This Ohio Prison Is Said To Be One Of The Most Haunted Places In America

The Ohio State Reformatory is said to be one of the most haunted site, not just in its own state, but in the entire country. Its dark history has made it notorious to both residents and visitors alike, and its violent past is believed to contribute in no small part to the unsettled spirits that are said to still haunt its walls. Although the Ohio State Reformatory, which was originally called the Mansfield Reformatory, is no longer an operating prison, it housed prisoners for almost one hundred years. Around 154,000 inmates passed through its walls, many of them initially first-time offenders, according to The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society. 

The prison itself took 10 years to build, and when it was finally completed in 1896, it served as a reformatory for 150 young men transported from Columbus who had committed minor crimes. Its original goal? To spend the next 18 months rehabilitating these offenders by teaching them "religion, education, and a trade," and then releasing the newly-reformed men back into society to live productive lives (via MRPS).

The Ohio State Reformatory originally tried to rehabilitate prisoners

For the first few years, the reformation and rehabilitation model seemed to work fairly successfully at the Ohio State Reformatory. However, it sadly wouldn't last. As time went on, the prison population began to expand, and in the 20th century, things began to take a steep downward turn. In the 1960s, the reformatory was forced to take on more inmates than ever before, leading to overcrowding, unsafe conditions, and, inevitably, violence, according to the Travel Channel. Rather than focusing on reforming the prisoners, inmates were crammed together two to a cell, and conditions inside the walls deteriorated into illness, madness, and murder.

At least 215 people died within the prison, and were interred in numbered graves just outside the walls. While some died of natural causes, including tuberculosis, influenza, and at least one heart attack, others met much more violent fates. On one occasion, an inmate killed another and stuffed his body under the bunk after they were double-booked into a single solitary confinement cell. On another occasion, an inmate set himself on fire (via Ohio Exploration).

The Reformatory was shut down in 1990

Many other fatalities continued to occur behind the prison walls. Some were distraught inmates who took their own lives, or those who were executed by the state via the electric chair. But even the guards were not safe on prison grounds. An elderly prison guard named Urban Wilford was shot dead in 1926 by a paroled inmate who returned to the grounds to seek revenge. Another guard was a casualty  12 prisoners attempted to escape, according to Ohio Exploration.

After years of decline, the Ohio State Reformatory was finally forced to close its doors in 1990. But many people claim that the place has never been quiet. "It seems that certain buildings are always haunted: prisons, hospitals, schools and theaters," Greg Feketik, lead paranormal investigator at the Ohio State Reformatory, explained to Ohio Magazine. "There's a lot of energy and a lot of emotion in those places, and there are people who believe that the energy will stay there, or people will not leave there after they pass on." 

The movie Shawshank Redemption was shot at the Ohio State Reformatory

Thanks in part to its haunted reputation, the reformatory did not fall into disrepair, as many other shuttered prisons have done. To the contrary, it garnered even more attention after serving as the backdrop to the popular 1993 movie Shawshank Redemption. In 2000, the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society bought the site of the prison for just one single dollar, and set to work restoring the place, per Ohio Magazine.

Some of the most haunted places on the property are said to be the Admin Basement, the East and West Cell blocks where many of the murders took place, and The Hole, where prisoners were sent to solitary confinement for punishment, via MRPS. Many eyewitnesses have claimed to have had a number of paranormal experiences, including spotting shadowy figures roaming the hallways and mysterious balls of light. Others have claimed to hear voices, footsteps, and chains rattling. These days, the Ohio State Reformatory hosts tours and paranormal investigations for the public seven days a week, for anyone who is brave enough to try to catch sight of one of these ghostly figures. And if any part of these ghostly rumors are true, they just might get what they came there for.