As featured on Bio’s My Ghost Story, The Travel Channel’s Paranormal Challenge and Ghost Adventures, SciFy’s Ghost Hunters Academy and Ghost Hunters and Freeform’s (previously ABC Family) Scariest Places on Earth – There is no doubt of the terrifying haunting of Ohio State Reformatory (also known as Mansfield Reformatory.)
Shadow figures darting in and out of the cells, disembodied voices calling out to guests and investigators, slamming doors, people being pushed and scratched, blood curdling EVPs – this building is a ghost hunter’s dream (or perhaps nightmare).
Overcrowding and the violence of prison life has left a dark shadow that lingers over the cell blocks of Ohio State Reformatory. The inmates still linger in the corridors wanting to share their stories by any means possible. Pushing and shoving doesn’t seem very violent to those who were driven to set themselves on fire!
We will have full access to the 8 most haunted areas within the Reformatory from the East Wing to the Cell blocks. The only question that remains – will you be brave enough to undergo a lone vigil in the Hole?
The cornerstone for the Ohio State Reformatory was laid on November 4, 1886 in Mansfield, Ohio. Shortly after the Civil War, the people of Ohio began to plead with the Legislature for a transitional step between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster and the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. Finally, the government saw the necessity and the massive Reformatory opened its doors in 1896. From the first inmate that crossed into the corridors to the 1990 when the doors officially closed, over 155,000 prisoners called the Reformatory “home.”
The Reformatory was not immune to the overcrowding of the penal system that has and still effects the United States. The cells that were originally built to house one inmate at a time soon became a cramped living space for up to three to four prisoners. Whenever someone is living in a such a confined space the outcome is often unpleasant. Whenever inmates are placed in the same situation, violence and death occurs.
Shannon Lusk recorded much of the difficult life of inmates in the book Redemption: The Ohio State Reformatory, published in 2013. Lusk identifies the adaptability of the young inmates. Survival was the key and therefore it was not surprising to find shanks, shivs and other contraband within the cells. But one of the more notable discoveries that Lusk describes is a means that inmates made coffee with a water warming device that included two spoons attached with bell wire with cardboard as insulation. Confinement can often lead to innovation.
Ohio State Reformatory was no stranger to violence. Although some of the 215 graves just outside the fence mark the eternal resting place of those who succumbed to natural causes, many reflect a much darker death. One of the most violent places within the building was a place called Local Control but more intimately known by the moniker “the hole.” One inmate hung himself, another set himself on fire, when two were placed in the cell together – one killed the other, stuffing his roommate’s body under the bunk.
One of the most notable displays of violence occurred in July of 1948. The farm that sustained the Reformatory housed the Overseer and his family. Two Parolees kidnapped his wife and daughter and shot them to death. Soon they led law enforcement on a six state manhunt. Eventually James West was killed in a shootout and his partner, Robert Daniels was taken into custody and met his fate in the “Chair” on January 3, 1949.
The Living Quarters has also known it’s fair share of tragedy. In 1950, the Warden’s wife accidentally dropped a pistol that inflicted a fatal wound. A couple of decades later, the Warden suffered a heart attack and died. Many visitors have heard a man and woman speaking to one another in hushed voices. Are they still overseeing the revolving door of Ohio State Reformatory?
When the Reformatory was deemed unsafe, Ohio decided not only to close its doors but to tear down the building. Prior to the death warrant being signed on the infamous building, Producers admiring the architectural structure pleaded to use the site for the filming of The Shawshank Redemption, released in 1993.
Your ghost hunt at Ohio State Reformatory includes the following:
Guests are strongly advised to bring extra warm clothing with them.