Scott Kelley purchased Ashmore Estates from Arthur Colclasure and began renovating. According to Scott: "The building was a wreck ... it took seven weeks of forty hours a week to clean it out ... the windows were mostly broken." To finance the project, the Kelleys offered flashlight tours of the interior. To discourage trespassers, they erected signs and moved onto the property. Their haunted house opened on October 13, 2006. In the off-season, Scott offered overnight stays in the building called a "Night of Insanity", featuring speakers, movies, and guests such as psychic medium Cari Stone from The Cari Stone Show.

 In January 2013, Ashmore was hit by a fierce storm, with wind speeds reaching 80 to 100 mph. Ashmore Estates suffered heavy damage; its roof was blown off and the support gables were destroyed. Director Dan Ensign of the Coles County Emergency Management Agency said that the building appeared to be damaged beyond repair. The Kelley's home, adjacent to the property, escaped largely unscathed. Scott Kelley sold the building at auction in April of 2013 for a price of $12,700. The new owners quickly announced plans to repair the roof and add a concession stand, lobby, and bathrooms

Scott Kelley sold the building at auction in April 2013 for a price of $12,700 to the Robert Burton & Ella Richards. The new owners quickly announced plans to repair the roof and add a concession stand, lobby, and bathrooms. Renovations are still ongoing and regular paranormal investigations are allowed for groups that are interested. On May 2, 2014 the building and property was sold to Robbin & Norma Terry.

Located at:  22645 E. County Road 1050N, Ashmore, IL 61912

Telephone: 217-899-9978

Owners: Robbin and Norma Terry


Hauntings: In 2004, Michael Kleen included Ashmore Estates in a collection of short historical fiction stories set in Coles County called Tales of Coles County, Illinois. The story involved a man named Darby and his daughter who stayed at the poor farm during the Great Depression. Darby was tormented by the ghost of a girl named Elva Skinner, who died in a fire in the original almshouse. Since publication, several people have claimed that the ghost of Elva actually haunts the building.

There have been reports of shadowy figures, numerous EVPs, people being pushed and shoved in stairwells, reports of a ghost of little girl named Margaret and something more dark and sinister in the boiler room.

Numerous paranormal events have been witnessed by many since being opened up as a paranormal facility including the sounds of heavy footsteps, loud bangs and crashes from no apparent source, shadow people roaming the second and third floor hallways, disembodied voices, people feeling the sensation of being touched and, in some cases, scratched, and many EVPs have been captured throughout the building.





The GRS investigated Ashmore Estates on April 24, 2016 and the team included: Stan Suho, Kathie Para, Marge Sucha, Michael Wright and Dale Kaczmarek with help from Dean Thompson, Matt Smith, Dave Anderson, Clint Gaither, Ron Turner and Carole Senger.









Equipment setup: Dale had a static IR camcorder set up on the second floor facing down the hallway; the Command Center was setup on the main floor with cables for audio/video snaked down the PVC pipes between the floors.

Experiments performed: EVP, Ghostbox, Ovilus X and Dowsing Rod sessions were conducted on the stairwell between the second the third floors, the third floor, the Green Room, the third floor porch, the boiler room, we conducted a role-play at the second floor nurses station and a step of stairs leading to root cellar. The X-Cam SLS was employed as well as a Melmeter, REM Epod, digital cameras and tape recorders and the DTD device to be used for the Ovilus X sessions while in dictionary mode.

Personal experiences:

Kathie Para: Ghost Research Society did a daytime investigation of Ashmore Estates. Members present were Dale Kaczmarek, Stan Suho, Marge Sucha, Mike Wright and me. There were also about five other investigators there from the Alton, Illinois area that came with Dean Thompson.

Equipment used included Ovilus X, Ghost Box, REM Epod, Melmeters and K-II meters, dowsing rods, Tri-Field natural meter, digital recorders, digital cameras, FLIR camera, video cameras and X-Cam SLS.

We spent many hours in several locations throughout the building, which consists of three floors.

I personally didn’t get much in the way of EVPs after going over my evidence but had some very cool experiences. The most significant one was in the root cellar. Marge, Mike and I were doing a dowsing rod session while waiting for Dale to join us. We connected with a man (who we believe was named Peter) who was most anxious to communicate with us by the way the rods were reacting. He told us he was pushed down the stairs into the root cellar and was injured. Dale then joined us and turned on his X-Cam SLS. Immediately, a figure showed up standing on the stairs. It made a pushing motion and then fell down the stairs. The figure on the screen ended up on the floor of the cellar and then it appeared to collapse. The figure repeated this action to our amazement. It was reenacting being pushed down the stairs and falling to the floor, just as he had told us though the dowsing rods. It was amazing and validated what we learned before Dale joined us!

On another occasion in the women’s dining room, Mike was holding the dowsing rods and a figure showed up on the X-Cam who appeared to be, what looked like, playing the drums on Mike’s hands. Was this the spirit’s way of moving the rods? It was a very interesting day and I would love to investigate Ashmore Estates again, day or night!

Stan Suho: This was one of our few daylight investigations. The building was an old "poor farm/hospital" about a hundred years old. The owner is finishing up on a rehab, and has made this old building a perfect place for ghost hunting. Holes have been drilled through the floors to make it easy to run cables that lead to the command post on the first floor. With tables,
power, wash rooms, refrigerator, microwave oven, the whole 9 yards. Outside are bunk houses with bunks, bathrooms, cable TVs. Is this the way our grand folks hunted Ghost.
The building is a big three story & basement concrete and steel structure with power throughout. We were joined by Dean's group from the Alton area. As far as setup, I used two IR cameras "minus the IR". One on the second floor and one on the third. Dale had a camera on the third floor also. This time I was trying out a new Sony Night Shot that I recently picked up, and some new "for me" video editing software. I wasted some time learning the can do and don't do of the new programs. The day proceeded as usual with pictures taken, EVPs recorded, and poking into every dark corner. We broke down in time for dinner.

Nothing to report on my part although a night investigation might reveal a lot more.

Marge Sucha: This was a daytime investigation.  We arrived around 9:00 am. 

The day was sunny and temperatures were in the upper 60s. 

Shortly after we arrived the owner, Robbin Terry gave a tour of the building.

Below are some of the highlights of our EVP sessions

First session was on the stairway in the hospital side of the building.   Dale's Ovilus was very talkative.  One on the questions asked was "Where is the best place to talk to you?  Upstairs or downstairs.  Reply, up.  

Question, Are you upstairs or downstairs?  Reply, up. 

Dale used his new camera and he got a stick figure walking up stairs.

Third floor, during the time we were here this floor was pretty quiet.

Dale asked what you do around here and to me the Ovilus sounded like it replied Poker.  Not sure if they would have played poker.    We switched to the SB-11, spirit box, but we didn't get anything. 

Women's Dining room.  Mike took out the dowsing rods and asked if anyone was here.  Replied yes.   Are you a male.  Replied, yes.  Kathie asked if he knew this was a women's dining room and he was not allowed.  Replied, yes.  After that it seemed up he had left.  We told him it was ok for him to be in here and asked him to come back.

We asked if he could make our K-II meters light up and they flickered.  Asked can you do that again and they both went off.  Kathie asked if you can come over and say hi.  Just Kathie's K-II meter light up.  With the Ovilus we did get the name George

Downstairs/ Room next to Boiler Room.

This room was overall pretty quiet.  With the Ovilus we did have some names.  Jen, August, Betty.  

Margaret/Mary's room

We started out with the Ovilus and later switched to SB-11 spirit box.

This room was fairly quiet.   Kathie asked “How long have you been here?"  Reply August. 

We were getting ready to leave and Dale asked us if we wanted to do a quick ghost box session.  Ovilus reply, "Anything"

Question, "Are you a worker or patient?” female voice "patient"

"Do you want Robbin to open the window for you?"  Male voice, No.

Root Cellar,

Mike had his dowsing rods and as soon as we walked down there Mike's rods started to swing back and forth.  We asked if someone wanted to communicate.  A strong yes. 

