This is an extended version of our interview with Scott Kelley that we featured in the September 2009 issue of the Legends and Lore of Illinois. Download the entire issue by clicking here.
1. For the sake of our readers unfamiliar with Ashmore Estates, please reiterate how you came to own the building and what your plans for it were.
We designed and ran a haunted attraction at a large facility in the Arcola/Arthur area in 2005. Management was in transition at the facility and they did not have an interest in doing another. Our acting group needed an new venue. I checked many large facilities in the Coles County area but most were not available for the type of attraction we do. I approached the owner of Ashmore Estates in June of 2006. Initially I was just interested in renting the estates for a couple of months to hold my attraction in it. I met with him on a couple occations and I noted a common thread in what he was saying. He was frustrated by the vandalism occuring to the building and he did not have a way of stopping it. I made him an offer to buy it from him. He did not budge. I asked him to consider my offer to rent it for September/October 2006 and I would call him in a week. I made that call to him and I asked if I’d be able to rent it. He said “How much would you give me for it?” I knew at that point that I could buy the building. We held our first haunted attraction in the building that year and opened on Friday the 13th of October to a crowd of 700 in line.
2. What is the theme of this year’s haunted house? Why did you choose that particular theme?
Circus Sanitorium, and well, you always want to attract your biggest crowd and everyone loves clowns, right? Of course, it won’t just be clowns. We’ve got some Siamese twins, the wild man from Borneo, midgets, giants. Anything you’d find at a circus or sideshow could be here. You just never know what is waiting to chase you.
3. A number of paranormal investigation teams have been to Ashmore Estates in the past few years. Have they found anything that convinces you the building is haunted?
So far, we’ve had 26 paranormal investigations. Every one of those investigations has found evidence that it is haunted. Personally, I’m a skeptic. But I’ve also seen the evidence from many of the investigations and it certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
4. What is the most compelling paranormal experience you have heard of concerning Ashmore Estates?
I would say there are two. First, when the Booth brothers were here, filming “Soul Catcher” for the Sci Fi Channel, there was a black mist that hovered in front of the third floor nurses station for 25 minutes. It was there until a newspaper reporter showed up at midnight. When he identified himself, the mist turned around and went down the hall. The caught all that on video and it should in “Soul Catcher” when that comes out.
The second most compelling experience occurred when the Booth brothers were here, also. Sherri, on of the paranormal invetigators that was here, was walking down the hall. Our cat Pyra was in the building and she came out of the activity room into the hall. Pyra turned around and looked behind her, as if something was following her. Sherri looked up, to see what the cat was looking at. There was an old man with a top hat and black suit, looking out in the hall toward Sherri. Sherri ran upstairs, white as a sheet, despite the fact that she has been a paranormal investigator for years. I’ve known Sherri for a while and she’s always been trustworthy. If she said she saw something, she did.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done, or done differently, since you opened the haunted house?
Not really. We’ve been pretty happy with how it’s turned out. I wish we could have fixed the roof earlier. But, it all takes time. It’s getting done now so I’m happy about that.
6. What are your plans for the future of Ashmore Estates?
We’ve known from the beginning that we wouldn’t own Ashmore Estates forever. Its a great building, with a great history and it should be preserved. We’ve talked about using the building for a haunted bed and breakfast, but there’s still a lot of work to do before that would be likely. For now, we’ll continue using it for flashlight tours (2 hours historical tour, creepy but not scary), slumber parties, paranormal investigations, airsoft tournaments and of course, our annual haunted attraction. Right now, the condition of the building perfectly matches the events we use the building for. But, we know that in order for the building to be preserved for the long term, the types of events in the building will change. Once the building is fixed up, its not going to be smart to have people running through it shooting things up (for airsoft). That’s when it’ll be time for us to move on. We’re haunters, not hosteliers!
7. How can people interested in the building or the haunted attraction get in touch with you?
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