Ohio State Reformatory–Mansfield Prison

My brother recently moved to Canton, Ohio. My parents went to visit him and took a trip to Mansfield Prison, which was used in the film Shawshank Redemption. The prison was built in 1886 and held over 150,000 hardened criminals. The prison is supposedly one of the most haunted places on earth.

I happened to be up last night watching the Travel Channel and there was a documentary on the prison. It was so interesting that I thought I would share some information about the dreary place with you all.

The cornerstone laid on November 4, 1886 evolved into this magnificent Chateauesque structure. Cleveland architect Levi T. Scofield designed the Ohio State Reformatory using a combination of three architectural styles; Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne. This was done to encourage inmates back to a “rebirth” of their spiritual lives. The architecture itself inspired them to turn away from their sinful lifestyle, and toward repentance. This grand structure is comprised of more than 250,000 square feet and houses the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block.

The Reformatory doors were opened to its first 150 young offenders in September 1896. After housing over 155,000 men in its lifetime, the doors to the prison closed December 31, 1990.

No matter what their crime, some sent to Mansfield have never left. They rest unclaimed in a cheerless graveyard just outside the fence. 215 numbered markers laid out row on row. Most were victims of disease, influenza, tuberculosis, but some died of less natural causes; From the violence, that is all to common inside any prison and was far from unknown in this one. And the worst of it occurred well away from the main cell block with their rows of cages stacked tier on tier, and inmates, one or two to a cell. There were too many eyes, too many witnesses here, no the worst of it was reserved for a far lonelier place, deep beneath the prison ground. A place called local control, or solitary, by some, known by everyone else as the hole. Near total isolation can crack all but the toughest of cons, but none was so alone that there wasn’t room for death. At least one inmate managed to hang himself, another set himself on fire, once two men left too long in a single tomb like cell, only one walked out, leaving his cellmate’s body behind, stuffed beneath a bunk.

Even when they’re empty, some swear something walks these halls. It isn’t enough for contemporary visitors not to wonder off alone while sight seeing, what‘s become one of Mansfield’s more popular tourist attractions. But the bloodiest single incident in the old prison’s history occurred outside it’s walls. In July 1948, when the Reformatory’s farm boss, his wife and daughter were kidnapped and shot to death by two parolees bent on revenge. A six state manhunt for the so called mad-dog killers ended in a shootout that left Robert Daniels of Columbus in custody and his partner, James West dead. “I’ll get the Chair” Daniels told police as he signed the confession. And on January 3rd, 1949, he did. A year later in 1950 disaster struck again. This time, here in the living quarters of the Warden himself. The Warden’s wife, removing a jewelry box from a closet shelf dislodged a pistol from it’s hiding place. When it hit the floor, the gun went off inflicting a fatal wound. And within the decade, even more bad luck. The Warden, hard at work in his office, suffered a heart attack and died. All this was nearly 40 years ago and more, how then to explain the voices shaken tour guides swear they hear today? Man and woman talking, to faint to understand, too persistent to ignore and chilling to listeners who think they’re alone, only to find themselves apparently eavesdropping on the warden and his wife locked forever in an endless conversation from beyond the grave.

The tour guides often have experiences they cannot explain. The photos my parents took had hundreds of orbs all over them. I can’t wait to visit. Enjoy your Saturday friends!

All information provided by: Ohio State Reformatory


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Join the Discussion!

  1. Tia Layne

    I did visit this prison and accidentally took the haunted tour didn’t realize that it was a haunted house but after I calmed down them trying to scare me only robbed me of fully enjoying it.

  2. lashanna

    Every october they turn the prison into an haunted attraction, where you can walk through and the intentionally scare you. I go there atleast once a year. I will actually be there tonight to walk through the place. But the prison offers guided tours or an over night stay tour. Which ever one you choose to do, try it. Its a beautiful place!!

  3. I have definitely seen this place on Travel Channel/Discovery Channel! It looked so fantastically creepy and I definitely want to visit. Is it totally strange that I love visiting places like that? Haha

  4. Oh woa!!! THat’s insane about the warden & his wife!! I have a prison by me and it looks nothing like this. I wouldn’t even think this was a prison from the first picture. I once went to the closed 1800’s prison in Jim Thrope, PA. It was the creepiest tour I have ever been on. I totally believe that the people think there are presences there. Great post. Thanks for the info dear! I want to watch Shawsank Redemption now. =)

  5. That was such an interesting post! I love to learn about the history of prisons. It’s amazing how they were constructed compaired to todays. They were so beautiful in a strange way.

  6. That was a really fascinating story, and so well written! I love stories like this, but I know I would be too scared to visit!
    I finally did my 5-diamond post! Thank you again Kori, and this was alot of fun!
    Happy Sunday!

  7. I love it! Do you ever watch Ghost Hunters? They did an investigation there and had some really weird experiences…it was so neat!
    Happy day and thanks for the virtual tour. It’s such an interesting piece of history!
    Happy day!

  8. Excellent post! I find prisons built at a certain time have kind of a creepy look to them to begin with. I love when somebody adds a ghost to the mix! I’d love to go visit!

  9. I have been on holiday for the past week and i’ve really missed reading your blog! Another interesting post, i wonder what ghosts have been seen there. I’m gonna show this to my other half, Shawshank Redemption is his favourite film.

  10. I have no doubt that restless and wandering souls reside there. The pictures were enough to give me chills! That coupled with the fact that your parents photo’s had orbs on them – that’s enough fact for me! Great post Kori!

  11. How facinating !! What an intriguing read – thanks !! I love the Shawshank Redemption and this post really brings the movie even more to life…..I must visit it on my next trip to the States (whenever that may be !!!)

  12. I have always wanted to visit Mansfield Prison. I have seen this on Ghost Hunters and other shows on the Travel Channel, too! I’ve heard that there are some tours you can do at late at night! Great post my dear. This is one place I would not want to be left alone in.

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