owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Springfield Has a Castle?

Who knew? Apparently, not me. Having lived here since 1995, I must have been walking around with my eyes shut, not that I spend a lot of time thinking about the possibilities of castles existing in Springfield, Missouri, but anyway.

But yes, having said that, Springfield is home to a castle.

Looming large from a grassy knoll on 2.66 acres in northeast Springfield, Pythian Castle, once known as The Pythian Home of Missouri, sits quietly, the total monarch of all that surrounds it.

The place was built in 1913 out of huge Carthage stone blocks, and was part of a 53-acre tract, which was whittled away bit by bit until only 2.66 acres remains. Built by a mysterious secret order, the Knights of Pythia, it was intended to be an orphanage and retirement home for children who were direct descendants of the Pythians, and older relatives of the same. However, in 1942 it was acquired by the Army, and became a branch of the O'Reilly General Hospital, treating over 44,000 wounded. From that time forward, the land was sold off, once for a college to be built, some land was sold to contribute to other city needs, and then in 2003, it was purchased privately and the owner now lives in what was once the girls' dormitory wing.

Well, it being a castle, there are going to be stories. October seems to be a good month for stories, doesn't it.

Rumour has it, the place is inhabited by others.

I mentioned it was an orphanage. Well, not the kind of orphanage where kids are adopted out to loving families. Oh no, these children were placed in the home due to the Great Depression and their parents' inability to care for or support them. If and when the parents were once again able to care for their familes, the children were reunited with their parents. If not, I don't know what became of the children. Chances are, once they reached some level of adulthood, they were turned out to make room for other children and were forced to eek out an existence alone. As far as it being a retirement home, there were many elderly people living there, often suffering from dementia, or some other form of mental illness. There were two suicides, both of which were elderly people. One man shot himself due to the ravages and intense pain of cancer. The other slit his own throat in the showers and no one knows why. There are also records of the castle keeping prisoners of war from World War II. Italians, Germans and Japanese men were kept in the basement, in cells.

What I am told today about all of this is that children have been heard laughing, crying, or otherwise talking in the rooms. Boxes and crates are heard being shoved around on a regular basis. Supposedly, there is a presence in the tunnel that once connected the castle from its boiler room housed some distance away, and this presence doesn't want to be annoyed. On ocassion, someone calls, "yoo hoo!" and no one is there. Objects are arranged and rearranged. A presence routinely walks through the front door into the foyer calling, "hello! Hello!"

So, I took a tour. Beforehand, I felt some trepidation, not sure what I was in for. But once the tour started, I became completely relaxed. I did hear something like a heavy crate being shoved about in the boys' dormitory hall. I did feel a cold burst of air rush between me and another person while standing in the foyer. Other than that, nothing. Nobody "yoo hooed" at me, no one called, "hello!" There were no messages from beyond.

Whether the place is haunted or not, it's a beautiful building, full of lovely architectural details. I'm absolutely enthralled by it.

Will I go back again? You betcha.

Do you know of a haunted place? It's October, after all. Tell me about it.

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