Built between 1896 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield served as a detention center for young, petty criminals. The first inmates were admitted in 1896, and they helped construct the Romanesque Revival building. The reformatory closed in 1990 and was used most famously in the filming of The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Today it is open for tours, and has attracted a reputation for being haunted.
The old superintendent’s office, where disembodied voices are heard, is widely believed to be haunted by the ghosts of Helen and Warden Glattke. In the basement, the ghost of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly beaten to death has been reported. Visitors often experience strong feelings of dread, anger, and fear throughout the former reformatory. One form of punishment was to send prisoners to solitary confinement in “the hole”—a dark and claustrophobic room—for an indeterminate amount of time.
Several violent episodes occurred at the prison, and there have been around 200 documented deaths. On February 6, 1960, in Cell #13, East Cell Block, a prisoner named James Lockhart stole lighter fluid and set himself on fire. He burned to death at the age of 22.
It’s easy to see why people believe this prison is haunted, and why it was ultimately shut down for inhumane conditions. I can’t even imagine being crammed into a small cell so far off the ground for years on end. Before I took the tour, they didn’t warn me about how high up I’d be walking along a narrow, rickety metal walkway in the cell blocks.
The first part of the tour has more of a “museum” feel to it, with displays and artifacts behind glass, but the farther you go, the more abandoned and isolated things become. You walk through numerous empty rooms, left “as is” with cracking tile and pealing paint. It is a genuinely creepy and disconcerting experience, even more than Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
Ohio State Reformatory is located at 100 Reformatory Road in Mansfield, Ohio. Self guided tours are available for $12 per adult and guided tours for $17. You can also rent an audio wand for self-guided tours that plays a recording of information about the prison. The prison is not open during the months of October through January. Make sure to contact them prior to visiting to make sure they’re open. Phone: (419) 522-2644. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org