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Weird Scenes Surround the Gore Orphanage

If Ohioans were asked to come up with a short list of their favorite local ghost stories, Vermillion's Gore Orphanage would certainly make an appearance on the majority of the lists. Even though the alleged events are said to have happened well over 150 years ago, it is still one of the most popular spooky Ohio travel destinations. The site is deserted now and only a few bits and pieces of the orphanage foundation remain. But it's easy enough to find; just look for the foreboding road sign directing you to Gore Orphanage Road. It is said that the Gore Orphanage was in operation sometime in the 1800s.

A mysterious fire started in the building that quickly engulfed the entire structure. Lining up all the usual suspects from all the different versions, the likely cause of the fire was one of the following:
Old Man Gore—the owner of the orphanage who was either attempting to collect some sort of insurance money or just simply hated children.

Disgruntled Male Employee—While he is never named, this shady character had some sort of beef with orphanage owner Mr. Gore (who, in this version, loves children) and decided to exact his revenge.

Unknown Crazy Man—Again, this figure is never named. All that is ever told about him was that he lived in the woods surrounding the orphanage and hated all the noise that the kids made.

An Accident—The most common version of the accident story has one of the orphans accidentally knocking over a lantern. In another version, the lantern is kicked over in the nearby barn, but the fire quickly spreads to the main building of the orphanage.

Regardless of how the fire started, the results were catastrophic. Presumably, none of the orphans were able to escape the blaze and all perished. In the aftermath, authorities took away Mr. Gore's license and refused to allow a replacement orphanage to be constructed on the site. Nearby townspeople wanted nothing more than to quickly forget the tragedy and simply razed what remained of the burned out shell of the orphanage and allowed nature to take its course and reclaim the land. Out of sight, out of mind. 

But such a tragic event isn't going to fade easily, and in this case, the tragic fire somehow left a "stain" upon the area. Locals began whispering that you ventured out to the remaining ruins of Gore Orphanage at night, you would see the ghostly shapes of the dead orphans running and playing in the woods. Sometimes, the children appeared to be on fire and yelling and screaming things like "help me" as the foul stench of burning flesh filled the air. Other late-night visitors reported seeing bright lights swirling and weaving through the woods, which they took to be the ghosts of the dead children. And those who believed the orphanage fire had been intentionally set sometimes felt the spirit of the guilty party makes an appearance at the site in the form of a dark, shadowy shape lurking near the foundation remains. 

A final occurrence at the orphanage site was people who parked and left their cars near the remains would find it covered with tiny handprints when they returned. In such an isolated area, anyone else coming into the area would quickly be discovered. The only explanation was that the ghosts of the orphans were attempting to physically push the car away from the orphanage, perhaps in a ghostly warning to stay away lest the car owner suffer a fate similar to theirs.

When one starts digging for the nuggets of truth in the orphanage legend, the first fact they'll find is that there was indeed an orphanage in operation on Gore Orphanage at one time. After that, though, any similarities between the truth and legend are completely coincidental.
The actual orphanage was known as the Orphanage of Light and Hope and it was started by Reverend John Sprunger and his wife sometime around 1903. The date is a bit open to debate since the orphanage didn't consist of one big building, but was instead made up of a series of buildings that Sprunger acquired one by one over the years. The remains of one of these buildings, and the one the curiosity seekers flock to when they want to see the remains of the Gore Orphanage, is actually that of the Swift Mansion.  

In 1817, Joseph Swift purchased over 400 acres of dense woods and flowing streams in and around a valley in Vermillion with the intention of building a sprawling estate. As the only landowner, locals began referring to the area as Swift's Hollow. Incredibly, Swift would spend more than 20 years clearing the land in preparing for his dream home. Finally, in 1840, construction on the Swift Mansion finally began. When finished, the enormous home featured stone pillars, 15-foot ceilings, and over fourteen rooms, which included servant's quarters. Swift and his family continued to live in the spacious mansion until a series of bad investments forced Swift to put the property up for sale.

When Nicholas and Harriet Kellogg Wilbur bought the Swift Mansion in 1874, little did they know they were opening one of the biggest chapters in the Gore Orphanage legend. Sadly, the main event in this chapter happened between January 13th and 19th, 1893, when four Wilbur's grandchildren died of diphtheria when an epidemic swept across Ohio. All four children were buried next to each other at nearby Maple Grove Cemetery.

Obviously, Nicholas and Harriet were distraught over the loss of their grandchildren. Rumors have also circulated that in their grief, the Wilburs began conducting séances inside the former Swift Mansion in an attempt to contact their departed loved ones. Whether or not these events actually took places is open to debate. But if the séances did indeed take place, it would not have been surprising as the Spiritualism movement was in full force in the late 1800s and séances were common. Regardless, the death of the four Wilbur grandchildren provided that nugget of truth that children had perished on the property.

In 1895, the Wilbur family sold the property to the Sutton family. Seven years later, in 1902, Sutton sold the home to Rev. Sprunger to be used as part of the Orphanage of Light and Hope. And with that, all of the elements of the Gore Orphanage legend were finally in place save for one; the fire. That was to take place several years after the orphanage closed down in 1916. Abandoned and now known as the local "haunted house", the once-proud Swift Mansion caught fire and burned to the ground in December of 1923…with no one inside.

