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A closer look at the Ohio State Reformatory

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One place that people around the Ashland/Mansfield area go to be scared or entertained is the Ohio State Reformatory (aka the Mansfield Reformatory) located at 100 Reformatory Road in Mansfield. Some people like to be scared, however some people go to the Ohio State Reformatory for the Hollywood movies made there.

“There’s a difference between entertaining fear and pure fear. Our visitors feel comfortable in here because they know they’ll make it out safe, but if you’re drowning, then that type of fear is different.” Ronald Puff, the maintenance supervisor and tour guide at the reformatory said.

The field where the Ohio State Reformatory is built on was first used as a training camp for the Civil War back in 1861. Then 6 years later the Mansfield area became eligible for the holding a reformatory. Once the city bought the land, construction began in 1886 with help from architect Levi T. Scofield.

The difference between a penitentiary and a reformatory, Puff says is that a reformatory such as the Ohio State Reformatory offers trades such as the chapel to build moral character. A penitentiary is solely a holding center without the focus of transforming the inmate.

The Ohio State Reformatory has been in many popular films. The Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One are two popular movies that have been filmed there. Many music videos were also filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory. Music artists such as Lil Wayne, Godsmack, and Marilyn Manson have all had projects done at the Ohio State Reformatory.

While there are many popular films and bands have filmed there, many paranormal TV shows have done research at the Ohio State Reformatory. Shows such as Ghost Adventures and National Geographic have filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory.

According to MysteriousHeartland.com the Ohio State Reformatory is the most haunted place in Ohio. Many places around the Ohio State Reformatory that give off an eerie vibe. For instance, the solitary confinement and the basement are very creepy and are used for events such as a haunted house.

There are many ghost stories that are involved with the Ohio State Reformatory.

“I’ve had my glove fly across the room which breaks every law of gravity, I’ve had 3 stories like that where there have been witnesses” Puff said.

Head restorationist Bill Sample remembers a time where he was replacing a window and he was talking with another employee. Sample then went on to say that all of a sudden he felt as if he was talking into his own ear which was very loud and startled him.

“People are not really fearful of working here, nothing negative has happened. A lot of times it is playful pushing or the women who work here get their hair pulled. People don’t take it for granted.” Sample said.

Executive director Paul Smith had a different experience. When he was taking a picture with some friends at the reformatory he noticed that there was a man’s face in one of the windows about 40 feet up. He recalls seeing the man’s face in the picture clear as day.

“I don’t go searching out for it, we have very dedicated people for that” said Smith.

The Ohio State Reformatory offers many tours for visitors.

There is a self-guided tour, and that means that visitors are able to walk around the reformatory at their own pace without any guide to talk about the history of the reformatory. There are also the guide tours.

Within the guided tours there are different options. There are the History Meets Hollywood Tour (a tour where the visitor learns about the history of the reformatory and the movies that were filmed there), Behind the Scenes Tour (this is a tour where the visitor gets to have access to areas that are not open to the general public), and an Inmate Tour (this is where the visitor gets to be guided by an actual inmate of the reformatory).

There are also many events that take place at the Ohio State Reformatory. Events range from, a Zumbathon, Vintage Baseball, Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, and even Dining and Lodging. Paranormal programs also take place at the reformatory where guests have the opportunity to spend a night in the haunted reformatory.

Halloween is a huge event that the reformatory takes part in. Paul Smith, executive director of the Ohio State Reformatory stated that during Halloween, there is a 30-40,000 spike in visitors. People from all around the country come to the haunted reformatory around Halloween in hopes of being scared. A new exhibit is also in the works which features an electric chair that was used in the Columbus Penitentiary.

“We have added more parking space” Sample said, about the increase number of visitors around the time of Halloween.

The Ohio State Reformatory is doing quite well for itself even outside of the Halloween season.

“It offers so many different things, ghost hunts, paranormal events, the Hollywood connection, it pulls from so many different groups of people” said Smith.

According to the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society Inc., in 2013 their total income was $1,548,097.

In 1896 the Ohio State Reformatory opened and held 150 new prisoners. The Ohio State Reformatory was operational until the year of 1990. The reformatory is now open for tours as the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society work on renovations.

There were many reason why the Ohio State Reformatory shut down.

“In the 1930’s the reformatory became outdated” Puff said. With the rise of electricity, the reformatory had to do some updates and get away from gas and coal. Puff adds that there was a fire in the Columbus Penitentiary and a law had passed that mandated that everyone had to be able to open the cells up so they could get out quicker, and the Ohio State Reformatory couldn’t function with that law being passed. “There was no way for people to get out quickly at the Ohio State Reformatory” Puff said.

“People love to be scared, people love to be frightened, it’s an adrenaline rush” Sample said.

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