Real Life Ghost Stories: A Children's Home Ghost Hunt

Real Life Ghost Stories: A Children's Home Ghost Hunt

By J. L. Thurston

I suppose most of us share a curiosity for the supernatural. I mean, here you are with me in this place. We’re surrounded by crumbling walls, exposed beams, generations of spiderwebs. You’re here because I highly recommended ghost hunting. Because you’re curious, just like me.

Is this place really haunted?

The art of ghost hunting is a simple one. You don’t need special devices that you see on television. You don’t need a psychic, but if you have an asshole friend who claims to be one you may be in for an interesting time. Don’t worry, I don’t claim to be psychic. We are going to go through this ghost hunt without having to humor someone who states they can feel ghostly presences.

When it comes to ghost hunting, it’s the location that matters. Cemeteries are always a good time. Abandoned places are even better.

Where I have brought you is the Bloomington Sailors and Soldiers Orphanage. We’ve come before the scheduled demolition. Before we delve deeper into the dark embrace of the old bricks and mortar, a little history lesson.

Inside the school, demolished in 2017

Inside the school, demolished in 2017

In the 1860s, the home was opened as a boarding school for the children of Civil War veterans. Then the children of the Spanish-American war were admitted. Wars and illnesses, poverty and the Great Depression caused a swell in America’s orphan population. The school became an orphanage, opening its doors for all children who needed a home.

It wasn’t a home the children wanted, but it was safe and it offered an education. It was better than living on the streets.

In time, the cost of the upkeep was too much, and orphans were becoming fewer in number, so the doors were closed permanently in 1979.

Since then, the building has stood empty and hollow. The walls are saturated with decades of dirt and weather, peeling and crumbling into nothing. Shattered glass reflects the city lights. Boards lean against framework, having fallen long ago like trees in a forest. Time demolishes everything.

Dressed in black, in long sleeves and pants, we sneak in the night. It is against the law to trespass. But we’re explorers. And we need to feel the inside of the place.

As we step passed the entryway, we are immediately overwhelmed with a sense of immense sadness. This may not be surprising, knowing that war-lost children were lived- and sometimes died- there. Walk with me down the corridor. See the little empty classrooms. They emit a loneliness that could only be an echo of the soul-crushing pain the children must have experienced. How many tears were shed here? How many whispered prayers for parents to return from the dead?

Listen closely. We may hear the clicking heels of the the first superintendent who may still roam the halls. We may even hear the swift whack of her paddle and the sobs of the children she beat.

I feel a chill. It could just be my nerves, or the temperature dropping as the summer turns to autumn, or a restless child longing for company.

Pieces of plaster and glass crunch beneath our shoes. The only light is the light from our phones. Follow me through the mansion, but watch out for the groundskeepers who still live in the cottages on the property. Be quiet, so they don’t call the cops on us.

I should warn you of the rumors of massive dogs being set loose on trespassers. We should be fine as long as we don’t make too much noise. Wait, did you hear that?

Must be my imagination.

The narrow, winding stairs are treacherous. The steps and railing can’t be trusted. Remember, the building hasn’t been updated since the sixties, and hasn’t been lived in since 1979.

We’ve made it upstairs. Look out onto the lawn from this window. The bodies of children were buried there. Little ones had passed away in the early 1900s from tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumonia, and enteritis. They died without their mothers to comfort them, and perhaps their spirits still wander the last place they’d ever called home. Does it disturb the dead to be moved? I only ask because the cemetery of the orphanage had been moved in the 1940s.


It couldn’t all have been sadness and sorrow. Usually, where children are there is laughter and warmth. They are resilient and joyful. Imagine the friendships, the late-night whispers, the pranks. As we descend to the main level, think about how this may not have been the home the children asked for, but it was still a home that welcomed them.

Now, say goodbye to the building. I hope you got what you came for. We may not have seen any ghosts, but we have been here and experienced the feelings that still permeate these walls. Soon this place will be gone. Nothing but a memory that even history will forget.

Now, flashlights off. Go back to your cars. Have a good night’s sleep.

Wait, did you hear that?

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