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Ohio State Reformatory

Located in Mansfield, Ohio – One Spooky Place

Touring any empty prison is an eerie experience, to be sure. Now enhance that experience by doing it at night with only flashlights to light your way down deserted corridors that resonate of prior inhabitants. Intensify it further by placing that tour in a 149,000 square foot structure that looks more like a turn-of-the-century medieval chateau than a prison. The result is an Ultimate Halloween Destination – the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) in Mansfield, Ohio. So intriguing is this setting that it has been a location for four films since 1975, most notable being The Shawshank Redemption in 1993.

While attending the Ohio Haunted Conference last June, I jumped at the chance to tour OSR. My only other experience with a prison tour was of Alcatraz in San Francisco, California which included a memorable 30-second stay in solitary confinement.

Approaching the Reformatory at dusk, one is in awe of the massive size and beauty of the structure. Construction began in 1886 for what was to be a new level of service for troubled young boys, somewhere between a boys school and a penitentiary. The Reformatory had education and spirituality overtones with the goal of preparing boys for a productive life upon release. The purpose shifted by the 1930s to being a maximum-security prison as the population doubled in size to a stifling 3,500 inmates. A federal lawsuit was filed in 1978 on behalf of inmates by a coalition of church and civic groups eventually closing the facility in 1990.

Presently the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, cooperating with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, has as its mission “to save this magnificent structure as a museum facility. A fund raising process of donations and grants will preserve the historic and architectural importance of OSR and infuse a sense of civic pride by bringing nationwide recognition and tourism to Mansfield.”

In 1987 the Ohio State Reformatory was listed with the National Register of Historic Places. A notable designation is the East Cell Block, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest free standing steel cell block rising six tiers.

OCR has been featured on Fox Family Channel’s Real Scary Stories and listed as 101 Things to Do Before You Die by Travel Channel, both recognition’s well deserved. Happy Halloween Magazine is pleased to give OCR our own special designation as an Ultimate Halloween Destination.

Should your travels bring you to Ohio, make sure to visit to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. Special events and Sunday tours are available May through October, with special Halloween events every mid-September through October. Visit their website for details (www.mrps.org).

About Chris Molnar


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