Ohio State Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory is a historic prison located in Mansfield, Ohio. It was built between 1886 and 1910 (partially by prisoners) and remained in operation until 1990, when it was ordered shut by a United States Federal Court. The Shawshank Redemption was filmed there and is actually the only reason the prison was not demolished. It is famously haunted. Ghost Adventures did an investigation there years ago and caught some evidence.

Fast forward to last weekend (August 7th) and we went on our own paranormal investigation of the prison until 3 am. There was a brief tour and history lesson and then we were unleashed to wander the prison and try to communicate with ghosts. Unfortunately, due to Covid, there was no equipment to rent like advertised but we made due with cell phones, flashlights and disposable cameras. (Disposable cameras are supposedly the best at catching evidence. As someone raised during the era of disposable cameras, I think it’s mostly that the film gets screwed up easily and people claim it’s spooky ghosts.) I went in in full skeptic mode and was not proven wrong. Meaning, we didn’t catch anything. It was SO much fun nonetheless.

Originally, OSR was an actual reformatory for men aged 14-28. They had a 85% success rate of rehabilitating people back into society. It functioned as a small town, where inmates farmed the land and learned a profession (even lock picking apparently) and were released back as functioning members of society. Somewhere along the way, people decided that you could not force people to work and they turned to just locking them in cages day in and day out. The prison was closed due to overcrowding and poor conditions. There are a few famous murders and prisoners who died there but I’ll leave that for your own research and investigations.

We are still waiting on getting the disposable cameras developed but like I implied, I’m not expecting much.

I would recommend this adventure to anyone interested in history and/or ghost hunting. There were a decent amount of other people there so that also infringed on any real attempts of catching evidence. Your ticket prices go directly to preservation of the building and volunteers staff the building for the night. I would 10/10 do it again.

18 thoughts on “Ohio State Reformatory

      1. It’s known as a listed building here in the UK, because of it’s age and historical importance nothing about the building is allowed to be changed or renewed to any extent. The local council tends to it’s upkeep, there are no tours, as far as I know, it’s a huge building, and thoroughly creepy!

    1. I worked right next to a state mental asylum that was still operating, and let me tell you, people escaped all the time. Sometimes they would just wander in the middle of the road like zombies, but other times they’d run around playing flasher until the police picked them up.

      1. Hahaha. At least it was never boring? But probably frightening too. The staff made a point to tell us that no one had escaped from the functioning prisons behind this one in a very long time…

  1. Dang, that’s a comfy scam to run. Find an old historical building, claim it is haunted then give tours a couple of times a night.

    Of course, MY scam would have a genuine souvenir shop where you could buy genuine articles made by murderers and such. And toe nail clippings.
    Nothing would be too good for my customers 😉

    Hahahahaha. Glad you had fun though. I’m not a big fan of trying to keep historical buildings around but I’d much rather have those than rows of apartment buildings or a walmart 😦

    1. The outside of the building is quite beautiful. They definitely do not build things like they used to. There is actually 3 functioning prisons right behind it but they look like your average elementary school buildings from the 90s.
      You had me with the souvenir shop up until the toe nail clippings lmao. Their gift shop had quite a bit of Shawshank stuff for sale. I’m not a die hard fan of that movie so we got a pint glass and stone coaster with a print of the front of the prison on them. (I am 100% a sucker for touristy crap.)
      I watched a show last night called Destination Fear, I think, that did an investigation at OSR and they made it sound SO scary and then got very little evidence (if at all) and then were like, “THIS PLACE IS SO HAUNTED. I’M MAD AT MY FRIEND FOR BRINGING ME HERE.” Drama queens.

    2. OMG, that toe nail clippings comment! 😆 I’m glad the money goes to building preservation. While I’m also a skeptic, I WANT to believe so hard. When I was a kid, everything terrified me. I claimed I could hear spiders in the walls. I was positive my dolls, which I had never wanted but was constantly gifted, were possessed. I knew they were snakes, huge snakes under my bed. And the Terminator DEFINITELY lived in the woods. I was sure I would see his glowing red robot eye if I looked carefully enough. As an adult, nothing scares me anymore. Nothing paranormal is terrifying the way real life can be.

      1. My ex-aunt (divorce) put me in her bedroom for time out when I was little and it was full of clowns. Some musical. One started playing music and now the only thing that creeps me out to this day is clowns. I don’t have a panic attack or anything but I give clowns a wide berth.

    1. Yes. That’s the old Ohio state electric chair. The had the mask and sponge on display too. It was a whole new display area that was closed off but our tour guide happened to have the keys so he took us through. I’m a history nerd so this whole thing was awesome. Now I want to visit more old, creepy places. 🙂

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