Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ohio’s Gore Orphanage

When aficionados of ghost stories in Ohio get together there is one story that is always mentioned--the legend of Gore’s Orphanage. This story takes place in Vermillion, Ohio. It is often listed in the top ten most popular ghost stories in Ohio.

As mentioned the story of Gore’s Orphanage is only a “legend” but at the end of this post I will share the true story of why this area might possibly be haunted.

This legend starts with a tragic fire. It is stated that a man by the name of Gore ran an orphanage in the 1800s. He didn’t particularly like children and it is stated he often abused the chargers that were entrusted to his care.

In one version of this tale Gore wanting to collect “insurance money” decides to set the orphanage on fire. He callously stands by and watches all the orphans perish in the fire.

Other tales state that it was a “disgruntled employee” of Gores who actually set the fire in order to exact revenge on his former boss. Or it is stated that the culprit was a “crazy neighbor” who was tired of all the children’s noise.

Yet another reason sometimes told is more benign in nature. It is stated that an orphan actually knocked a lantern over which set the barn on fire. Then the flames quickly spread to the orphanage’s main building.

All these versions mention that all the orphans perished in this fire.

It is stated that the neighboring townsfolk not wanting a reminder of this terrible tragedy razed the remaining burnt shells of the buildings leaving only the corner foundations.

But this tragedy was not so easily forgotten for soon after the fire the locals started whispering that at night strange activity occurred near the site where the fire occurred.

Some reported seeing the ghostly shapes of the dead children playing in the woods.

Other tales included more dramatic sightings. Witnesses stated they saw these poor orphans still on fire running and screaming for help.

Yet other sightings included tales of bright lights that were seen bobbing and weaving through the trees. Many felt these lights must be these children’s spirits.

One darker tale started to be circulated. A tall dark ominous figure was seen standing near one of the corner foundations. It was believed this figure was probably the person that was responsible for setting the orphanage on fire.

Many witnesses over the years have seen activity in this area but not for the reasons listed above.

The Gore Orphanage never existed. A road in the area is called “Gore Orphanage Road” because of two other reasons. Early surveyors named the road after a “gore” which is a word they use to denote a wedge-shaped piece of land.

Later the word “Orphanage” was added when the Orphanage of Light and Hope took ownership of the property in 1903.

Gatepost at Old Swift Mansion

A man by the name of Joseph Swift purchased the land in 1817 and over the next 20 years he built a mansion named after him. He sold this beloved mansion for financial reasons in 1874 to Nicolas and Harriet Kellogg Wilbur. Tragically, four of their great-grandchildren died in the home from diphtheria.

It was at the height of the Spiritualism movement and the Wilburs overcome with grief tried to communicate with their deceased great-grandchildren by holding a series of séances at the mansion.

In 1895 the Wilbur family sold the mansion to the Sutton family, 7 years later they sold the property to the Rev. John Sprunger in 1903 to be used as part of the Orphanage of Light and Hope that he and his wife founded.

Location of Swift Mansion
Photo: JoshH21
This orphanage closed down in 1916 and the old Swift Mansion left abandoned burnt to the ground in 1923.

It was at this time that the rumors about the hauntings started to be reported.

So children did die on the property but from diphtheria not a fire. Are the more benign ghost sighting that are seen in the area near where the Swift Mansion once stood --actually these four great-grandchildren instead?

In 1992 the old Swift mansion site and 1500 acres of the Vermillion River Valley were purchased by the Lorain County Metro Parks.

Swift Mansion

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