Ashmore Estates is everything a haunted asylum should be: massive, isolated, and proceeded by an intensely dark history. We were lucky enough to visit and investigate the intimidating red building on a hill alongside Ghost Adventures‘ Nick Groff and Ghost Stalkers‘ Chad Lindberg this April, and were instantly overcome by its palpable, and often times overwhelming connection to the past.
Once an almshouse, Ashmore Estates was built in 1916, and was a fully functioning facility until the late 80s when it closed its doors indefinitely. Originally, the land was part of the Coles County Poor Farm, which was home to the poor and mentally insane from 1857 to 1869. Unfortunately, it soon became less of a haven for those in need and more of a nightmare, with conditions described as truly deplorable. The facility quickly became not just unsanitary, but a very unsafe place.
There were 32 recorded deaths that occurred between the years 1870 to 1879, though there is estimated to have been hundreds of undocumented deaths on the grounds over the years. At the time, the building was described as having “vermin infested walls”, improper ventilation, and “swarms of flies everywhere”, making it an unimaginable place to live. By 1911, the conditions had become so bad that the building was officially condemned by the State Board of Charities, citing lack of plumbing and fire protection, with further notes that the mentally insane were allowed to roam about the building freely.
It wasn’t until 1916 that the next chapter in Ashmore’s mythology began with the building of a new almshouse. For years, men and women worked the attached farm for their bed and meals, and for a time the almshouse seemed to heal the wounds of its past by giving those in need a safe and hopeful haven. In 1959 that brief but bright chapter ended when Ashmore Estates was sold again and re-opened as a private psychiatric facility. It didn’t last long. The hospital quickly became overcrowded, and with little to no funding for renovations, closed its doors for good in April of 1986.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you get while walking through a building that for so many years brought both hope and sadness to so many. Many of the people who came to Ashmore to investigate the rumors of hauntings were overcome with a variety of emotional responses, and one girl even felt that an unseen force had scratched her back while exploring the second floor. It was a very emotional experience for many people, as it should be, when you consider the history of the building and the people who lived and died behind its walls.
During my time walking the empty corridors of Ashmore Estates, I felt what I can only describe as a mixture of both attraction and an overwhelming feeling of being repelled from the building. In other words, it’s a very strange place that seems to have quite an effect on the curious people brave enough to spend any length of time inside.
I can’t help but think that the strange effect Ashmore Estates has over people makes complete sense when you consider its history. Some of the lives lived inside the facility were happy ones, and some horrific. Those emotions are still very evident, soaked into the concrete, brick, and mortar everywhere you look. Ashmore Estates is like two sides of the same coin, and you have to consider that when you’re investigating, you have no idea which side you might make contact with.
During our investigation, quite a few people, including ourselves and seasoned paranormal investigator Cynthia Campbell, thought they smelled strong concentrations of alcohol at random points (and places) during the night. Once Stephanie Hartman of S&M Paranormal shed some light on the strange phenomenon this turned out to be what I think was the most interesting piece of evidence collected.
Stephanie and her husband Mike Hartman had discovered an old newspaper article which explained that, at one point in Ashmore’s history, a majority of the patients and inmates at the facility had developed alcoholism. In fact, nearly all of them were suffering from some kind of alcohol related addiction gained through the use of booze as an escape. Throughout the night, more and more people continued to smell the strange scent, even though there was no drinking permitted in the building, coupled with the fact that no alcohol was available at the event.
By the end of the investigation there had been many interesting EVPs collected, and quite a few people had experienced their own personal run-ins with the other side. Some of the best advice given during the night came from Ghost Stalkers’ Chad Lindberg who told to a nervous investigator, afraid that the ghosts might follow her home, to “go home and wash your clothes, because sometimes you can take a place home with you.” I thought it was interesting advice to make a point, both physically and emotionally, of leaving a place behind once you walk out the door.
After having a few weeks to think about it, I decided that I would absolutely return to Ashmore Estates again, if only to continue exploring all its strange complexities. It’s a location that has so much of its history still left on the surface, and because of that, you can’t help but connect with it on a deeper level as you walk through its halls. Ashmore Estate’s owner, Robbin Terry, has done an incredible job of restoring the building, a process that remains ongoing, and his volunteers aren’t just knowledgable about the property, their passion for the history of Ashmore Estates is downright contagious. So contagious, in fact, that you might want to wash your clothes when you get home.
For more information about Ashmore Estates, including how you can spend the night investigating it yourself, visit their official website.
For more information about upcoming stops on the Nick Groff Tour, head to NickGroffTour.com.
Have you been to Ashmore Estates? Do you have a favorite haunted location that you think we should investigate? We want to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line on Facebook, tweet to us @WeirdHQ, or leave your comments below.