Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio; August 10, 2012

Case Background and Claims:2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_OutsideSign

Construction of the Ohio State Reformatory, also referred to as Mansfield Reformatory, located in Mansfield, Ohio, began in 1886 and opened its doors to its first prisoners in September 1896, according to the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society’s website, http://www.mrps.org (Ohio State Reformatory).

The construction of the prison took longer due to construction delays caused by financial issues, which is why the doors didn’t open to its first 150 inmates until ten years after construction began, according to an article written by John Futty and published in The Mansfield News Journal on December 9, 1990.


The reformatory was meant to be a place for intermediate prisoners – individuals that were not hardened criminals, but still believed to be able to be rehabilitated as they tended to be “young, first-time offenders” (Futty).

Futty’s article describes the excitement that surrounded the transfer of these inmates from Columbus to the new reformatory, including the public showing up to watch the inmates march to the train for their transfer and another crowd appearing to watch their arrival in Mansfield.

The reformatory was still under construction when the first inmates moved in, so they helped with the construction, including working on the prison sewer system and building “the 25-foot stone wall that surrounds the 15-acre complex.”  Construction continued until 1908 when the east cell block was finally completed (Futty).


Over the course of its existence, it housed over 155,000 male prisoners before closing its doors at end of 1990 (Ohio State Reformatory).

The Ohio State Reformatory “is comprised of more than 250,000 square feet and houses the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block” (Ohio State Reformatory).

Living Conditions for the Inmates

The reformatory drew lots of controversy and debate about the living conditions of the inmates as being overcrowded and inhumane, even as early as 1933 (Futty).  According to some stories, these conditions included “rats, inedible food, and disease,” according to the website, www.deadohio.com (“Mansfield Reformatory”).  The prisoners weren’t ones to complain about this though as complaints would result in having to spend time in a place worse than their cells – “The Hole” (Moran and Sceurman).

2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_StaircaseBWAccording to Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, authors of Weird Ohio, solitary confinement was referred to as “The Hole,” and it was a place that no inmate wanted to spend time as “you were placed in a tiny room all alone…in the dark.”  This room featured a toilet and a bunk, although sometimes inmates had to sleep on the bare, concrete floor (“Mansfield Reformatory”).

There are several stories of prisoners going insane while inside “The Hole” and attempting suicide.  Some succeeded in hanging themselves and “one allegedly even set himself on fire” (Moran and Sceurman).

One story relates a time when solitary confinement was not used for, in fact, solitary confinement.  According to the story, following a prison riot in 1957, over 100 prisoners were sentenced to solitary confinement for 30 days.  Unfortunately, “The Hole” only had 20 cells, which all of the prisoners were then jammed into (Moran and Sceurman).  According to deadohio.com, “at least one inmate was alleged to have been murdered, his body hidden by another inmate under some bedding for several days” (“Mansfield Reformatory”).  Some believe that this incident explains the paranormal activity present in solitary confinement, which includes footsteps and voices (Moran and Sceurman).

Inmates also dealt with violence among each other, including being shanked, thrown from six-story walkways, and even beat with soap bars, even over the smallest of conflicts (“Mansfield Reformatory”).2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_CellBlockBW

Other Tragedies Connected to OSR

The tragedies weren’t limited to the inmates at the prison.  Two correction officers were murdered in the line of duty; the first of which occurred November 2, 1926 when a 72-year-old guard, Urban Wilford, was shot when a paroled inmate returned and attempted to help a friend escape (Futty).  The gunman, Philip Orleck, “was eventually captured, tried and convicted. He was sentenced to death and was executed in the electric chair at Ohio State Penitentiary (located in Columbus) a year later” (Moran and Sceurman).

The second correction officer to have been murdered in the line of duty occurred October 2, 1932 when a 48-year-old guard, Frank Hanger, was beaten “with an iron bar during an escape attempt by a dozen prisoners” (Futty).  Three years later, in 1935, two inmates, Merrill Chandler and Chester Probaski, were convicted of the murder and also executed in the electric chair at the Ohio State Penitentiary (Futty; Moran and Sceurman).


One of the worst tragedies occurred on July 21, 1948 when two former inmates kidnapped from their home and murdered the prison’s farm superintendent, John Niebel, his wife, and

20-year-old daughter.  The inmates, Robert Daniels and John West, were trapped with a roadblock two days later.  This resulted in a shoot-out where West died and Daniels was captured.  The murders of Niebel and his family were “part of a two-week crime spree during which [Daniels and West] killed six people.”  Upon his capture, Daniels confessed to the Niebel murders and said “they were an act of revenge.”  He, too, was executed by the Ohio State Penitentiary electric chair the following January (Futty).


Lastly, the warden’s wife died in 1950 under what was deemed “mysterious circumstances.”  Allegedly, a gun accidentally discharged while she was looking for items in her closet, shooting and killing her.  Additionally, “the warden later suffered a heart attack at the prison, and died soon thereafter” (“Mansfield Reformatory”).

The Ohio State Reformatory Today

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 2,200 inmates at the prison in 1978, claiming that the “prisoner’s Constitutional rights were being violated because they were forced to live in ‘brutalizing and inhumane conditions’” (Futty).  This was the start of the end for the reformatory.  Starting in the 1980s, “prisoners and employees alike were being shipped or reassigned to other facilities,” which continued to seal the fate of OSR (Moran and Sceurman).  The prison officially closed its doors December 31, 1990 (Ohio State Reformatory). 

Following the closing of the reformatory, the state of Ohio leased the land to the city of Mansfield, who then leased it to MRPS, or the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, which was formed to save OSR (Moran and Sceurman).  In 1995, the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society opened OSR for ghost tours (“Mansfield Reformatory”).

The Ohio State Reformatory has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Also, OSR, or specifically the 6-tier East Wing, is “listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block” (Moran and Sceurman). 2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_OutsideBW

Historians, architecture enthusiasts, and paranormal investigators alike flock to the Ohio State Reformatory to enjoy the building and its “occupants.”


Futty, John. “Tale of Two Cities: The Journey from OSR to ManCI.” Mansfield News Journal 9 Dec. 1990. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction . Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <http://www.drc.ohio.gov/web/historyosr.htm>.

“Mansfield Reformatory.” Dead Ohio. N.p., 14 Aug. 2005. Web. 4 Dec. 2012. <http://deadohio.com/mansfieldreformatory/>.

Moran, Mark, and Mark Sceurman. “Mansfield Reformatory.” Weird US: Your Travel Guide to America’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Weird NJ Inc., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2012. <http://www.weirdus.com/states/ohio/abandoned/mansfield_reformatory/index.php>.

Ohio State Reformatory. Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <http://www.mrps.org/>.

Video Evidence Obtained During the Investigation:

This light anomaly was caught on the left side of the screen and is the only time it appears in the 45 minute session in the parole room.

In this clip, Jason, Bobby, and Monika are in the Toilet Room. They hear an unexplained noise and try to find the source.

This video was from when Jason and Chris were sitting on the stairs; Jason was sitting with his back towards the Chapel commenting on the draft hitting him, and Chris was on the flight above the Chapel near the TB ward. Jason sees a person peer around the corner and takes off after it. Later in the video, Chris sees the same thing in a different area.

This clip is of an EVP that may say one of our investigator’s last name, “Srock.” (The EVP was recorded on that investigator’s video camera.)


  • InvestigatorsJohnSue, Curt, Eileen, Patti, Nan, Chass, Chris, JasonCathy, Art, Ken, Tim B., James, Tim W., Tom, Holly, Scott, Kellie, Ryan
  • Weather: 60-75 degrees, depending on the time
  • Date: August 10, 2012
  • Time: 8:45pm to 5:00am

MCGH arrived at the Ohio State Reformatory. The team unpacked, set-up equipment, took a historic tour of the building, and split into teams for the investigation.


Investigation Session #1 began at 8:45 PM.

Chass, Cathy, and Patti watched the monitors at home base and ran base camp.

Chris, Pat Sr., and Pat Jr. began their investigation in the assistant warden’s apartment where they found a light on in one of the rooms on the second floor.  They spoke to Scott, the tour guide, and he said all of the lights had been turned off.  The group also saw a shadow looking around the corner.

Jason, Bobby, and Monika began their investigation in the east wing.  First, they started in the library on the third floor before moving down to the “Toilet Room” on the first floor.  There, they heard movement and sounds.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, James, and Nick began their investigation in the warden’s apartment on the third floor.  They set up a flashlight to do a question-and-answer session along with their EVP session.  They had a couple of responses on the flashlight.

Kellie, Ryan, Tom, and Charles began their investigation in the basement area under west admin.  While they were down there, they did not experience anything paranormal, but on their way back to base camp, they heard a female “NO” twice.  They were in the main room right off of the main stairway when they experienced this.

Scott, Holly, Art, and Junebug began their investigation in the chapel, but they experienced a lot of sound contamination from another team that was nearby.  They experienced some strange fluttering noises, but debunked it as a bat that was flying around.  Nothing paranormal occurred.

John, Curt, Eileen, and Sue began their investigation in solitary, but had nothing to report.

Investigation Session #1 ended at 9:40 PM.

The team took a “dinner” break before resuming investigating.  During this time, John, Nan, Kellie, Curt, and Ryan attempted a re-enactment of sorts.  Nan and John both dressed as security guards/police officers while Ryan donned shower wear (a bathing suit, towel, etc.).  The “guards” paraded Ryan around and then escorted him to the showers where they handcuffed and left him.  During this time, Ryan reported hearing footsteps near him.


Investigation Session #2 began at 10:50 PM.

Chass and Cathy ran base camp.

John, Curt, Eileen, and Sue investigated in the toilet room/shower in the east wing.  There, they had an active flashlight session and John’s MEL ADD Meter sounded an electronic frequency change when they were in the toilet room.  During the flashlight session, they asked a series of questions and the flashlight responses seemed to indicate that they were talking to a prison that was angry as he was hurt by another male inmate.

Chris, Pat Jr., Pat Sr., Patti and Nan investigated in solitary.  Chris felt a sensation on his left side when he was asking questions.  Patti also saw something float up behind him.  Chris also felt someone walking behind him.

Jason, Bobby, and Monika investigated in the parole room.  They set up a flashlight to do a question-and-answer session while they also conducted an EVP session.  They got some responses with what they believed to be a prisoner that did not want to speak with them.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, James, and Nick investigated in the basement/sweatbox.  While they were down there, they set up a flashlight to conduct a question-and-answer session during their EVP session.  They had constant contact (for almost 45 minutes) with the flashlight.  They also heard possible footsteps in the room next door.

Tom, Charles, Ryan, and Kellie investigated in the chapel and the “TB Ward” above the chapel.  As they were coming back into the chapel, the group heard the sound of a chair scraping across the floor.

Holly, Scott, Art, and Junebug investigated in the hospital/library.  They experienced a few EMF spikes on the K2 meter, but nothing too substantial.

Investigation Session #2 ended at 11:40 PM.


2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_BrooksBeamInvestigation Session #3 began at 12:10 AM.

Cathy ran base camp.  Ryan, Kellie, Tom and Charles took a break.

Chris, Chass, Pat Jr., Pat Sr., Jason, Bobby, and Monika investigated in the hospital (east wing) where they had a flashlight session with a nurse and an inmate.  According to the responses given by the flashlight, the inmate was claiming to have killed the warden’s wife after hiding in the bathroom.  The responses seemed to indicate that the nurse had passed away from a heart attack, and she, along with another nurse, took care of 25 inmates.  As soon as Chass entered the room, she started having heart/chest pains.  They also had a K2 spike.  While downstairs in the shower room, Chass also had her hair pulled.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, James, and Nick investigated in the chapel and “TB Ward.”  They did not experience anything in the chapel except a lot of background noise.  They saw a possible shadow in the “TB Ward.”

Scott, Holly, Art, and Junebug investigated in the basement, but had nothing to report.

Investigation Session #3 ended at 12:55 AM.

Eileen and Sue left.


2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_ParoleRoom2Investigation Session #4 began at 1:20 AM.

Cathy and Chass ran base camp. Patti and Nan decided to take a break.

Jason, Chris, Bobby, Monika, Pat Sr., and Pat Jr. investigated in the chapel and “TB Ward.”  Jason and Chris were sitting on the steps – Jason was on the steps leading down from the chapel and Chris was on the steps leading up – and Jason saw a shadow peak around the corner.  Both Jason and Chris attempted to go after the shadow, but could not locate the source.  A little while later Jason’s flashlight and K2 meter fell out of his pocket even though they were secure deep in his front pocket. Then, Jason and Chris saw another shadow peaking around a corner; this time by the assistant warden’s apartment.  Once again, they could not find the source.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, James, and Nick investigated in the east cell block on the 4th floor, cell 13.  They did not experience anything, so they moved to the toilet room.  Here, they had some communication with the Frank’s Box, but had a lot of interference.

Scott, Holly, Junebug, Art, Kellie, and Ryan did a walking session through the west cell block. During this time, they heard a female say “help.”  They also heard the clanging of bars multiple times, always at the opposite end of where they were in the block.  They experienced this in four of the five tiers (not on tier one).  Junebug and Ryan also saw what looked like a shadow/movement down the cell block when they were on the third tier.

John, Curt, Tom, and Charles investigated in solitary with the black light system.

Investigation Session #4 ended at 2:05 AM.

Kellie and Ryan left.


2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_CellDoorInvestigation Session #5 began at 2:25 AM.

Cathy ran base camp.

Jason, Chris, Bobby, Monika, Pat Sr., and Pat Jr. investigated in solitary; Chass and Holly joined them partway through the session.  After completing a thermal walkthrough, the group saw a shadow figure/black mass near the red security lights, which it would block the reflection of them on the ground.  It was lingering in the hallway, approximately ¾ of the way down the hall, and appeared to be well over 6 feet in height.  It would come closer towards them, moving from left to right, and sometimes disappearing in to the cells on the right.  On occasion, white orbs would appear, moving slowly. At one time, there appeared to be two separate shadows that moved together.  Chass was getting a trembling sensation, and at the same time, Jason’s camera battery died (had been at 50% power).  Bobby, who was standing behind Chass, felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and Pat Jr. experienced a freezing cold feeling on his left area, starting on his fingers and running up to his shoulder.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, Nick, and James investigated in the west cell block and showers.  They heard knocks in the corner of the shower room.

Investigation Session #5 ended at 3:10 AM.

Tom and Charles left.


2012_08_10-Ohio-State-Reformatory_Picture_ToiletsInvestigation Session #6 began at 3:40 AM.

Cathy and Chass ran base camp.

Jason, Bobby, Monika, Chris, Pat Jr., and Pat Sr. investigated in the west cell block, but had nothing to report.

Tim B., Tim W., Catherine, James, and Nick investigated in solitary where they saw shadows and heard footsteps.

Art and Junebug investigated in the east wing showers, but had nothing to report.

John, Curt, Scott, Patti and Nan investigated in the warden’s office, chapel, and “TB Ward.”  They did not experience anything paranormal.

Investigation Session #6 ended at 4:20 AM.

The team began to clean up and pack up equipment.

John, Curt, Art, Junebug, and Scott (from the Reformatory) went to the warden’s quarters with the black light to look for blood and/or tissue evidence from when the warden’s wife was killed.  They checked all three closets and John believes that the closet that is off the bathroom in the warden’s apartment shows slight traces of blood in the rear of the closet (just off the floor on a board).

MCGH left at 5 AM.

Audio Evidence Obtained During the Investigation:

“Twice.” Class B EVP. In this EVP, Curt is asking how many times they were allowed to take showers – once a week or twice? – and it sounds like a response, sounding like “twice,” can be heard.

“Sigh.” Class C EVP. This EVP was recorded in solitary. Eileen asks if the inmates are hungry and it sounds like a response in the form of a sigh can be heard.

“Scream.” Class C EVP. This was recorded in the showers. Eileen comments on how quiet they are being tonight and a scream can be heard.

“No.” Class A EVP. This EVP was recorded in the showers. John and Nan just left Ryan in the showers alone and are walking down the hall. John asks Nan if they should walk down here and a response, which sounds like “no,” can be heard.

“Key.” Class C EVP. This EVP is John and Nan coming from the showers again after they left Ryan behind. They are joking about who has the key (they had handcuffed Ryan in there), and it sounds like a response, which sounds like “key.”

“John.” Class C EVP. This EVP was recorded in the “TB Ward” with John, Scott, Curt, Nan and Patti. John asks if someone just whispered his name, which is exactly what the EVP sounds like.

“I want one.” Class C EVP. In this EVP, John is walking down the hallway coming from the eating area and starts to ask if anyone wants a Crush or a Pepsi. A response is heard, which sounds like “I want one.”

“Here.” Class B EVP. This EVP was recorded in solitary. John is asking, “is that supposed to scare us?” and a “here” can be heard.

“Feed me.” Class C EVP. Ryan, in solitary, is saying how he can’t even imagine how they felt in there; a response like “feed me” can be heard.

“Don’t touch that.” Class B EVP. In this EVP, Sue and Eileen are in the toilet room with John and Curt – the ladies are in one room and the guys in another. Sue finds a stool and says, “Oh, look. Here’s a stool,” and it sounds like a response of “Don’t touch that.”

“Cheers” or “Chair.” Class B EVP. This EVP was recorded in the warden’s quarters. John is talking about how they bought a stone for the garden there, saying that we were here. A response is heard, which sounds like “cheers” or “chairs.”

“Breath.” Class C EVP. This was recorded in solitary and sounds like a big breath right into the recorder.


MCGH hopes to return again in the future and is very thankful for the staff at OSR.

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