When we started this blog the first thing we posted was a blog about the Mansfield Prison.It is also my back ground picture on here. I did not add alot of information about it so I thought I would share some of the history about it now since it was one of my favorite place. The first time you see the prison you will think you caught a glimpse of Dracula's castle. The beautiful castle like building sits just over a hill in Richland County. The prison is Ohio's largest and toughest ghost town. The prison was a self-contained community that grew its own food and operated its own restaurant, post office, printing business, carpentry shop, cemetery, and other essential daily-life functions. At its peak, the population numbered thirty-two hundred. Unfortunately, its residents didn't live in this "town" by choice. The population turned over every few years, though some residents never left. Today, few visitors can walk through the steel and stone corridors without reacting on some level. Many feel an overwhelming fear; others, only pitty. Based on its gothic appearance and some of the ghost tales that have came from the former inmates and people who have taken tours it has been dubbed One of the scariest places on earth. When I was going through it I always had the feeling that someone was watching me. When I stood inside one of the cells to have a photo taken you could hear people talking in very low voices like a whisper even though I was the only one inside the cell. When you visit the hole you can see shadows that looks like people. It is a very CREEPY place. When you see the prison for the first time the first thing that will come out of your mouth is "O MY GOD".
The Ohio State Reformatory opened on September 15, 1896. It was touted as the state's newest intermediate penitentiary, designed for young offenders who weren't bad enough for the state pen but were too bad for the boys industrial school.Intitally, 593 cells held 1,200 young prisoners, who during the day helped build the rest of the sprawling prison- two hundred thousand square feet in the only building that still remains on the grounds. In its ninety-four years as a state prison, the reformatory housed an estimated 154,000 prisoners who ranged at different times from youthful offenders to hardened adult convicts. From the start, Mansfield's prison was different. Usually, the Victorian prison system simply housed criminals. No more, no less. That's why the Ohio State Reformatory was considered so progressive. It sought to "rehabilitate young male offenders through hard work and education". Even its appearance, something like a big church in the front, sought to remind inmates of a higher purpose. Every prisoner worked in the shops or on the prison farm, and, with any luck, left the reformatory with a skill-or at least his life. Unfortunately, some prisoners and visitors did not leave Mansfield, not even in death. Volunteers who lead tours talk of seeing ghostly forms and unusual balls of light flying through the corridors. Some say they are routinely touched by unseen hands and spoken to through unseen mouths. When you visit the prison you will walk up several steps to what was once a central processing area for prisoners. At this point Ohio's young convicts once sat and waited. And waited. Looking at the high ceilings and wide lobby area, the prisoners had time to reflect on what they had done and how long they would be incarcerated. When a prisoner was first admitted, he sat on what was called a mourning bench, because he could mourn for being in prison. He could sit for a few minutes or a few hours. Later, he was admitted to a seven-by-nine-foot cell that housed two prisoners. The place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for all practical purposes on the register of spooky places. If it looks bad, it is. When they built the prison they wanted it to look something like a catherdal, to help reform young lawbreakers through appearance. The prison was once a fancy place, with beautiful woodwork and attractive stone from a local quarry. Its first residents, 150 young convicts admitted to the west cellblock, were tough kids from across Ohio. Since then, tens of thousands of prisoners have done time there. Many former convicts go through on these tours. They clue you in on things you dont know- and things you rather not know. One part of the main building has fifty-seven rooms. These days, the main building is all that remains of the original complex of several buildings. Hollywood discovered the prison in the 1970s and 1980s, when film companies shot Tango and Cash and Harry and Walter Go To New York at the then-occupied reformatory. In the 1990s, after the prison had closed, film crews arrived and shot Air Force One with Harrison Ford and The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins. Large paintings of Lenin and Stalin, leftovers from Air Force One, still adorn the main room of the prison. A plastic and plaster stone wall from Shawshank and other props, including a cardboard sewer line, are available for public inspection. As you go along the tour you will see cellblock east- six stories high, steel, and built mostly by prisoners. It remains the largest freestanding cellblock in the world. Two thousand prisoners once lived in the two cellblocks. Prisoners washed floors and windows daily. With two thousand people living there, disease could go through the men in a hurry. Another five hunded prisoners toiled on a honor farm around the prison. Prisoners wore blue uniforms. If they misbehaved, they were issued grey ones. If they were caught having sex, the warden added one year to their sentences