There’s a ton of haunted history behind the Gore Orphanage, so let’s start at the beginning right?! In the late 1820’s Joesph and his wife Eliza purchase a large land tract near the Vermillion River in Ohio. It was there that they built the most elaborate mansion of that time, No expense was spared and only the best of materials were shipped in from all over just to insure it’s stature within the community. Locals came from miles around just to admire the lavish residence.
Though the Swifts were the envy of the town, they would only come to enjoy their status among the elite for a short time. Ten years after settling in, the Swifts lose their 5 year old daughter, ten years beyond that they lose their 24 year old son, and just a few years after that, the Swift family fortune was gone. Joseph had made huge financial investments into the railroad industry, by 1865 they were forced to sell the sprawling estate.
The property was purchased by Nichols Wilber, a well known medium and spiritualist. Well, his timing was fantastic! During this era it was considered posh to have interest in spiritualism but maybe not in such a rural community. When Wilber began holding seances at the estate, the locals were convinced that he was performing sinister and demonic rites.
The truth of it was that Wilber, many times, conjured the spirits of the deceased Swift family. There had, at one time, been plenty of written documentation that he had been successful. It was further noted that Wilber’s children were psychic and were quite at ease in having conversations with the dead members of the Swift family.
Well it wasn’t only the local town-folk that were offended by his heinous acts, so was the estate. Tragedy after tragedy befell the Wilber family. They lost 4 of their grandchildren within a span of 6 days. Shortly after that Eliza passed, and not a year later, in 1901, Nicholas followed her to the grave.
The mansion was then abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1903 the majority of “Swift Hollow” including the crumbling mansion was purchased by Reverend Sprunger who would later build the “Light and Hope” Orphanage. His purpose was supposedly to care for and give farm training to neglected children. Seems these two had a few secrets to hide. Reverend Sprunger and his wife moved to the Vermillion area after their orphanage in Indiana was destroyed by fire, it wasn’t the first business venture that the Sprungers lost to fire and it wouldn’t be the last. It was the diary of a former employee that revealed that Reverend Sprunger and his wife were also, brother and sister. Nastiness!
Anyway, Reverend Sprunger did not use the crumbling mansion at all, instead he built a self sustaining religious commune on the grounds. There was a boy’s schoolhouse built on the property, complete with a chapel room where there were frequent “religious” ceremonies performed. The Girls had their own separate quarters on the grounds and there was also a small printing press on the property that was used to print their own school books and weekly newspaper.
From the eye of the outsider, everything appeared to be fine, maybe a little over the top in the sense of them being religious fanatics, otherwise, all seemed well at the Light and Hope Orphanage. Yeah, that didn’t last very long. These folks definitely put me in the mind of that screwed up couple from the movie “People under the Stairs.”
Well it took a while, but things soon began coming to light thanks to a handful of children that escaped the orphanage and told their stories. The community became horrified even sickened by what they were hearing from these kids. Their lives had been riddled with abuse and neglect. They had been treated worse than slaves and were actually even rented out to other local farmers which would treat them as bad or even worse that they were being treated at the orphanage.
Anyway, their meals, when they were fed at all, consisted of leftover parts from slaughtered cows or pigs, like, brains, lungs and other disgusting selections. The children also told of days when they had been fed rotten meat from a cow that had long since died out in the pasture. It was their punishment, the cow had not been cared for properly by them therefore they would be made to eat it in it’s entirety. Vegetables that had been fed to the children were boiled in the same pot that was used to boil soiled underwear and linens. That’ll teach you to wet the bed kiddos!
As if the food provided wasn’t bad enough, let’s discuss the living conditions of the children. Their rooms were infested with rats and other vermin. It was a common occurrence for rats to climb in bed with the kids during cold months; the kid usually ended up being bitten by them. And cleanliness, yeah, not so much. There was only one bathtub available for them. Each child would be allowed a bath once every two weeks, and the water was never changed.
The children were worked mercilessly and were often beaten by overseers or even the Reverend himself when their work load fell short. These kids were whipped until their skin looked like ground meat. And of course there would be no medical treatments whatsoever. On this commune, prayer and faith were the only method of healing permitted.
So after hearing of these atrocities, locals contacted authorities and in 1909 the commune came under investigation. Yeah, didn’t do any good. The state of Ohio had no laws or regulations concerning this type of “institution” Their hands were tied. It wasn’t long after when the living quarters of the female orphans nearly burned to the ground, few made it out alive.
Two years later, the good Reverend died and in 1916 the grounds were sold. Most of the children were relocated in the community, those that weren’t and had no place else to go, were taken by Mrs. Sprunger back to Berne, Indiana, where nearly 13 years to the day the first “Light and Hope” orphanage had burned to the ground.
Today, nothing much remains of the magnificent family estate or the improvements that the good Reverend added to the grounds. Only a few markers can be found. A marble column, the remnants of the family well, a few abandoned grave sites, typical haunted ruins. There are still plenty of other things that have lingered on over 100 years, the ghosts of the children.
Because of the times there were no records to speak of concerning the number of souls that perished on these grounds. Imagine that besides the Swift and Wilber family members you have their slaves and staff, and then there’s the happily married brother and sister duo. There are footnotes here and there that state Ms. Sprunger had several stillbirths and that there was another child that lived only 2 years. And what of the orphans that were either too weak or sickly to survive typical conditions, those that were tortured to death, those that died of neglect and yes even those that were murdered by overseers or the Reverend himself during his religious rituals, oh, and lets not forget those that burned within the fire.
With this being said, it comes as no surprise that children are often heard, seen, recorded and photographed in the woods where the orphanage once stood. Those that come to investigate have often heard and recorded the tormented screams of the ones that were burned alive. There are only a few mentions of adult specters seen on the property, one of which is that of a woman, no way for sure to identify her but I assume that is is Ms. Wilber, just a gut feeling there folks. And then there is a man, no clue who he could be but he definitely keeps a close eye on the place and has been know to chase thrill seekers out of the woods and back onto the highway. So be careful if you decide to visit the grounds kiddos, he may come running after you!