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This Storied Ohio Reformatory Is The Place For Chills And Thrills

You may have seen the massive brick building in, most notably, The Shawshank Redemption. But the Ohio State Reformatory’s dark past will captivate you.

The Ohio State Reformatory is open for general tours most days from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. There are also Public Ghost Walks, where you can tour reported paranormal hotspots. During the Public Ghost Walks, you’ll be guided on a two hour tour and see the most active hotspots. You’ll also hear the murderous tales that could have led to the supposed hauntings. For a more hands-on exploration of the paranormal, you can register for the Public Ghost Hunts.

The Ohio State Reformatory was initially known as the Mansfield Reformatory. Construction on the reformatory began in 1886. The former Camp Mordecai Bartley, a training ground for civil war soldiers, previously stood at the site. You can see what President William McKinley said about it in his 1893 State of the State address as Ohio Governor.

The reformatory was meant to be an intermediate between the Boys’ Industrial School at Lancaster and the Ohio Penitentiary. The point was to rehabilitate first-time offenders who weren’t yet hardened criminals. It became a maximum security facility in 1946. 

The 1948 murder of John Niebel, the superintendent of the Mansfield Reformatory Farm, his wife, and his daughter serves as just one dark memory for the reformatory. The killer, a former convict, ended up getting sent to the electric chair.  But plenty of horrors also happened inside its walls. The Ohio State Reformatory officially ceased operations by the end of 1990 due to inhumane conditions.

Because of the conditions and the deaths that occurred there, the reformatory has earned its status as a haunted site. Here are some hotspots, if you’re a sucker for the paranormal:

The East and West Cell Blocks

The east cell block was completed in 1910 and was built using inmate labor, Nancy Darbey writes in her book. Murders and suicides happened here.

“The Hole” (Solitary Confinement)

Suicides are known to have happened in solitary. One man reportedly hanged himself, while another set himself on fire.

The Chapel

According to believers in the paranormal, mysterious orbs can be seen in photos and some have even felt something grab at them.


A young boy was allegedly beaten to death in the basement, and some ghost-hunters have heard whispers down there.

The TB Ward

About 51 cases of tuberculosis were reportedly diagnosed between January 1, 1946, to January 1, 1948. Ghost-hunters have said to feel cold spots in the ward.

If you want to see more, you can check out clips from a “Ghost Adventures” episode at the reformatory. For more information from the reformatory, check out their website.

Have you had any interesting experiences at the Ohio State Reformatory? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured photo via Facebook.