Haunted Journeys

Ohio State Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory

100 Reformatory Road
Mansfield, Ohio
44905 USA

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Mansfield Ohio is home to one of the most haunted places in the state, the Ohio State Reformatory. Come explore its mystery with Haunted Journeys.

The History

Standing on the very same ground, prior to the building of the Ohio State Reformatory, brought its own troubled history. Because of its natural spring, during the Civil War, the Union Army had a training camp, Camp Mordecai Bartley, located right here on the rolling hills.

Later in 1876, it was decided to build a boy's reformatory institution, with the intention of being an intermediate step between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster and the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. According to the plan, this would be, as the last chance to delinquent youth, usually first time offenders, to mend their ways. However, the wheels of government move slowly. Finally, in 1884, the state legislature finally approved the creation and funding of such a correctional institution.

Constructed in 1886, the Ohio State Reformatory (originally named the Intermediary Penitentiary) was designed by Levi T. Scott famous for his construction of German Castles. This castle-like prison was built to reform and spiritually inspire its occupants. Although the construction was not complete, 150 inmates were housed at the facility beginning in September 1896. When it was completed in 1919, it had the largest self-supporting steel cell block in the world, with 600 individual cells that were stacked six stories high.

From the beginning day of its plan, the goal was to reform young non-violent offenders by teaching them useful skills and motivating their spirituality. In fact, the entire building's design was navigated by this concept. But it did not last long.

Unfortunately, Ohio was forced to change this policy due to its growing prison population and having to bring in more hardened criminals. Needless to say, the Reformatory became overcrowded. Cells that were designed to hold a single man now held three. The focus shifted from the reforming to punishing unruly prisoners.

The punishments were administered with antiquated and unforgiving torture devices the included "the butterfly," a form of electro-torture, water hoses, a sweatbox for non-white prisoners, and "The Hole" which was a small, barren and solitary confinement cell.

Along with the possibility of being tortured, the inmates were also subjected to extreme violence from other inmates, horrific food, rat infestation, and infectious diseases. OSR closed its doors as a prison/reformatory in 1981.

The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS) was formed in 1995 with the purpose of restoring the prison to its original state. OSR found a new purpose in the bustling world of cinematography. Its majestic beauty and architectural strength made it the perfect spot to film the classic movie "The Shawshank Redemption", besides other blockbuster movies.

Today, after extensive restoration, the building is used for events, tours, haunted explorations, and even a Haunted "Blood Prison" during the Halloween Season. It remains to hold the record for “the world’s tallest, free-standing steel cell block, with 6 tiers, 12 ranges, 600 cells."

The Dark History

To understand the root cause of the intense supernatural power of the Ohio State Reformatory, one needs to explore the dark and morbid historical conditions that lead to these manifestations.

The massive prison became a habitat of extreme and unforgiving punishment. It was a megaplex for suffering, bad attitudes, a showcase for the ugliest human behavior, sickness, and inhuman living conditions. The punishment was harsh for misbehavior, with prisoners being roughed up, tortured, and beaten. A prisoner would never want to face the notorious "Hole" or the basement, a sign of pure torment and suffering to follow.

Although this was not a death role prison, there were many deaths and (even) executions here. Some say over 200 inmates died in prison just from fights and beating. It was not unusual for two inmates to be put into a single solitary confinement cell for the night. One walked out and the other dead stuffed under the bed.

Hangings were common. An inmate was hung one time in the West Wing shower room. Another in his cell. These were just the ones that were recorded. An inmate in solitary confinement, lit himself on fire, from chemicals taken from the prison furniture workshop. All these deaths were gruesome and a call of desperateness.

One Correction officer was shot to death in 1926 during a prison break attempt. Another, in 1932, was beaten to death with a three-foot iron rod in the hole.

In November of 1950, Helen, the wife of the then prison superintendent, Warden Glattke, accidentally knocked a loaded gun off the shelf and accidentally killing herself with a shot into her lung. The accident" has been questioned at times, for there is a rumor that Warden Glattke, her husband, hired an inmate to be a house servant, later commissioned to shoot her in order to avoid a divorce.

The final numbers are very disturbing, vividly concluding the discussion of its dark history. During its 94 years as a working prison, 154,000 inmates died through the gates of the Ohio State Reformatory. Many died of diseases like influenza and tuberculosis. Others went mad and committed suicide. Just outside the reformatory stands a cemetery with 215 numbered graves, reminding us of the harsh reality of prison life.

The Hauntings

There is no debate, the hauntings of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield are numerous and over-the-top intense! This awards this property as one of the most haunted in the world. The violence and mistreatments that have occurred here have not silenced the former prisoners and workers here. 

Because of the related historical occurrences that happened within the different sections of this massive property, each of these multiple oppressive hotspots has its own distinctive haunts. Please read our special article Most Terrifying Haunted Spaces at the Ohio State Reformatory to get a breakdown of these chilling tales. 

As a general rule, if your intention is to be face to face with phantoms of the past, this property will not disappoint you. Be ready to be unpleasantly moved by the ghosts of OSR. Witnesses have experienced seeing full-body apparitions, shadow figures, slamming cell doors, and disembodied (and sometimes) yelling voices. Troubling, some females have reported having been victims of unwanted physical attacks by the male spirits who linger in this place. Many also claim to feel an inexplicable chill while on the prison grounds. Even the road leading to OSR seems to be haunted. There is a local legend that the ghost of a notorious Mansfield hermit and eccentric, Phoebe Wise, lurks the area. ORS's cemetery has also been a spot for much activity, where items seem to move around or misplaced on their own accord. 

Be very prepared if you wish to engage in a paranormal experience at OSR. There is a solid mixture of friendly, docile, and malevolent spirits and (perhaps) nasty elementals! 

Many paranormal TV shows have featured this property, including the famed SyFy Ghost Hunters, Ghost Asylum, Ghost Hunters Academy, and Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. 

More reads...

Haunted Mansfield Paperback – January 1, 2011 by Ian Morgan (Author)     The Haunted History of the Ohio State Reformatory (Haunted America) by [Sherri Brake]     The Ohio State Reformatory (Images of America) by [Nancy K. Darbey]


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Understand This:

This property, as part of our network, has been added for they may have history, validation, or folk tales of having spirited activities. Please take caution in approaching and visiting these locations, since courtesy, respect, and caution should be a top priority in every Haunted Investigator's style. Also do realize, some of these places may have permanently closed, changed ownership and/or names, or just are not available for your visits. Please respect this.

We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information provided on this listing, but offer it as a first step in finding your next haunted travel destination. Please do confirm with the property before making any plans to visit. If you visit, tour, or investigate this property (or any of our properties), we are not responsible or held liable for any outcomes, lack of evidence, or injuries associated with your travels. This is only for entertainment purposes, and information provided is only as found in public domains (or as offered by the associated contributor (as a claimed property).

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Date added: Mar/04/2019 | Last time updated: May/24/2020

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