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.
The museum’s former executive director, Steve Litteral, is a good friend of mine, as are many of the cast and crew. I was so lucky to know and work with such a talented and knowledgeable group of people, including Chicago-based photographer Greg Inda, who served a dual role as cameraman and directory of photography. Amelia Cotter of the R.I.P. Files agreed to host.
I released the documentary on Amazon Video Direct in March 2018 and we had a public showing at the museum in July. It’s now available on DVD, but the digital version is the highest quality. Please check it out if you haven’t already; it’s perfect for the Halloween season.
Unexplained events at a Midwestern museum shed light on its city’s past in Tinker’s Shadow: The Hidden History of Tinker Swiss Cottage! Perfect for the Halloween season, check it out on DVD or Video Direct on Amazon.com. We filmed this 60-minute documentary last Christmas and released it in April. I think it turned out very well and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens in Rockford, Illinois has long been rumored to be haunted, but what do its ghosts teach us about the past? Join host Amelia Cotter as she takes you inside and reveals the hidden history of this beautiful museum. Featuring interviews with museum staff, visitors, volunteers, and researchers.
Compared to modern warships and aircraft carriers, the USS Constitution might not look like much, but it was once the most storied ship in the U.S. Navy. It was launched on October 21, 1797, and is still considered to be in active service.
The USS Constitution was originally a 44-gun frigate with a crew of 450 sailors, including 55 Marines. She earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. Today, she is still crewed by 60 active duty U.S. Navy personnel, though she has been in dry dock at the former Charleston Navy Yard in Boston under restoration for the past three years.
The USS Constitution Museum is a private, nonprofit museum located in a restored shipyard building nearby. It is a first class effort at telling the USS Constitution’s history through art, models and dioramas, hands on displays, and volunteers.
Paranormal tourism, or tourism driven by allegedly haunted places and high profile crimes, is a growing cottage industry, with places like the Villisca Ax Murder House raking in the dough for tours, overnight stays, and paranormal investigations. The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts is another prominent example.
At 11:10 a.m. on August 4, 1892, Lizzy Borden, 32, yelled for the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, to quickly come downstairs. She discovered her father, Andrew, slumped over the sofa. His head had been bashed in. Abby, Lizzy’s stepmother, was found on the floor of an upstairs bedroom, her head and face smashed. Lizzy gave police strange and often conflicting information, and she quickly became the chief suspect.
Her New Bedford trial, beginning in June 1893, was a national sensation, widely reported in the newspapers. It took the jury 90 minutes to acquit her, and with her inheritance, she purchased a new home and lived there with her sister Emma.
The United States has long been a place of religious experimentation, sectarianism, and utopianism, encouraged by the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the most unique and long-lasting utopian experiments was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1844 based on the Christian concept of perfectionism: that it is possible to live a sin-free life.
Noyes was expelled from Yale University in 1834 after he declared himself to be free from sin and established his own Bible school in Putney, Vermont. By 1844, it solidified into a religious community.
“Complex marriage,” or communal marriage among members, was one tenet of this new community. Noyes was arrested for adultery in 1847.
His followers and he fled to Oneida, New York, where they again established their commune. They built the Mansion House in 1862, where they lived until 1881.
The Jacob Henry Mansion’s striking red exterior, ornate white trim, and slate roof is a stunning example of Renaissance Revival architecture, the finest in Illinois by some estimations.
Built in 1873 by Jacob A. Henry, the mansion interior is 16,800 square feet, with over 40 rooms constructed of black walnut and oak. The foyer features a hand-carved, walnut staircase.
In 1976, the mansion won the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia.
Jacob A. Henry was born in New Jersey in 1825 and became employed with the Hartford & New Haven Railroad at the age of 17. Just four years later, he moved to the Midwest to secure railroad construction contracts there.