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About Us

The 1896 Ohio State Reformatory is described as the largest, castle-like structure in Ohio and in the top 5 largest in America. It was the brainchild of Levi T. Scofield who designed the prison with beauty and a church-like aura, with the hopes of encouraging and inspiring the incarcerated to experience a spiritual renewal, forsake their harmful life style and repent their wrong-doing.
Scofield gave it his best shot. He created 250,000 square feet of massive stone granite building using a blend of Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian, Romanesque and Queen Anne, a most impressive place. It houses "the world's tallest, free-standing steel cell block, with 6 tiers, 12 ranges, 600 cells.
Today, The Ohio State Reformatory Museum and its buildings & front area are surrounded by a huge mother of all fences. There is a new federal minimum security prison built on the property behind the museum, on land that used to be part of the Ohio State Reformatory. The parking lot for the new prison sits beside the right flank of the museum, because part of the new prison may be in the pictures. It says in plain English, "No photography allowed from the parking lot." Yes, they mean you and the guard will come rolling out in a car and ask you to stop in no uncertain terms. No pictures are allowed of the minimum security prison for obvious reasons.
However, the public can take pictures of the place from the front, on Reformatory Road. Tours are on the weekends, though they are having special Halloween events in October. The first floor houses the museum and gift shop. There are three tours offered; be prepared to climb stairs!! All money raised goes directly into the restoration of this grand old place.
West Tower Tour (Includes the Guard Tower, the Prison Cemetery & observe the Underground Tunnel System)
East Cell Block Tour (Includes not only the largest, free-standing Steel Cell Block, but also the Chapel.)
Hollywood Tour (Includes the actual sets used in Shawshank Redemption * The 1886 West Cell Block used as a Russian Prison in Air Force One)
The Central Guard Room has been renovated and is available for rental for weddings, receptions and special events.
Ghost Hunts and Ghost Walks are available from April through November. (Many paranormal investigators have done so with great results.)
During the Civil War, the Union Army had a training camp, Camp Mordecai Bartley, located on the rolling hills around the present location of the reformatory, because of the natural spring which existed here. In 1876, it was decided to build a boys reformatory institution, to be an intermediate step between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster and the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, as a last chance to delinquent youth, usually first time offenders, to mend their ways. However, the wheels of government move slowly. Finally, in 1884, the state legislature finally approved the creation and funding of such a correctional institution.
The first 150 juveniles were transferred from the Ohio Pen in September of 1896. Sometime during the first half of the 20th century, it became a federal prison; becoming home to law breakers from all over the country, from renegade Indian leaders from OK, to wise guys and other folks who committed crimes against society.
By the 1970s, OSR no longer met modern standards for correctional facilities and plans to replace it were made. Toward the end of its use as a prison, two films were made here; "Harry and Walter go to New York"(1975), and "Tango and Cash" (1988). By December of 1990 the last inmates were moved to the new Mansfield Correctional Institute (MANCI prison), which was built right behind the Ohio State Reformatory, on land originally used by he old prison.
The question remained: What to do with this aging, falling apart castle? While authorities pondered this, film makers were making their projects in this creepy old, but still beautiful old prison. In 1993, The Shawshank Redemption was filmed here, and the Russian prison scenes in Air force One was filmed here in 1996.
The Preservation Society which formed in 1995, managed to convince authorities to save the old prison. In 1995, Ohio leases the place to Mansfield, who leases land to MRPS. They begin tours in 1996, to raise money to restore the old buildings. The preservation Society now holds the deed to the Ohio State Reformatory and is preserving it for future generations.
Most prisons offer a hard life, because of the nature of the institution, the nature of criminals and all the stress of being in stir, and working in such an environment. Despite Scofield's efforts to give the inmates and others who worked here something beautiful to be incarcerated/work in, it is not surprisingly that the prison became a place of punishment, suffering, bad attitudes, a showcase for the most ugly human behavior, sickness, and at times a place which offered inhuman living conditions, such as the 1930s.
Punishment was harsh for bad behavior, as it was in most prisons. Solitary confinement was done in a windowless cell with no facilities. The area of the basement was rumored to be where prisoners were roughed up, tortured and beaten for bad behavior.
Death also happened here via epidemics in the early days, fights, natural causes, accidents, prison escapes, and suicides.
While no one was ever put to death at this prison, over 200 inmates died in this prison from fights and beatings.
Two inmates were put into a single solitary confinement cell for the night. One walked out while the other was found dead, stuffed under the bed.
One inmate was hung in the West Wing shower room.
One Corrections officer was shot to death in 1926 during a prison break attempt. Another Corrections Officer, in 1932 was beaten to death with a three-foot iron rod in the solitary confinement, ie the hole.
Unfortunately two black-hearted convicts Robert Daniels and John West were released for good behavior in 1948.
These "Mad Dog Killers" chose to use their freedom to go on a merciless killing spree, which took the lives of a tavern owner, Earl Ambrose, the OSR farm superintendent and his family, a farmer and a truck driver before they were stopped in a shoot-out with police, where West was shot dead and Daniels was captured and eventually died in the electric chair at the Columbus State Penitentiary.
In November of 1950, Helen, the wife of the then prison superintendent, Warden Glattke, accidentally knocked a loaded gun off the shelf and shot herself in the lung, so the story goes.
It is rumored that Helen had really killed herself. It is also rumored that it was her husband who had gotten an inmate hired to be a house servant to shoot her in order to avoid a messy divorce. Chances are that she just died in a stupid accident, though her husband had to live with all the rumors about her death, and the fact that this stupid accident could've been prevented. In 1959, this superintendent died of a heart attack in his office.
One inmate hung himself in his cell. Another inmate in solitary confinement, made himself a human torch, from chemicals taken from the prison furniture work shop.
Like most prisons, the Ohio State Reformatory is haunted by the many who died in custody, or died doing their jobs.
The Warden's Quarters East Administration Building
Voices are heard by the living throughout the superintendent's quarters. One set of voices is believed to be Glattke and his wife, Helen, having an argument, as the voices are heated.
Warden Glattke is heard walking through the Administration Wing, Living Quarters, courtyard and through some other hallways in the prison, inspecting the place.
The entity of his wife, Helen hangs out in her room, known as the white room which is found at the north end of the hallway on the second floor. The strong scent of roses means that Helen is near. She has been known to speak to the living in recorded EVPs. She said, "Thank you," when the museum staff gave her a party.
Cold spots have been noticed as well.
Most active and negative energy in the prison can be found in the Chapel, Solitary Confinement (of course!) and the shower rooms.
The Chapel
Many apparitions have been seen in the chapel.
The West Wing Shower Room mists and apparitions, and a sense of choking has been felt here.
The Cell Blocks
One investigator felt pressure from unseen palms on her shoulders hold her back for a moment as her group went up the stairs in the West Wing.
One investigator felt someone helping her up the stairs by putting a hand on the small of her back. Someone also playfully tickled the back of her neck.
Some have felt the breath of an unseen presence on their faces.
People walking through the cell blocks have been pushed, hit, shoved, punched and even thrown down stairs on occasion.
Sensitive people have been unable to enter some rooms because of the overwhelming feeling of hate. Some have felt hands around their necks.
The Basement
The apparition of a young man has been seen running away from the living.
Many paranormal investigation groups are willing to pay $50.00 each to spend the night in the prison. To see their evidence on line, visit the web sites listed in the source section.
Yes Indeed!
Paranormal investigators have captured numerous orb photographs and haunting EVPs.


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Ohio State Reformatory PHOTOS



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