Ohio State Reformatory
It no longer operates as a prison but the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield still draws attention. Prior to the Reformatory, the site was called Camp Bartley, a Civil War camp that trained an estimated 4,000 soldiers for war.
The Ohio State Reformatory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and OSR’s East cell block is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records for featuring the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block at six tiers. The Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One movies were filmed on the reformatory grounds.
Opening in September of 1896, the building that would become known as the Ohio State Reformatory, greeted its first inmates. The building was first called the Intermediate Penitentiary, as it would house “middle of the road” criminals. Its goal was to reform these young male prisoners before they ended up in the Ohio Pen. It was this reason that Cleveland architect Levi T. Scofield designed the building after German castles, which had “spiritual and uplifting architecture”.
Some of the people who stayed at the OSR included Detroit Tigers utility player Gates Brown and Cleveland Browns running back Kevin Mack. And one former inmate, Henry Baker, would gain infamy for taking part in the great Brink’s Robbery in 1950.
Like all correctional facilities, the Ohio State Reformatory had its share of violence. Over the years, several officers have been murdered there, including Frank Hanger, who was beaten to death by prisoners during a 1932 escape attempt. But the worst place was the area known as “the hole”: solitary confinement. There are many stories of prisoners attempting and sometimes succeeding in hanging themselves within these cells.
The first tragedy to strike OSR happened in July of 1948. Two men who had been paroled, James West and Robert Daniels, returned to the prison seeking revenge. They kidnapped the Warden’s daughter and shot her to death. Both were caught and fried in the electric chair. A year after that the Warden’s wife was in his office when she bumped into a shelf. A gun fell off of it, went off, and killed her. Ten years after that, the Warden died of a heart attack in the same office.
In 1957, after a prison riot, about 120 prisoners were given 30-day sentences in “the hole”, which was only equipped with only 20 cells. This may have been the incident that started the infamous story of two inmates being forced to share the same isolation cell, and only one emerging alive. It is no wonder that the area called “the hole” is believed to be haunted.
Stories abound of footsteps and muffled voices being heard, even when no one else is in the area. Orbs have also been sighted in the hallways.
27 Apr, 2016
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