Mansfield Prison, also known as Ohio State Reformatory is believed to be one of the most haunted places in Ohio – if not in the entire United States! There are countless tales of strange occurrences that are believed to be the work of restless spirits of both former inmates and prison guards alike. The walls of this prison have seen some terrible things and it is no surprise that they have left a permanent mark in the form of paranormal disturbances.
Let’s take a closer look at the ghostly goings on at Mansfield Prison.
Mansfield Prison History
Ohio State Reformatory was designed in 1886 by architect Levi T Scott who took his inspiration from German castles. It was hoped that the surroundings would prove to be spiritually uplifting for inmates. The first 150 inmates were moved in in September 1896 although the prison was not completed until 1919. At that time the facility had the largest self supporting steel cellblock in the entire world with a total of 600 cells stacked 6 stories high!
The initial plan was that the prison would house young males serving time for their first offense. It was hoped that by enhancing their spirituality and teaching them useful life skills, they would be reformed. However, with a growing demand for prison space, it was not long before hardened criminals began being incarcerated at Mansfield Prison as well. Soon it was overcrowded with cells designed for one man now housing 3.
The focus moved away from reform and more towards punishment. Some of these punishments were barbaric and included water hoses, a sweatbox reserved for non-white inmates, electro-torture known as ‘the butterfly’ and perhaps worst of all – The Hole. The Hole was a small, bare solitary confinement cell where many a prisoner went insane. Torture wasn’t the only trial that inmates faced. They were also subjected to extreme violence from other inmates and even the staff. The food was horrific, there was poor sanitation and rat infestations in every wing. If prisoners were not murdered then they would likely take their own lives or die of infectious disease.
In 1978 the Council for Human Dignity filed a lawsuit claiming that conditions in the prison were both brutal and inhumane. A federal court made the decision to close the prison by 1986 although this was extended to 1990 due to construction delays with the new Mansfield Correctional Institute that was built to house the inmates.
Mansfield Prison Today
In 1995 The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS) was established with the goal of restoring the building to its former glory. There is now a museum set up within the prison and regular tours of the property are offered. It has also become a very popular location for movie producers one of the most notable movies filmed there is probably The Shawshank Redemption.
As these tours became more regular, rumours started to circulate that the prison was haunted by former inmates who were still trapped in their cells for all eternity. There were also reports of dead prison guards returning to the prison. The reports of strange activity were so frequent that MRPS now offers regular ghost tours and the prison has become a popular location for paranormal investigators from all over the world.
The Ghosts of Mansfield Prison
The whole of Mansfield Prison is teeming with paranormal activity of all kinds, but there are a number of hotspots throughout the building which seem to be more active than some of the other areas. Let’s explore these areas and some of the activity that is commonly reported there.
According to reports the chapel is one of the most active areas in Mansfield Prison in terms of paranormal activity. It is often thought to be the central point for the hauntings. There could be a very good reason why – you see, before being converted into a chapel, this area was actually where prisoners were executed! It is very common for visitors to capture strange light anomalies in photographs taken here and there have been lots of unexplained noises in the room. In most reports, spirits are seen lingering in doorways from the corner of your eye, but will vanish if you turn to look at them directly! Some visitors have recently reported being grabbed by the spirits, but this is not a very common occurrence.
As you might expect, a large number of inmates passed away in the prison infirmary over the years. Some would have died from illness and disease, but others from injuries sustained during torture, or thanks to a beating guards or fellow inmates. There are claims that it was very common for patients in the infirmary to go for days without any care from medical staff. Most were neglected and many starved to death because they were too weak to fight off other patients stealing their food when there was no supervision from staff. It is not at all surprising that there are lots of reports of paranormal activity here – most commonly unexplained gusts of wind and disembodied moaning.
The Library is also said to be haunted, but not by a former inmate. Visiting psychics have suggested that the spirit here is actually a young woman by the name of Helen. Records suggest that this could be the ghost of a former prison nurse who was murdered by inmates many years ago.
The Basement of the prison is said to be home to one particular spirit – a 14 year old boy who was allegedly beaten to death down there. He is seen lingering in the shadows of the basement with some frequency. On some occasions there have also been reports of a guard in the basement too and he is said to give off some very sinister vibes, suggesting that he is one of the many malevolent ghosts that are said to haunt Mansfield Prison..
The Hole is located in the basement of Mansfield Prison and it was considered to be the ultimate punishment for disobedient inmates. The small cells in The Hole were completely barren and were infested with rats and cockroaches. When places in The Hole prisoners were cut off from others and deprived of light. This often led to them being driven mad. Many of the inmates put here ended up taking their own lives. There are 20 tiny cells in The Hole and it is considered to be one of the most creepy areas of the entire prison. Those who have ventured down here have described many negative experiences including sudden bouts of nausea, chills and a general uneasiness like they are being watched from the shadows. Others have heard deranged babbling, disembodied moans and other unpleasant sounds. This section is not for the faint of heart that is for sure!
Other Paranormal Activity
Although those areas mentioned are considered to be among the most haunted spots in Mansfield Prison, there is activity throughout the building and grounds. There have been reports of things moving in the graveyard and the West Attic has sent even the most hardened of paranormal investigators running! The cell block was haunted even before the prison closed and many of the inmates said a lady would come and tuck in their blankets at night. Could this be the nurse from the library? There is rarely a tour that passes without reports of shadow people, disembodied voices , phantom footsteps and other strange sounds like cell doors clanging shut.
The Administration Wing is also apparently a hotspot and it is haunted by two very important figures in the history of Mansfield Prison. Arthur Glattke was named Superintendent in 1935 and he got to work straight away on improving the miserable conditions in the prison as best he could, although there was nothing that could be done about the overcrowding. He lived in the Administration Wing with his wife Helen. In 1950, Helen was looking for something in a closet when she accidentally knocked a gun off the shelf. It went off and shot her in the chest. She battled for 3 days, but eventually succumbed to the injury after contracting pneumonia. Glattke continued at the prison, working to block out the heart ache, but he eventually passed away in February 1959 after suffering a massive heart attack in his office. The couple are both said to haunt the administration wing, although they are said to be friendly spirits.
As you can see, Mansfield Prison has more than its fair share of ghost roaming the place! There is a mixture of friendly and malevolent spirits, so it is important to remain alert if you do choose to visit.