The Ohio Reformatory Meets Hollywood

Shawshank Redemption Tour

When the producers of The Shawshank Redemption began scouting locations, they wanted an empty prison to use. With its imposing structure and stone walls, the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) was the perfect choice.

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Ohio Reformatory

Much of the movie features the cell blocks where Andy and Red reside, and the outside yard where their friendship was formed. I had hoped to see the cell blocks featured in the movie, but learned that they had to build that set somewhere else since prison cell blocks don’t face each other. Some of the administrative offices were in good enough condition to be used as movie scenes. The Warden’s office was intact, and the safe we see him enter his ill-gotten gains into was set into the wall here.

I shared the shots of Brooks’ apartment in my last post. That was on location, as well as the room where Red approached the parole board each decade.

What I don’t have pictures of are scenes from other movies filmed at the Ohio Reformatory. Movies like Air Force One, Tango & Cash, Fallen Angels and Harry & Walter Go To New York. Plus, Marilyn Manson once used the site as a backdrop for a fashion layout.

Haunted Mansfield

Not surprisingly, the Ohio Reformatory is also the site of many paranormal investigations. On several occasions throughout the year, the prison hosts Ghost Walks, overnight Ghost Hunts, and Haunted Prison Halloween Tours in October.

DSCN1281Zac Bagans of Ghost Adventures filmed an episode here. Apparently, his partner Nick felt burning sensation in one of the cells. (But then again, doesn’t someone from Ghost Adventures always feel some sort of attack?)

The TAPS crew of Ghost Hunters filmed here, too.

My husband is dying to go on an overnight ghost hunt, but I’m not as eager. The building is creepy enough during the day, with lead-based paint peeling from the walls and ceilings and rusted iron bars disintegrating onto my body and clothes. I peered into many of the cells and then scurried down the rusty plank toward the slightly-more sturdy rusted stairs.

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Ohio Reformatory

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Prison cell

Ghost Hunting

Though I’m sure I’ll give in eventually and hunt for ghosts all night, I was satisfied wandering through the prison during the day. In addition to our regular self-guided tour, we took a “Behind the Scenes” guided tour of the nooks and crannies of the prison. For $5.00, it was quite a value! We spent an hour and a half with our guide, exploring the basement, solitary confinement, the attic, the armory, both cell wings, and learned the history of the prison and the changes it underwent throughout the years.

It’s actually a beautiful building. Even the decrepit parts were majestic, in their way. But I felt no need to wander around there at night with a flashlight and EVP device, crouching in musty, cramped cells looking for ghosts. After all, Ohioan Jeffrey Dahmer’s picture is hanging among the Ohio Penal System artifacts at OSR, and I have no desire to meet him, dead or alive! Nor any of his prison pals, either.

Which one appeals more to you? Visiting the prison during the day, or hunting its halls for ghosts at night?

*I’d like to thank the Mansfield & Richland County Visitors Bureau and Quality Inn again, for hosting us. We had a blast!


15 responses to “The Ohio Reformatory Meets Hollywood

  1. I’ve never had a desire to visit the Reformatory, but I know my husband would love to go over. My brother booked the overnight, haunted, lock-you-in adventure for him and his wife, but he ended up sick and couldn’t go. He would love to see a ghost there. Not me. Once again, I will enjoy the site through your post. 😉

  2. I would love to go to OSR for the ghost portion of it. I’ve always been into haunted places…hense my website, This is one of my top 10 favorite haunts. I’m happy you did a post on it!

  3. Not unlike Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin (Ireland). One of the (many) times I’ve taken the tour the guide also happened to be the guy who locks up last thing at night. An American visitor asked him if there were any ghosts and he replied ‘Oh yes, for sure. We get on OK though, they’re mostly benign.’ I must check out corkystclaire’s blog ^^

    • You’re right –the peeling paint was very atmospheric. But we’d been warned that much of it was still lead-based, so it made me very cautious about rubbing against it.

  4. I would definitely be a daytime visitor. Buildings have their own spirits ( apart from any ghosts) and as majestic as this one is , it must have echoes of all the pain it had witnessed.

  5. Wonderful photos. It reminded me of Alcatraz, which we toured with the kids. I love traveling with a quest or purpose or special interest in a particular subject.

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