Questions and replies.  Do you have something important to tell us?  Reply, Yes.  Are you sick? yes.  Are you in physical pain? Yes.  Did you die?  No response.   Did the doctor help you? No.  Was the nurse able to help you? No.  Did you fall down the stairs?  Yes.   Did someone push you down the stairs? Yes.   Did someone find you? Yes.   Did they take you to the hospital?  Yes.  After you went to the hospital were people no longer able to help you?  Yes.   Were they unable to hear you when you talked to them?  Yes.  Dale came into the cellar around this time and started to tell us he was seeing a stick figure waving his hands and then crumple down on the floor.  He said it almost looked like a pushing motion.   As Dale was telling us this Mikes rods were kept moving as if to confirm what Dale was saying.  We were trying to get a name and we got the name Peter.  The Ovilus gave us the name Oremus.  Not sure if there was a connection. 

We also did a session in the nurses station and the Room with the piano, 2nd floor.

Overall this was a great investigation.  Robbin Terry and his wife were great.   Ashmore Estates is clean and Robbin has put so much work into this building to make it easy to set up equipment.    This was an investigators dream.   I cannot wait to come back.

Dale Kaczmarek: I had visited the place one other time prior to Terry’s purchase of the building and it was a mess! Garbage piled up in the hallways and some parts of the building were not accessible at all. It was a unique experience to investigate this location during daylight hours and we tried to prove that ghosts are present, not just after the sun goes down, but throughout the 24-hours of day and night.

While conducting an EVP session in the stairwell between the second the third floors, the X-Cam SLS system did detect a “stick figure” coming up from the second floor that seemed to pause just short of where Wright was sitting before disappearing. Another figure was also detected in the boiler room in the doorway and directly behind Para. When I mentioned that there was a figure directly behind her, she turned around to face the figure which immediately vanished.

Besides those two occasions, I did not feel anything paranormal or unusual during our investigation and it actually seemed quite silent.

Evidence collected:

Ashmore1.MPG – while conducting a dowsing rod session in the root cellar, a figure appears, on the X-Cam SLS, to be crumpled at the bottom of the stairs as those he/she was pushed and fell.

Ashmore2.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the stairwell between the second and third floors two figures appear on the X-Cam SLS. One seems like its climbing the stairs but disappears before reaching Wright seated in a chair and another appears in the doorway behind Wright.

Ashmore3.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the boiler room a figure appears on the X-Cam SLS to the left of Thompson.

How are you ashmore.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the stairwell between the second and third floors, the Ovilus says, “How are you?”

No ashmore.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the porch on the third floor, a question was asked, “Is there anybody here?” A whispered female voice says, “No.”

Nurses station mmm sound and then meows ashmore.MPG – while conducting an EVP session by the second floor nurses station, the group was discussing an issue when a low-pitched mmm sound was recorded and it was followed by something that sounds like a cat meowing.

Stairwell up ashmore.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the stairwell between the second and third floor, a question was asked, “Where is the best place to talk with you? Up or down?” The Ovilus responds with, “Up.”

Up here help downstairs ashmore.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the stairwell between the second and third floors the Ovilus says, “Up here help downstairs.”

Conclusions: This was a unique investigation as it was one of only a handful of such investigations conducted during daylight hours at a venue. This gave the group a whole new perspective of their surroundings and also went on to prove that you don’t have to conduct investigations in the dark to garner interesting evidence. Many thanks to Dean Thompson who won this daytime investigation for up to 12 people at a raffle at Haunted R Theater owned by Robbin Terry.

A lot of equipment such as Nightshot cameras could not be employed due to daylight conditions however we were able to debut the X-Cam SLS system for this investigation. It performed extremely well despite being used in daylight conditions and generated many “stick” figures that we had no explanation for but did fit into the scenario of questions being asked at the time.

The place was amazing and very clean due to the efforts of Robin Terry and many volunteers who generously offered their free time to rid this facility of the extreme clutter that was jammed into it by previous owners.

This could be a place to conduct a follow-up investigation, next time under nighttime conditions. 

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