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Haunted Locations: Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio

L. Sarhan has been a paranormal investigator and researcher for over 25 years.

The Ohio State Reformatory has many reports of the paranormal. Learn more about the history, reported paranormal experience, tours, and more.

The Ohio State Reformatory has many reports of the paranormal. Learn more about the history, reported paranormal experience, tours, and more.

The Ohio State Reformatory, also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, is considered by many people to be one of many haunted prisons in the United States. With the history of the Ohio State Reformatory, it isn't any surprise that this location would be haunted.


Originally the location was used to train over 4,000 soldiers during the Civil War in 1861. It wasn't until 1884 that it was approved by the state of Ohio to build a reformatory. Construction started on the Ohio State Reformatory in 1886, but it was not completed until 1910. Even though the building's construction wasn't completed, they transferred 150 inmates in 1896 to help finish building this massive castle-like structure.

The Ohio State Reformatory is considered to be home to the tallest free-standing cell blocks, standing at six tiers high. Twenty years after the completion of this building, the prison became very overcrowded and in need of an update. Due to the lack of updates and overcrowding, the Ohio State Reformatory was deemed unfit to be used as a prison in the 1980s. The state of Ohio finally closed the doors of Ohio State Reformatory in 1990.

In the years in operation, it housed over 154,000 inmates. Like most prisons, it housed some of the most violent offenders. Many prisoners didn't make it out of Ohio State Reformatory alive. Inmates were not the only ones meeting violent ends. Aside from fighting, one of the most common accounts of inmates killing inmates is by pushing them over the railing to meet their death upon impacting the concrete floor below.

Many of the inmates couldn't take life at Ohio State Reformatory and ultimately took their own lives. According to one of the current tour guides, one inmate couldn't handle Mansfield anymore. This inmate took his sheets and hung himself over the railing. Several accounts by paranormal investigators and tour guides say they have seen an apparition of a man hanging from the railing.

Another inmate by the name of Lockhart sprayed himself with spray paint and set himself on fire. By the time they could get to him, he had died. As they dragged his body to the morgue, chunks of flesh peeled off on the walkway. The prison system contacted his family, but they wanted nothing to do with him. Therefore Lockhart's body was buried at the cemetery on site.

This cemetery has headstones but instead of names, they have their prisoner numbers instead. In fact, there are a total of 218 marked graves on the grounds of Ohio State Reformatory. Many of the bodies buried here are victims of disease, tuberculosis, and other illnesses.

Inmates weren't the only victims of Ohio State Reformatory. Several guards over the years were attacked and some even killed while working. In 1938, a guard was killed while making his rounds. One of the inmates was able to break free a bar and used it to beat the guard to death.

If you weren't insane before arriving at Ohio State Reformatory, chances are those put in solitary confinement became insane. Though it was originally thought that solitary confinement would bring them closer to finding God, the pitch-black conditions and the length of their stay there caused sensory deprivation, which has been known to drive anyone insane.

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In the 1930s, there was a massive riot that occurred. The prison system rounded up 120 people who they thought were the cause behind the riot. They divided these people into 10 small cells. The outcome wasn't a good one.

Inmates and guards were just a few of the people who fell victim to Ohio State Reformatory. One story tied to Mansfield didn't even occur on the Ohio State Reformatory grounds. As the story goes, in 1948 two paroled inmates wanted revenge so they kidnapped and killed the wife and kids of the reformatory's farm boss. Ultimately they caught the inmates, leaving one dead, and one alive to be later put to death in the electric chair.

Two years later, the warden's wife was bringing down a jewelry box from the closet shelf in the warden's quarters when a gun dislodged and fell to the floor. Upon hitting the floor, the gun fired killing the warden's wife. Ten years later, the warden died of a heart attack while sitting at his desk.

Reported Paranormal Experiences

Since its closing, many of the tour guides have had personal experiences where they report hearing footsteps, apparitions, shadow figures, voices, and much more. Women have had reports of their hair being pulled, being slapped, and other violent encounters. People have complained of feeling dizzy or sick to their stomach to such an intensity that a woman collapsed as she was about to go back down the stairs.

Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters have been able to capture some amazing evidence. Some of this evidence includes strong, clear EVPs, video of shadow figures, mists, and other anomalies. They have also had countless personal experiences of being touched and feeling a person breathing on the back of their neck.

Ghost Tours

Each year, the Ohio State Reformatory schedules Ghost Walks and other events. These types of events sell out very quickly, so it is best to order tickets early on when they post the next year's events in October. Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters are welcomed to schedule a private ghost hunt.

Haunted Attraction

In addition to the Ghost Walks and Ghost Hunts, each year the Ohio State Reformatory also hosts a Haunted Prison Experience from the end of September to early November. This is a haunted house event with animatronics and actors. They do not schedule any Ghost Walks, Ghost Hunts, or private ghost hunts during this time.

With all of the tragic history surrounding Ohio State Reformatory, it is no surprise that it is considered one of many of the most haunted prison in the United States. It is also one of the locations that make the list of paranormal investigators and ghost hunters wanting to investigate. This is evident with the fact that there is typically a year-long waiting list for many of their Ghost Walks dates and private ghost hunts.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Linda Sarhan

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