In the early 1900s, a man stepped past the threshold of a stunning Queen Anne style home in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was there to attend a party thrown by the proprietors of the home, and he would visit many more times after that. A common fixture in the home was a the author’s niece, named Matilda, who the author grew close to as she worked in the city of Aberdeen as the secretary in Easton’s banking business, Easton being the owner of the eccentric home. A few years later, another daughter was born to the Gages and named Dorothy, though she would only live 4 months before passing. Later in the 1910s, this author took the name and characteristics of the girls he’d meet in Aberdeen. Matilda and the tragic Dorothy left a lasting impression on the author. He would go on to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the heroine Dorothy Gale at the center of his fantasy world, where Dorothy could experience wonderful, magical things.
Frank L. Baum is one of the most famous authors of the early twentieth century, his work being adapted and celebrated long after the author’s death. While many claim his inspiration came from one girl or another, the stories of Matilda and Dorothy Gage is stuck in the minds of the residents of Aberdeen, especially while visiting the Easton Castle, the home where Baum would visit often, visiting friends and family and attending parties thrown by the Eastons. Today, residents of the town assert that the castle is haunted, not with Baum’s spirit but those of others who passed through the castle as guests and employees.
The Easton Castle was originally built with familiar yellow bricks just on the outskirts of town near acres and acres of dense forest. Built in 1889, the home was considered the gem of Aberdeen in its heyday. The Eastons would live in the house from 1893 until it was sold at auction to a local veterinarian called Sam Holman in 1967. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Houses in 1973 as one of the last examples of the Queen Anne style being known locally as a castle. At one point in its history, the home had bright green bricks rather than yellow, and it’s asserted that Frank L. Baum may have based the Emerald City from his novels on the stunning home.
C.F. Easton would pass away in 1935, where Russel Easton would inherit the home. Devastated by the loss of his mother in quick succession lead the young man to lock himself inside the castle for nearly a decade, and the house fell into disrepair. As the home was slated for demolition, the local veterinarian recognized the potential and bought the home to save it from destruction. He renovated the home and ran his vet business out of it. 37 years later, his daughter Tandy would return to help her father run the veterinary practice. Tandy and her sister would maintain the home as a historic bed and breakfast, and develop campgrounds in the surrounding woods for tourists and thrill seekers hoping to see the house.
The allegations of a haunting in the old house because shortly after C.F. Easton’s death, with visitors saying they could still feel the jovial man’s presence in the halls and rooms of the home. Legends say that another spirit in the home was a former housekeeper for the Eastons, and she’s still there today, keeping the house clean inexplicably and baffling owners in the early days of its renovations. Knocking sounds can be heard throughout the house, as well as footsteps, and unexplainable cold spots. One guest of the hotel swore he saw a man in a very smart 1900s suit sitting in one of the parlors, but the man was gone when the guest looked a second time at the velvet chaise.
With a storied and story-filled life, the Easton Castle still holds a special place in the hearts of those in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Efforts are ongoing to preserve the home and the massive 22 acre forest that surrounds it. Passionate and determined, the current owners are doing their best to keep the legends of Frank, Matilda, Dorothy and the Eastons preserved and celebrated behind the brick walls of the castle. The Emerald City, Yellow Brick Roads and a Kansas girl named Dorothy have left their mark on the historic home, and stories will continue to be written about its fascinating history and promising present.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.