Following such fraternal orders as the Freemasons and Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias was founded during the Civil War. It’s considered the oldest secret male fraternal organization in North America. Its first official meeting took place in Washington D.C. on February 19, 1864. By 1895, there were 269 Knights of Pythias lodges and 21,000 members in Missouri alone.
In 1913, the Knights of Pythias built the Pythian Home of Missouri as an orphanage and senior citizens homes for its members and families as well as a meeting place for the order in Springfield. Its exterior was designed to appear like a castle befitting royalty. The building is constructed of “Carthage Stone”, a hard variety of limestone quarried in the Ozarks. A common theory in the paranormal world is limestone stimulates paranormal activity. The original main floor featured a grand foyer, meeting room, ballroom, dining hall, and sitting parlors. Dual staircases leads to the second story dormitory areas for children and adults. The upper floor also contains a theater, used also for Sunday services, with original ticket booth, seats, upper projection, changing rooms backstage and lighting room. The building also contained a full basement used as gymnasium and basketball court by the orphans. A power house, once located behind the main building, housed the boiler and the institutions laundry facilities.
The United States Military commandeered the facility in 1942 during World War II. In conjunction with adjacent O’Reilly General Hospital, Pythian Home was renamed The Enlisted Men's Service Club and was used to entertain and rehabilitate injured U.S. soldiers. The facility featured a movie theater, ballroom, bowling alley, pool hall, library, and arts and crafts area. Some of the most famous movie stars, comedians, and entertainers of the era performed in the theater while the ballroom was host to big bands playing for USO dances. German and Italian prisoners-of-war were held in the dungeon areas and helped maintain the grounds and roadways. After the war ended, the military continued to use it as a reserve center until they sold it in 1993 as “surplus”. Now the castle is owned by Tamara Finocchiaro who also resides on the property.
With over 90 years of history, some would think it not uncommon to be classified as haunted. Many mysterious noises have been heard throughout the building such as male or female voices, doors shutting or boxes being moved when no one is around. Temperature changes, orbs, voices and ghostly images have all been documented at Pythian Castle. Tamara says her ghostly roommates are for the most part friendly.
Pythian Castle has seen it’s share of notoriety especially in the Booth Brothers documentary Children of the Grave. However, Tamara has recently seen her share of problems. The City of Springfield shut down business on November 16, 2007 due to zoning and safety issues. There have been some “conspiracy theories” attempting to explain their actions, but Pythian Castle has been recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hopefully, all problems will resolve and business will resume soon.