and sent letters of explanation to their wives, fathers, and mothers. Prisoners learned trades in the school, carpenter shop, broom shop, print shop, lock shop, and other shops. The prison also had a barber school. One time a prisoner came in for a shave. He was unlucky because he owed his barber several packs of cigarettes and refused to pay up. So the barber sat him down, spun the chair around, and put a straight razor to his neck. When you walk down two flights of stairs you will be in the dungeon. At the bottom all of the tour members stood in aghast me included. This is it-the hole, solitary, whatever you want to call it. When the prison was first occupied, the hole had double doors. One curved out, one curved in. Prisoners did the eight and eight. They laid on the floor - naked, with no beds for eight hours, then they stood up for another eight hours. For the first two days, they had nothing but bread and water, then after that they had full meals that were slipped under a hole in the door. That's where they got their light- with one exception. If a prisoner gave a guard a hard time, the guard would stand in front of the slot to block the light. The temperature in this area was ninety-three to ninety-six degrees. The high temperature was a way of maintaining control. The hole terrified prisoners who had any sense. In the 1950s, there was a riot at the prison. All 120 rioters were rounded up and put down in the hole. Six guys to a cell, for thirty days, You can imagine what the temperature was like. But none of the men died. Oh, Yes, people have died in the hole. One time, they had put a couple of guys to a cell. When the guards opened the cell, a guy walked out and his cellmate didn't. They found him dead, under a bunk. Our guide told us that when a prisoner was put in the hole the time he spent down there was not taken off his sentence. So if he was sentence to 6 years and he was put in the hole for 30 days he would have 6 years and 30 days on his sentence. As you walk away from the hole you stop in a big, empty room where the prisoners once lined up to take meals- the commissary. There was no talking, no smoking, no laughing. The prison maintained strict discipline while feeding two thousand men in a hour. You wold not be able to do that in todays prisons. The authorities had amazing control over the inmates. Assistant superintendents lived in the prison with their families. Even though the prisoners built their own electric chair none of the inmates where put to death there. That is not to say that the prison has not seen death from inmates killing each other to the 1950s death of one of the wardens wife. They lived at the prison and she was going through the closet when she knocked a loaded pistol onto the floor. It discharged the bullet struck her in the chest and killed her. It is said that she still hangs around the warden's quarters. There was a woman from the preservation society that visited the wardens quarters and found it off the wall with paranormal activity. We took alot of photos in that area and all of them had flying orbs very creepy. As you continue your tour you will enter the southern end of the building that where you will enter the car wash as it is called. It was a light- colored tile shower room. The prisoners called this the car wash because they had five minutes for a shower. The guards had too many prisoners, so they ran them through all at one time. They came in the door, hung their clothes on wires, got soaked down fast, and left and this took place on Saturdays only. The rest of the week, they'd stink. If you took a shower once a week, a bar of soap would last a year. By Fridays, the prisoners were pretty ripe. Thats because they worked all week. The prison then is not like how it is now. They did not get to watch T.V. play basketball or all the other things they get to do these days in prison. They worked from sun up till sun down. The only time they were in their cell was to sleep. The thing I found intersting was none of the guards carried guns. They only had nightsticks. I dont think the guards could do that these days and not be killed. The gurads who did carry weapons worked in six towers that surrounded the prison yard. They reached the towers by climbing metal spiral staircases. Up there, they carried pistols, shotguns, tommy guns,and rifles. They worked eight hour shifts alone. The towers came with their own restrooms, eight five feet in the air. As you finish up your tour you will come to the museum and gift shop. The museum is the former superintendent's office. The furniture collection includes some old oak teachers desk that were crafted by the prisoners. You will also see behind glass the electric chair that the prisoners had made. I have a connection with some of the bars that were use to make the cells as my father made some of the bars when he worked for Stewart Iron Works. So for me it was a cool experience to see some of the things he had made in a place that is suppose to be haunted and a place that has so much history. I have been to alot of places and I have to say this is by far my favorite place. This place is so full of history. I think if you are able you should take a tour of it. It does not have heat so do to that fact they only offer tours in this spring summer time. They do have a webpage that you can check out that will tell you the hours and the tours they offer and when they are open. I have the webpage address on my other blog listed here with some pictures also. If you do go or if you have already visited it please let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and trust me, I will be going back