Saying goodbye to a “haunted” location can be much like the ending of a romantic relationship—in one respect there could be that sense of relief that it is over, with no need or desire to revisit. In another, it can evoke fond memories, and just maybe, you are a better person for the experience. The former Owen County Home in Spencer, Indiana is like the latter.
Back in the day, each county was required to establish a “home” (Poor Farm) to house those who found themselves in the situation of suddenly not having a place to call their own. The Owen County Home originated in 1878, replacing an existing facility just a few miles away and ran its course until it closed in 2002. The building had steadily slid into a state of disrepair, and let’s face it… Owen County didn’t have the funds to even consider the prospect of any kind of renovation project. It was time to turn out the lights, shut the door, and move on.
Things change…. In 2011 the Owen County commissioners began allowing paranormal investigations on the property of the old facility. It proved successful, with a stream of revenue resulting from the weekend forays. All was well with the world in Owen County until September of 2012 when it all came to an end. And rather quickly!
The “word” was that a local Spencer, Indiana business woman was taking up residence within the home’s walls. Had she bought the facility? The land itself was worth a fortune. She apparently wasn’t daunted by the ghost stories—in fact she thought it a bunch of hog wash. No more groups would be allowed in her home. That was the word….
To become a resident of the county poor farm—regardless of the county—could not have been a memorable experience. Any ambitions…goals…dreams…you had for your life came to an end. It was not inclusive for happy days ahead in the golden years. Some eased into an existence of quiet despair; many did not! Throughout the years many passed through the walls of the Owen County Home. And many died peering through their room’s windows at the expanse of lawn that unfolded to the county road, rolling on to points beyond their range of sight. It was still a big world out there, but their personal world had shrunk significantly.
If past spent emotions are a barometer for paranormal activity (and many believe they are), then county homes should provide a wealth of activity. And it appears from personal experience that they do! South Central Paranormal (SCP) conducted their first official investigation recently of such a facility in southern Indiana and was not disappointed. The report of that investigation will be the subject of a future article.
On Saturday August 17, 2013’s camping trip to McCormick’s Creek State Park, Dharma—the traveling Honda Element of paranormal excursions—made a side jog onto State Road 43 to do a drive-by of the home. Revisiting an old love can be an anxious endeavor—one never knows what they may find—but as we rolled by the house at idle speed…it all looked the same! The double glass entry doors were still cracked, and the County Home etching stood prominently over the entryway. The grass was cut, and with the exceptions of a trash dumpster in front of the holding cells (for former unruly residents with an attitude) and every drive having cable barriers holding signs proclaiming “Private Property” swinging gently in the early morning sun, the building still stood as a testament to a past of its making. The mailbox at the end of the sidewalk had vanished and there were no vehicles in sight around the building.
In September of 2012 North Central Paranormal (NCP) was the last group allowed in to investigate the Owen County Home. It was a memorable night, and the most active of my previous visits. Driving by on that Saturday morning brought back a lot of memories of past encounters as the evening sun would slide below the horizon and the interior of the home became encased in a cave like darkness. Granted, nothing of a cinematic horror movie level happened (does it ever, really?), but all the same it was quirky and interesting.
Truly memorable moments were: shadow movement; footsteps on the 2nd floor; light anomalies (pop and flash, much like a camera flash); EVP recordings (the constant stream of whispering…children? Come on sweet spirits—talk in a normal tone!); phantom odors (perfume, cigar); basement EMF meters going off in sequence like an electronic Battleship game board; the Ganzfeld experiment (sensory isolation) that former team member Brad Pate aced, leaving Tony Abney slack-jawed and admitting we were the first team to pull it off. Correct me if I am wrong, Tony. And there was the dining room that was always a reliable combination of all of the above. Good times!
And, as with any venue and questionable investigators, there were ridiculous and outlandish claims that are better left for another day…or not! It comes with the territory.
Tony Abney was awarded the task of overseeing the Owen County Home investigations in 2011, and for the almost two years of his commission played the perfect host—participating with the groups if wanted, sliding into the shadows if not. He was the first on the scene, unlocking the facility for the night’s investigation, and locking up after the groups disappeared into the early morning hours; weekend after weekend. He was a pleasure to meet and chat with, and has become a friend for life. And much like that romance, he developed a firm and unbroken relationship with the home. The ending, particularly for Tony, was a hard pill to swallow.
Now, there are speculation and theories on the future of the Owen County Home. It all boils down to what are the owner’s intentions? She’s not talking. Ain’t the paranormal grand! Will the present owner open it back up to paranormal investigations, consequently pocketing a tidy sum of weekend dollars? How about those rumblings of a “haunted” bed & breakfast? Hope does spring eternal. Yet, there is always that possibility that none of this will ever happen, and we need to accept this and move on. Time will tell. If it does happen, I will personally book a room for the night and reacquaint with a past love, if only for the space of an evening.
Experiences at paying paranormal venues can be a dime a dozen (you’re really not breaking any new ground there), but in the end what really counts and stands everlasting is the “journey” and good times together—forged with friends that will stick by you in thick and thin. In my circle there is Elizabeth, Doug, Judy, Brad, David, Joe, Tony, Steve and the members of NCP and its affiliate groups. They are the reason I do what I do and will continue doing it. And at the end of the day this circle of fiends and fellow investigators are what memories are made of. Honestly…that’s the way it should be.