Ghosts are the dead that linger in the realm of the living, typically, after a violent death. Prisons are exactly the violent setting that lead to hauntings. This is especially true for notable haunted prisons in Ohio. The ghostly occurrences seem endless in these Midwestern state prisons. Ghostly apparitions appear only to disappear when you get too close. Guards and prisoners alike hear unexplained noises; slamming doors, voices of those long gone from this world. Visitors witness a ghostly woman repeating her tragic suicide. Here are six prisons that prove that sometimes a death sentence doesn’t end after death.
The Roseville Prison
This prison opened in Roseville in 1927. It’s one of the satellite prisons for the Ohio Penitentiary. Inmates with good behaviour were transferred here, to a less secure but still haunted prison.
The most prominent haunting is that of a lady in white. People have reported seeing her re-enacting the night of her suicide by jumping from the roof to her death. As well, many people report feeling ill after visiting. These are illnesses associated with the stomach or the sinuses.
Arguably this is because of the sinister energy at the location.
The prison remained open until 1966. This rustic prison is no longer active. In 2007, it sold at auction for $89,500 to a private individual. It’s not open to the public; however, you can still take victual tours on YouTube.
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility
This Lucasville prison is a perfect place for spirits to linger. This maximum-security prison opened in 1972. Within the walls of this prison, restless spirits haunt the living. This prison is still active and so are its ghosts. Guards have heard doors slamming and have seen strange shadows with no apparent explanation for either. People have seen apparitions, that disappear without a trace.
Many of the hauntings have been attributed to the most notable riot within the prison, the Easter Riot on April 11th, 1993. Around 450 prisoners joined the riot for several reasons.
The main reason was Muslim prisoners’ fear of being forced to have a tuberculosis vaccination, against their religion. Other inmates took it as an opportunity to settle old grievances. This riot lasted over ten days and resulted in the deaths of over twenty prisoners and guards. An inmate’s violent end to start a haunted beginning.
It’s been said that the ghosts that haunt the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility were the same that died in this riot.
Ohio State Reformatory
Ohio State Reformatory is one of the most renowned haunted prisons in Ohio. This prison is famous for being the eerie setting for several movies; Harry and Walter go to New York (1976), Tango and Cash (1989), Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Air Force One (1997).
This Mansfield prison has quite a history. It didn’t start out as a prison. The field, where the prison would eventually stand, was originally Camp Mordecai Bartley, a training camp for civil war soldiers. Construction for the prison eventually started in 1885. This prison held young first-time offenders and was specifically designed to rehabilitate them.
The head architect kept this in mind while designing the prison. The building was inspired by Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian, and Romanesque architecture. It was suggested that the cathedral style would encourage the inmates to lead better lives by making better choices. The reformatory opened in 1896 with construction finally finishing in 1910.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stay as optimistic as intended. After 94 years of operation, the prison’s legacy was not one of rehabilitation but one of abuse, and murder. Because of this, the prison shut down in 1990.
As with any other prison, there are several stories of violence and death, which resulted in ghostly hauntings. Although nobody was executed here, fights or beatings killed over 200 inmates. There are a few spirits that linger after their death. The spirit of a 14-year-old boy that was beaten to death, lingers in the basement long after his untimely demise. Another is the spirit of a guard continuing his bullying behaviour into the afterlife. The most well-known spirits are the superintendent, Warden Glattke, and his wife, Helen.
In the winter of 1950, the superintendent’s wife was shot through the left lung. It’s unknown whether it was an accident or a murder by the superintendent to spare himself the messy details of an impending divorce. The superintendent died a few years later of a heart attack. Now they can both be heard arguing around the superintendent’s quarters. Whenever Helen is near, it smells of roses. Helen herself is rather talkative with the living over electronic voice phenomena equipment or EVPs.
There are other spirits making themselves known by physically touching visitors. Some of these are benevolent, a playful tickle or a helpful hand while visitors are on the stairs. Others are not so sweet. Ghosts are known to be violent with pushes or even punches.
The prison closed in the winter of 1990. Instead of tearing it down, The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS) was adamant to protect the history of the Reformatory. The society formed in 1995 specifically to restore the old building. To gain funds, they opened the prison up as a museum. There are tours and ghost walks offered to the public for those that are brave enough.
The Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus is another highly haunted prison, built in 1834. At its start, it was a highly impressive prison, modelled after Philadelphia’s Eastern State. It became something of a landmark tourist attraction. The penitentiary was open to the public during this time as a source of pride for the city, complete with tours.
However, it wasn’t as idyllic as it seemed. Disease, overcrowding, and insects ran rampant. In 1849, a cholera epidemic killed 121 people in a few months. Furthermore, the prison was only built to hold 1500 prisoners. In 1893, it held 1900. The population grew to 4,300 in 1930. At its peak in 1955, there were 5235 prisoners being held in a prison all too small for them.
Hundreds of deaths attributed to the hauntings. In 1930, there was a horrible fire as a result of an attempted escape. Nearly 320 people died and 130 were severely injured. Overcrowding assisted in the death toll. The number of unidentifiable corpses was overwhelming.
These poor souls were laid to rest in a state cemetery near the intersection of Harper and McKinley. Their graves merely read unknown. Another source of the hauntings were executions that took place within the prisons. Between 1885 and 1963, there were 343 executions at the Ohio penitentiary. Twenty-eight were hangings, and 315 were electrocutions.
The prison closed in 1979 but remained empty for almost 20 years before being opened as a haunted Halloween attraction for a brief period. Eventually, it was demolished in 1998. Although the spirits still remain, their eternal resting place is no longer a prison. Instead, it’s a parking lot for a hockey arena. Eerie sensations and strange sights have been reported in the parking lot, proving that the spirits haven’t left.
Boys Industrial School
The Boys Industrial School opened in 1857 in Lancaster. For over a century, it held juvenile offenders between the age of eight and eighteen. Unlike a typical prison, they employed an ‘open system’ which means that the boys could move about the grounds freely. This system was intended to educate and instill positive values in the boys. The boys lived in cottages on the grounds with forty boys to a cottage. Some cottages around the prison remain complete with eerie feelings.
One of the houses near the prison was the supposed scene of a tragic murder in 1899. Gail Parish, the daughter of the house’s owner fell in love with her father’s hired man, Johnny. After her parents forbade their love, Johnny broke in and killed her by slitting her throat with a razor. On the stairwell wall, he used her blood to write, “if I can’t have you, no one can”. It’s said that her apparition still haunts the home. Visitors can still hear the wails of the lovers.
The prison is still active. Yet it no longer holds juvenile offenders but instead is a correctional facility for adults as of 1980. For security reasons, tours aren’t available.
Lima Correctional Institute Aka Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution
This Lima prison opened in 1988. The prison is still open with a population of over 1500. It’s still active and so are its spirits. Beyond the eerie feelings, the creepy noises, and strange lights, there are two notable and friendly ghosts that interact with the prisoners. One is said to tuck the prisoners in at night. The other is said to bring the prisoners’ food.
Witnesses of this woman can clearly see the employee number on her badge. When researched, that number matched that of a woman that worked at the facility years ago. Within this prison, the restless spirits of years before still haunt the prisoners currently serving time.
Other places to discover: