The Haunted Ohio State Reformatory: A Historic Prison With a Dark Past

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Looking up at the Ohio State reformatory, you can see it's a looming, sinister-looking prison. It's been the backdrop of movies like "Air Force One," "Tango and Cash," and "The Shawshank Redemption." The reformatory was built in 1886 on the site of Camp Mordecai Bartley. Initially, the camp was a training ground for Civil War soldiers. But when it came to boosting Ohio's economy and employment rate, the local community agreed it was the perfect site for a prison.

A Haunted History of the Ohio State Reformatory

When the reformatory opened in 1890, it was immediately used as a prison. Even if prisoners were first-time offenders, they'd be sent to Ohio State if their crimes were violent. Initially, the goal was to reform prisoners. They would be taught specialized trades and prepared for release. But when the population in prison began to swell in the 1900s, the reformatory was forced to accept the worst offenders. 

By 1960, the prison was packed to capacity. Overpopulation in prisons leads to conflict and disease. Guards had to double the occupancy on death row, resulting in inmate death. On at least one occasion, guards noticed a prisoner missing during the morning count. They found him broken and stuffed under a bunk when they searched for him. An instance like this one forced the prison to shut down in 1972.

Operations in prison were enough to cast a shadow. But plenty of events in the reformatory's history contribute to paranormal activity. In the 1930s, a massive riot occurred in one of the cell blocks. Guards had to shove over a hundred prisoners into twelve solitary cells without food or water for a week. This week led to insanity in some cases and death in others.

Ohio State Reformatory has been in operation for almost a hundred years. During that time, over 150,000 inmates were housed there. Many died from natural causes or diseases. But many went insane or took their lives. There are reports that one inmate lit himself on fire. In the reformatory's cemetery, just outside the walls, there are over two hundred numbered graves.

In normal circumstances, ghosts aren't easily ignored. But the ghosts of the reformatory had some of the worst treatment you can imagine. And they're all said to be angrier than your typical ghost. Visitors and guides have felt like they're being pushed or punched. The temperature in parts of the reformatory drops unexpectedly, and witnesses have heard cell doors slamming in the middle of the night. But the haunting doesn't stop at the reformatory. Even the road leading to the building is said to be haunted. Legend says the ghost haunting the road is a woman named Phoebe Wise, a hermit and eccentric woman.

The Ohio State "Blood Prison"

The Ohio State Reformatory conducts an escape room scenario in the building annually. Like other haunted attractions, they hire actors, use professional haunted house animatronics, and build elaborate sets to engage their audience. And you can bet that most of those actors get their professional costumes and masks from Horror Dome. Out masks are high quality and last longer than others. So if you're visiting the Ohio State "Blood Prison" event, look for our products. You might even get ideas for your haunted attraction.

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