Chilling Adventures at Ohio State Reformatory

By Mindy McKenzie

November 22, 2013

Mansfield has a number of different, one-of-a-kind activities to take part in. However, Ghost Hunts at the Ohio State Reformatory caught my eye. These niche adventures sell out most years, so book early for 2014! It’s a great gift too. This isn’t a haunted house, although they do those here in October. This is a paranormal experience.

The Reformatory is a landmark in Mansfield and an incredibly popular place to visit. This exceptional building possesses a “Hollywood” history, known as the filming site for “Shawshank Redemption”, “Tango & Cash”, “Air Force One”, and music videos. It is also known as the hot spot for paranormal activities.

The Reformatory was built in 1886 and housed 154,000 prisoners over the years. There were a variety of events that had taken place that made the Reformatory well known. Conditions in the prison declined and the doors were closed in 1990. The doors may have been closed, but the spirits of the lost souls are forever enclosed behind those dark walls.

The Reformatory offers many activities to take part in, one of which is ghost hunts. Ghost hunts are available to individuals over the age of 18 and last from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M. On ghost hunts, visitors get to roam areas of the unnerving building usually closed to the general public. When I initially heard about ghost hunts, I was a little hesitant. It’s very intimidating walking around a pitch black building that is well known for paranormal events occurring. However, it was an experience that was truly memorable and worth every second!

As soon as I drove past the gates of the Reformatory, I felt a wave of fear rushing over me. The outside of the building has a dark, mysterious gothic architecture. From the outside, the building looks enormous. Rows of windows towered over me and behind the windows lay pure darkness. No light at all came out of the windows, except for the main entryway. Inside, however, it was surprisingly warm and welcoming. There was a gift shop in the front, as well as a museum with artifacts and relics from the past. The museum was great because it gave me a little bit of background of what I was about to experience. However, the biggest feature on display was the infamous electric chair, even though it was never actually used. When I saw that, I quickly remembered I was in a prison where terrible events occurred.

The tour guides let us roam the building and offered brief tours of the rooms and cells. They also kept the lights on for the deration of the tours but as soon as the tours were completed; every light was shut off in the spine-chilling building. Nothing had remotely prepared me for that moment. I suddenly felt like I was in a horror movie. There were six levels of cells that loomed over me while I was walking along the blocks; which made it impossible not to feel terrified. The cells were unbelievably tiny and it made me wonder how people lived in those conditions.

It was a self-guided tour, meaning I got to go wherever I wanted. Only a few rooms were closed off from the public, although the staff members stated the goal was to make every room open for public view. Visitors must take a flashlight on a ghost hunt because there is no light whatsoever in the place. I think that by far is the most terrifying aspect of the experience. It is a treacherous maze; I never knew what was lurking around the creepy corners. The upper levels of the Reformatory were just as spooky as the lower levels. As my best friend and I walked through the educational wing of the building; we both had a hair-raising experience. We were walking towards the door that led out to the main hallway of the upper level, when all of a sudden we heard chains rattling. We both stopped and looked at each other and asked simultaneously, “Did you just hear that?!” From that point on, I was a lot more cautious about what was around me!

Every room had its own uneasy vibe and that was where the adrenaline rush came into play. It was great to participate in because it was something that was completely out of my comfort zone. I was in an unfamiliar area, it was pitch black, and it was a place known for being haunted. The tour carried on throughout the night, but you can leave whenever you want. We were on our own and could experience whatever we wanted, which was another great highlight. Another important factor for many was free pizza offered around 11 P.M. We could take a break at any point and step outside to clear our minds or go into the “Bullpen” to grab a soft drink or some food. The staff was helpful and they were there in case anyone got turned around, which was completely possible. Overall, this was an experience I will never forget and I would highly recommend ghost hunts for all of you seeking that chilling adventure! Book at or call 419-522-2644. Want to do more? Check out for a list of other haunted sites.

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