Rural Missouri - October 2016 - 32
HAUNTED IN THE OZARKS
Castle lets guests experience the unexplained
by Paul Newton | email@example.com
n front of 40 tourists, Cindy Shipley twirls
around a World War II-era rocking chair to
big band music ﬁlling the dimly lit ballroom.
The self-proclaimed "big chicken" is trying
to get the attention of the spirits that used to pack
into this room inside a century-old castle on Friday
nights in the '40s and '50s.
"We call them triggers," she says. "They hear a
song from their time period and they pop up. I tell
people to dance. Give it a shot. It stirs them up."
A guest captures a photo on her phone showing
an orb ﬂoating near the chair and the rest of the
group huddles around to see. Cindy knows she has
the group's attention. "They can listen to me talk
about it or look at the pictures I show, but to be
in a room when one of their fellow tour guests gets
something, that's exciting."
Cindy is the "ghost host" at the history-laden
Pythian Castle in Springﬁeld. Built in 1913, the
structure has served many functions. Today, the
castle is open for tours and special events with the
nighttime ghost tours being the most popular.
Tamara Finocchiaro and her mother, M.J. Page,
own, operate and live in the castle they bought in
2003. The structure was opened to the public for
the ﬁrst time ever in 2010.
"It was primarily supposed to be an events
facility. People started wanting to come through it
so we offered history tours," Tamera says as she
starts to smile. "We had no idea it was haunted.
Some of us found out the hard way."
During their initial renovation, Tamera says she
was working in the lobby when she heard a voice
nearby speak to her. She was alone in the nearly
"Then some of the people who worked here for 13
years before we bought it came by," she says. "They
asked: 'So you work here now? Have you met the
ghosts?' Apparently they've been lingering here long
before any of us. They're quite the ﬁxture."
Cindy starts tours by telling guests the fascinating
history of the castle so they can better understand
the spirits which remain.
The castle was built in 1913 by the Knights of
RURAL MISSOURI | OCTOBER 2016
Pythias as a home for children and senior citizens. senior citizens would have gone to church. Next,
When a member of the fraternal organization passed comes the POW cells and the dungeon room where
away at a young age, his children could be raised at Cindy explains what each room was used for in the
the castle. "It wasn't a fancy castle; it had a modest past. Near the end of the tour is a room where the
use," Tamera says. "It wasn't made for rich folks. It ofﬁcers had a bowling alley and would have spent
nights playing poker and smoking. Visitors have
was built for children and senior citizens."
The U.S. government occupied the castle in 1942 reported smelling the strong and distinct aroma of
due to its proximity to a hospital and renamed it cigarette smoke while in this room.
Guests are encouraged to take photos on
The Enlisted Men's Service Club.
the tour to try and capture something. "I love
It was used to serve and entertain
watching the people on the tours," Cindy says.
injured troops. It served many
"You can see on their faces when they have
purposes from hosting USO acts like
an experience or something happens they
Bob Hope in the theater to holding
and interrogating prisoners of war to
don't understand. They make a beeline for
the toe-tapping Friday night dances in
me and do this overly explanatory thing
as they try and put it together."
The government left the property in
Cindy's ﬁrst visit to the castle was
1980 and leased it to a social service
on Halloween a few years ago. She
agency before selling it as surplus in
wanted to do something spooky -
1992. "I was kind of a hesitant historian," Tamara
which is out of character for her - and
says. "I wasn't too interested in all that at ﬁrst. But enlisted friends and family to go to a late-night ghost
this place is fascinating, interesting and different. tour. At the end of the tour in the boy's dormitory,
Everyone gets enveloped in this building's past."
she was taking pictures in the corner when she heard
After the history lesson, Cindy weaves the tour a child's voice say "hello." Not only did her entire
through three ﬂoors of the building. Guests take the group hear the noise, so did a lady behind them who
long, narrow and dark walk down the steam tunnel. responded thinking the voice was Cindy's.
Electronic voice phenomenon recordings are played
"There weren't any kids on the tour," says Cindy.
while sitting in the theater where the boys, girls and "That lady realized what happened and she couldn't
have been out of here faster. I felt honored. It makes
me feel like I was drawn here."
Nighttime ghost tours last approximately 90
minutes and cost $15 when pre-purchased online
and $1 more at the door. Tours are on Tuesdays
and Fridays with some Saturdays and every day the
week of Halloween. A full schedule is posted on the
castle's website. Daytime ghost tours, history tours
and ghost investigations also are available.
Cindy says they get tour guests who are anxious
to see or hear something as well as those who are
full of skepticism as they approach the castle. She
has a simple response to all who visit. "We can't
promise you will have an experience," she says with
Top: The Pythian Castle hosts events and operates many tours, a wry smile. "But we can't promise you won't."
including the popular nighttime ghost tours. Above: Owner
For more information on the Pythian Castle, visit
Tamara Finocchiaro talks with guests before walking to the
www.pythiancastle.com or call 417-865-1464.
steam tunnel during a ghost tour.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2016
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Intro
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Contents
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Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - October 2016 - Cover4