Of course, one questions still remains; if there never was a Gore Orphanage, what's up with the road being called Gore Orphanage Road? Well, that all stems from a term surveyors use to describe a wedge-shaped piece of land; a gore. So while the original seldom-traveled road was known as Baldwin Road, locals began calling it Gore Road based on the shape of the land the road traveled through. "Orphanage" was added to the road name when the Orphanage of Light and Hope began operating on the road.

Cries at the Orphanage are Traffic, Not Tragic

Dear Weird Ohio:

I am thoroughly enjoying your stories, but I feel I should set a record straight. I grew up in Lorain, Ohio and the stories of Gore Orphange scared me at every slumber party I attended. When I was a teenager, my friends and I took an excursion to Gore Orphanage Road. Police are usually nearby to discourage this behavior, but for some reason, they weren't there that night. Armed with flashlights, we went to the ruins and DID hear what sounded like children crying. Although, spooked, we followed the sound, through a patch of woods and came upon a highway overpass––where every time a heavy truck passed over, it made the sound similar to moaning, and, from a distance, it sounds like crying. Now, every time I hear the stories repeated, I have to laugh.  –Andrea K. Smiley

Little Ghostly Handprints Appear at Gore Orphanage

I have only been to the Gore Orphanage only once. It started out as one of the biggest let downs I’ve ever experienced, but it turned out to be a pretty frightening night.

Kids in my high school had been ranting and raving about this place for a few years before I took my trip there. I had never had any real desire to go. I don’t believe in any ghosts or bullshit like that, so I just saw it as a big waste of gas. Frankly, even though I thought the stories were made up, they were pretty exciting. Being that my friends and I spend too much time sitting around being bored, we decided to take a trip to the Gore Orphanage to see if it was worth all the hype.

Before I go any further, let me explain this hype of which I speak. Apparently, in the early 1900’s, an orphanage stood in a patch of desolate woods just outside of Vermilion. One night, one of the orphans was walking to the outhouse with a lantern. He tripped and fell, igniting a huge fire. The steps leading from the top floor to the bottom collapsed almost immediately. Townsfolk from Vermillion gathered, but they didn’t have the time or equipment to stop the blaze. All they could do was stand and watch as the hundreds of orphans many floors above them met their unfortunate and collective doom. They say that it was so gruesome that people safe on the ground died just from the shock of seeing those kids burning in the inferno.

Ever since then, people have said that the ghosts of these orphans haunt the spot that the orphanage used to stand on. Kids from my school said that they had heard strange sounds in the woods, like kids crying and doors slamming shut, even though there are no buildings close by. Some kids even said they actually saw some orphan ghosts, but I never believed them.

When me and my boys went there, I was a bit creeped out by the road leading up to the place. It’s really dark because of the overhanging trees and there’s a messed up looking wooden bridge you cross over. When we arrived at the site where the orphanage had once stood (which was hard to find even though one of the guys I was with had been there before) all four of us got out of the car and went into the woods. There were a few pillars and some bricks and stones and stuff lying around on the ground. Really the only creepy part was the graffiti all over the place. There were 666s and stuff, but that’s to be expected at a place like this. It was definitely not an ordinary place, but I still was doubtful about it being haunted.

I did hear some strange creaking noises, but I’m pretty sure it was just the trees rubbing together in the night breeze. My one friends was freaking out, saying it was a kid crying, and I will admit, it did sound like it could have been. I think it was the trees though. After a while we decided to leave. Some of the guys thought that the whole trip had just plain sucked, or so they said. In reality though, I think that we were all a little creeped out from being alone out there in those dark woods, and they were just trying to come off as tough. Regardless, we didn’t see any little ghost kids, we didn’t smell any burning flesh, and we didn’t hear any doors slamming. What happened when we made our way back to the car, however, would change my tune about the Gore Orphanage forever.

As we got close to the car, my friend Jake noticed that all the windows were fogged up. He ran up ahead of us because he thought someone had been messing with his ride. It was his mom’s car and she would have been really pissed if anything happened to it. When we caught up with him he was just standing there dumfounded. There wasn’t another human being in sight, it was a cool night, and there was absolutely no explanation as to why the windows were fogged up. That’s when my other friend Shawn pointed out the back window. There on the misty glass, were the faint impressions of little handprints.  We all freaked out instantly.

Trying to find a logical reason to explain the handprints, and to calm down my friends (who were really flipping out now) I pointed out that Jake did have a little brother who is only four years old, and the marks were surely made by him. Secretly though, I was just as freaked by those little fingerprints as anyone else there, and I was really just trying to convince myself that there was a rational explanation for them bring there––which there was not.

I still can’t explain how the hell those windows got fogged up, but if those handprints had been made by Jake’s little brother, how is it that nobody noticed them on the way up there that night? The whole trip freaked me out bad, and I vowed never to return to the Gore Orphanage. This all happened three years ago, and I have not been back to this day.  –Victor E.

Weird Ohio

 

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