We came. We saw. We hunted ghosts!

The Ohio State Reformatory - Mansfield, Ohio

Last night was one of the most frightening nights of my life.
And I mean E.V.E.R.

Kevin and I participated in a ghost hunt at the old Mansfield Reformatory - one of THE most haunted places in the entire U.S. and the prison where they filmed 'The Shawshank Redemption'.

It was, in a word, amazing.
(And frightening).

As we drove toward Reformatory Road (yes, that IS the name of the road where the prison is located) and we saw the prison it was breathtaking.
It is a beautiful building, but you also sense the tragedy within its walls.

The ghost hunts are limited to 100 people per hunt (and yes, they are all sold out for 2010, except for a December 11th tour...and, it would be really COLD in December). We all had to sign in and at 8 p.m. we gathered for 'the rules' and a tour of the facility ... while the lights were still ON.

At first, Kevin and I said "no" to the option of a tour -- we just wanted to get inside and start exploring. But after walking one level of the east cell block we caught up with a small tour group and joined in. I am so happy we did! Our volunteer guide showed us the "hot spots" in the prison (areas where people have seen, heard or felt paranormal things) and as an added bonus he took us up to the old guard tower (what an amazing sight!).

And then, around 9 p.m., it was 'lights out' and the entire prison was bathed in total darkness. Talk about creepy/spooky/oh-my-gosh-I-might-pee-my-pants-FEAR!

A few of our adventures:

- We decided to spend some time sitting in the shower room (also called 'the car wash'). We sat on a bench, turned off the flashlights and started talking to "anyone" (anything?) who might be there. Nothing paranormal happened. It was just dark.

- Then we walked around some of the cell blocks --- these are HUGE caged structures. As you're walking past the open cells it really does feel like you're being watched. Several times I jumped because I (1) thought I saw something or (2) thought I heard something. Once, I KNEW I heard a moan coming from inside an EMPTY cell. We spent a lot of time walking through the cell blocks, just looking in the cells and stopping every now and then to 'chat' with any spirits who might be hanging out. We found the cell that the Ghost Hunters marked with an 'x' (it was chock full of activity for THEM...not so much for us). Kevin went inside the cell, but he was alone.

- We spent some time sitting in the chapel area....again with no lights on. It was quiet and uneventful.

- Then, we decided to sit in the infirmary for a bit. We probably sat there for about 25 minutes, asking if anyone was with us, etc. The floors in most rooms are covered in paint chips that crunch when you walk on them. I mention this, because at one point as I sat in the infirmary, I heard footsteps next to me...crunching the paint chips. This happened several times. The biggest thing that happened to us in the infirmary was this - we saw something. It was a grayish misty thing (yeah, great description, I know) and it literally flew from one side of the room to the other, vanishing into the wall. At that point I was done! But as we walked toward the door I was suddenly overcome with (1) a serious case of the chills...I was absolutely freezing and the hairs on my arms were standing straight up, and (2) a sense of dread....I just wanted OUT RIGHT NOW!

- We visited the 'mansion' area and administrative areas a few times but each time as we walked through the halls I was very uncomfortable ... it's hard to explain, other than to say it felt as if I was being watched. There is one room in that area ('the chair room') that we were not able to get in ... every time we walked by the door was closed, presumably another group was in there trying to experience the crazy stuff that happens inside (flashing lights, moving chair, touching, etc). However, during one of our trips through the mansion we did hear footsteps in one of the bedrooms (which is 'normal' ... both a former warden and his wife died after incidents in the prison - the wife was accidentally shot when a gun discharged in the bedroom and the warden had a heart attack in the prison -- both spirits are known to appear frequently).

- We also visited both areas of solitary and didn't stay long in either area. First we visited the solitary cells and just walked through....without seeing or hearing from Frank, the guard who was murdered. Apparently he has a tendency to walk through solitary...but I think I was walking too fast for any ghost to catch up. (HA!). Then, we visited 'the hole' - a dirt floor area where they used to chain prisoners to the walls. We had been down there once during daylight and it was OK...but in the dark - NO FREAKING WAY. A few other 'hunters' were down there with us and they were all catching 'readings' on their 'geeky high tech' equipment. That was enough for me. I nearly bolted back upstairs.

- We spent about 30 minutes just sitting in the old library....and had a few things happen. We heard footsteps heading toward the spiral staircase that leads up to the guard tower (the same steps we took earlier in the night) and we also heard several loud thuds or bangs from that area (an area where NO one was at the time...it was just me and Kevin in the room). We also had a loud "whooshing' noise...as if something flew past us. And, my camera stopped working in the library for about a minute. It just would not take a picture. Paranormal? I don't know. Weird? Yes. (The draining of battery life was a popular topic at the hunt last night...it happened to many people).

- At one point we made it back to the infirmary...only to walk by and have the oddest thing happen. There was NO wind blowing outside and no windows that were 'open' inside the room (a few were broken...but not enough for what happened)...and as we stood in the doorway of the room a VERY strong breeze blew past us. I mean, strong as in it was as if we were standing next to a wall of open windows on a very windy day. It was very, very odd. (Dare I say, paranormal?)

- We investigated almost every area of the prison ... except for the TB Ward. I just couldn't bring myself to climb the stairs. It felt 'off' as I started to climb the steps...so I stopped and we continued on in another part of the prison.

By about 1:30 a.m. we were exhausted, a bit overwhelmed and our feet were so sore (the amount of walking and climbing of stairs is amazing!). We decided to call it a night and start the drive home....

So..final thoughts....
Was I scared?
Damn straight.
There were several moments where I just felt this overwhelming sense of fear. It's very hard to explain....but it was very real.

Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat.
This ghost hunt was an amazing experience...one I would definitely do again.
And again.
And again.

(If you are a friend on Facebook, I have posted some pictures of the prison...if you want to check them out!)


  1. How thrilling (and well-written)! I think I would be crying and running a lot if I were there.

  2. Very cool experience, Traci! My husband would love this! Great post!

  3. Lucinda: I thought the same thing, but once you're there...it's a lot different. I did get scared...but once I moved to another area, I felt better.

    Lea: Thanks! It is definitely an experience I'd recommend for any paranormal "fan"

  4. I saw your pics! I would have been freaked out in the daytime. You are brave! However, it is a gorgeous building from the outside!

  5. AWESOME! How fun! I want to go there so badly!

  6. WOW, sounds like quite an exciting time. I think I would have peed my pants a few times! lol

  7. OMGosh I am so excited to see this post! Sounds like you had a very memorable time.... and I am sleeping with the lights on tonight, in your honor!

    Great post - an all-time favorite!

    Love ya, Lynne

  8. You are brave girly.... Would love to see the photos on your blog!!!!

  9. neat! that's SO COOL! my husband will be jealousssss. i'm too wussy for that stuff.

  10. This is very cool - something I would have done if I lived closer! Could you come and go as you pleased? Did you hear anyone form the tour screaming? Had I been there, you would have heard me!

    I thought it was an overnight? Was everyone gone by about 1:30 am? Can't wait to check out your photos!

  11. Cindy - we did hear a few screams...but i think it was people being "attacked" by the resident bats. LOL.

    it was overnight -- til 5 am -- no sleeping in the prison though. it was all investigation, all the time. when we left, i'd say there were probably about 50 people left inside investigating.

  12. OMG! I have always wanted to do that! ONe of my good friends is from Mansfield (grew up there) and she has heard waaaay too many stories about the place to go there. Hubby wouldn't do it for the world, but I love crazy stuff like that.

    I love paranormal stuff, but I still would wear some Depends when I went, because I would be joining the pee my pants club!

    I'd love to see pics on the blog too!

  13. Scary and Fun! I could not do that, but it really sounds like fun!!

  14. i'll post some pics here on the blog in a few days....promise :)

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