Knox County Poorhouse: Urban Exploring Ohio’s Chilling Abandoned Home for the Impoverished

knox-county-poorhouse (Image: Justin Masterson, cc-nc-3.0)

Like Victorian-era insane asylums and sanatoriums, poorhouses (known as workhouses in England and Wales) were feared institutions offering shelter and employment for those unable to support themselves – but it was a bleak existence. Many have long been demolished or transformed into luxury apartments. Others, including Knox County Poorhouse in Ohio, stand empty and abandoned, its corridors a silent draw for urban explorers and ghost hunters alike.

knox-county-poorhouse-interior (Images: Yvette van der Velde, reproduced with permission)

Constructed in 1875, Knox County Poorhouse sheltered the poor, homeless and orphaned. During a time when mental illness was still considered innately wrong, parents would often abandon children whose behaviour deviated from what was considered “normal”. Many of the rooms were occupied by the elderly who simply didn’t have the means to support themselves. Rooms were overrun with occupants, leaving staff unable to provide an acceptable standard of living.

knox-county-poorhouse-stairs (Image: Dodson 3, reproduced with permission)

Stories about the inadequate standard of care soon began to circulate, and rumours spread that accidental deaths were common. More recently dozens of shallow graves were discovered surrounding the house, most found without any marker or identification. The building was eventually abandoned, only to be reopened as a Bible college from 1957 to 1988. Rumours abound that during this time a group of students were killed when part of  the internal structure collapsed, although this was never proven.


knox-county-poorhouse-2 (Images: Yvette van der Velde, reproduced with permission)

The poorhouse was extended during its heyday as a way to cope with the ever-expanding flow of lodgers. Because of its huge structure and Gothic design, Knox County stands in stark contrast to the surrounding low-rise houses and churches, which may be the reason, combined with its disturbing history, for its spectral notoriety. Consequently, after the departure of the Bible college, the abandoned building was opened every October as the “House of Nightmares”. This Halloween attraction was later shutdown due to a further structural collapse, leaving its eerie shell uninhabited to this day.

inside-knox-county-poorhouse (Images: RonaldPattersonPhotography, reproduced with permission)

Several legends of unearthly sightings have been collected over the years by ghost hunters and urban explorers who dared to visit the former poorhouse and its spooky grounds. Ghostly sightings along with disembodied voices in certain rooms and corridors have been reported. Meanwhile, tortured souls are said to roam the overgrown gardens. But even without its haunted history, Knox County Poorhouse is a creepy place, filled with relics such as paintings, furniture and even medical equipment, suggestion of a time filled with psychological torment and eternal suffering.

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