The Real Story Behind Elva Skinner and Ashmore Estates

Late last week, our site traffic spiked with visitors flocking to this article about Elva Skinner and Ashmore Estates, which was published in June 2012. Whenever something like that happens, I like to find out why, and a recent post at was brought to my attention. The post advertised an upcoming overnight event at Ashmore Estates, brought to you by Troy Taylor’s American Hauntings Tours. The article is generic, featuring background largely lifted from the Ashmore Estates Wikipedia page (which was, for the most part, written by myself).

What apparently caused the controversy, and sent thousands of people to Mysterious Heartland, was the website author’s remarks about the ghost of Elva Skinner, who some believe haunts the building. It reads, “Some of the confusion about the ghost stories came from a fictional story that was written about the old building and the ghost of a girl who died in a fire at the almshouse. Unfortunately, many have come to believe the story is true. And while this was only a fictional ghost story… there are many who claimed that the old building really IS haunted!”

Tales of Coles County, Illinois by Michael KleenAs the author of the above mentioned fictional story, I’m in a unique position to settle this controversy. While the writer of that webpage is correct that I did include a ghost story set at the Coles County Poor Farm in my book Tales of Coles County, there are, in fact, several other ghosts believed to haunt the building, including Joe Bloxom. Some of these are based on actual people, other stories are much more generic.

Elva Skinner was a real person. She was a girl who burned to death in the original almshouse, which was built in 1870. The current building was built in 1916. My short story is centered on a father and his son who have to seek refuge at the poor farm during the Great Depression. The father becomes infatuated with a volunteer there, and does not pay much attention to his son when his son tells him about his new “friend.” The friend turns out to be Elva Skinner, who has haunted the property since her death. Before I wrote this story, I never heard anything about her ghost actually haunting Ashmore Estates. I saw her name and age in the county poor farm death record and thought about what a tragedy that must have been. However, a few years after the first edition of Tales of Coles County was published in 2004, I began to hear a lot about her ghost.

It would be tempting to say “case closed” and dismiss all these sightings. Far be it from me, however, to dismiss the claims of so many who have allegedly encountered her ghost. Every ghost story has an origin, and every paranormal encounter is, essentially, an act of creative storytelling. Perhaps something of Elva does remain behind, stirred to life by a renewed interest in her tragic fate. Or perhaps people have strange encounters there anyway, and have found a compelling context in which to interpret them. I don’t know, and that is what makes the paranormal so interesting.

So to my friends and fellow enthusiasts who are upset at this author’s words, I say, relax. There is much about this subject that is open for debate. What is not up for debate, however, are historic facts like little Elva Skinner’s horrifying final moments inside the Coles County almshouse. If this author is guilty of anything, it is not doing his homework, which is a constant and annoying issue in the paranormal community. I hope this blog post helps clear up any misconceptions that still linger.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright, 2015. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.


  1. It’s more than possible that the idea to create a fiction, was conceived as an idea, from outside your own mind, inspired and broadcast into your mind by the very spirits who wanted the story told, and that the seemingly odd confluence of the story and the manifestations within the house, are thus aligned, for that reason.



  1. […] to tell him the story years after the fact, much like I was when folks started talking about the ghost of Elva Skinner at Ashmore Estates. Rather than undermine or discredit the story, I believe this information offers […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: