A Gothic prison born of hope was built in Mansfield, Ohio.
Completed from 1886 to 1910, it took years to build up those cell blocks. Created as inmates move in and out until 1910 when the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) broke a world record. Cell blocks an amazing 6 levels high.
Mansfield rises – –
A perfect location. Far enough from Columbus and the former site of a Civil War camp called Mordecai Bartley.
They hired architect Levi Scofield, who decided on half German castle and half Gothic church. Scofield believed in the psychology of buildings. That his creation would provide spiritual uplift for the lost men who entered it.
Maybe just coincidence that the “spiritual” Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) would became a paranormal magnet today.
Other prisons focused on revenge and suffering, while Mansfield was about motivation, rehabilitation and mercy. These prisoners where meant for greater things.
It ran on this intention for 100 years, officially closing on New Year’s Eve in 1990, when the government deemed the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) cruel by modern standards.
Arthur Lewis Glattke was a memorable Warden at the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) after being appointed by Governor Marty Davey after helping the politician get elected in 1935.
Arthur quickly implemented new ideas and techniques, like keeping inmates calm with slow music pumped into cell blocks.
Maybe Stephen King heard this when writing The Shawshank Redemption (which was filmed inside the prison). Andy Dufrane (Tim Robbins) locks himself in the Warden’s office to play opera over the intercom. He would have been congratulated in Glattke’s prison. The scene was filmed in that exact office.
Disaster strikes – –
All was great for Glattke, respect from guards and inmates alike, and he operated a calm prison praised by the community. It all changed one Sunday morning in 1950 inside the apartments of the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield).
As his family got ready for church in the Warden’s apartment, Glattke’s wife Helen reached into the closet for her jewelry box. She pushed aside a hard steel object, then feeling the wood of the box and the steel fell to the floor. A loaded gun hit the floor and fired.
Helen was shot and Arthur rushed her to Mansfield Hospital, but it was too late. His wife held on for 3 days before dying. Official cause of death, “pneumonia brought on by a wound”.
Fake News – –
People gossip. They said Arthur took the gun down, shot his wife and made it look like an accident.
Ridiculousness and lies reported in some of the “ghost stories” of Ohio State Reformatory. Doesn’t take a genius to see it’s crazy. Definitely for anyone who personally knew the man, or even the author of an article living in Canada (like myself) just reading a tiny bit of history would know the man.
He obviously loved Helen so much her lose brought on his decline. 9 years after her death, in 1959, Arthur worked in his office when pain exploded in his chest. The guards call an ambulance that rushed him to the Mansfield Hospital.
He died in the hospital. Arthur Glattke was a dedicated steward to the end.
What it’s like to be an inmate at Mansfield
The goal of the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) was to save those who gave up on society. With 100 years of trying, there’s going to be some failures.
A Riot – –
In 1957 120 Mansfield inmates rioted. Guards got it under control, but this action must be deterred and punishment was tough. 120 men put in solitary, 20 small cells made for 1 man each were packed with 6 each. They were left in pitch darkness for a month.
Mistakenly, the guards paired up two of Mansfield’s most violent inmates. The men didn’t get along, fighting back and forth for space. No guards ever came in, they never heard the noises as one was killed.
A month passes and they open a cell and find only 5 men, then a corpse neatly stuffed under the bed.
James Lockhart – –
He was in cell #13 on the fourth level, north side of East Block of the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield). Lockhart stole turpentine from the prison furniture shop.
Then on January 30th, while inside the cell, he poured the liquid over his head and lit a match. His neighbor started screaming as flames shot out of Lockhart’s cell into his own. The man scooped sink water to stave off burns.
The guards could only watch as James burn to death.
Larry Harmer – –
We don’t know why, in 1974, an inmate named Larry Harmer wanted to die. Sentenced for one year at the Ohio State Reformatory for damaging property during a break in.
Only one week before his transfer to another prison, Larry pulled all the sheets off his bed. Rolled them tight and tied an end to the towel rack, the other around his neck. Sharply dropping to the floor and letting gravity do the rest.
Nobody knows why, but here’s a guess… maybe someone was waiting at the other prison. Fear of revenge made Larry choose death.
What it’s like to be a guard at Mansfield
72 year old Urban Wilford was a guard in the 1920s. They tried to get him to retire, spend his days at home with a loving wife, but former British police officer still loved his job. Until he met Philip Orleck.
Orleck was recently paroled. An opportunity to start a new life, but friendship brought him back to Mansfield. He planned a way to get his buddy out, which started with entering the West Gate.
Wilford recognized the former inmate and blocked his path. Orleck pulled a gun, shot after shot until the other guards rushed in.
He successfully delayed Orleck so the other guards could take him down, however the kindly old Wilford was dead.
The once freed Orleck followed him into death, just one year later via the electric chair.
Another escape was attempted in 1932, as several prisoners tried sneaking out a back door as Mansfield guard Frank Hanger walked in.
Most of the convicts ran, but two stopped to slow the guard. One con grabbed an iron bar, hit Hanger and knocked him to the ground as the other rushed in. They beat the guard with fights and the iron bar until Hanger stopped moving.
They ran out the back door but were all quickly found. Every one of the inmates had Hanger’s murder added on to already long sentences. For the 2 inmates, the ones who physically murdered the guard, they met the cold wood of an electric chair.
Revenge, the farm boss murders
Why would a free man ever return to Mansfield?
First Philip Orleck and then 20 years later, in 1948, Robert Daniels and John West. These two would bring on the darkest event in the Ohio State Reformatory’s long history.
Daniels was a “psychopathic personality” and West a moron. In their 20’s they’d first met in a Mansfield cell, connecting on their shared enjoyment of robbery and chaos.
Released on parole just one year apart, they’d meet up again in July 1948. Walking into a local tavern, they shot the owner dead and wounded an innocent woman. She told the tale and the media started calling them the “mad-dog killers” as Daniels and West went on a spree.
Different cities, drinking, robbing and hitting on girls, until one drunken night when they remembered a guard named “Red”. Back and forth, getting more angry with stories of the Red’s abuse. Revenge was worth a trip back to Mansfield.
Only a couple weeks after the tavern killing, Daniels knocked on the door of Mansfield’s farm supervisor John Niebel. They took John, his wife Phyllis and their daughter into a field and forced them down on their knees. Daniels put the gun to each of their heads and fired with little hesitation.
The manhunt concluded with Daniels and West meeting the Van Wert County police. Daniels captured alive as the simpleton West starts shooting. He hits a sergeant who falls to the ground, rolls and fires back. West is hit between the eyes.
Now a death row inmate, Robert Daniels is interviewed by the Movietone News.
It’s a dramatic conversation as Daniels repeated his confession.
The audience was stunned when Roberts winked at the camera.
One year later Robert Daniels died via the electric chair.
Hollywood Visits Mansfield Reformatory
Mansfield Reformatory was the backdrop for many movies and TV shows like…
- Harry and Walter Go to New York – They spend time behind bars. The real jail was still open when filmed in 1976
- Tango & Cash – Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell filmed all prison scenes in Mansfield
- Fallen Angels – Horror movie filmed entirely in Mansfield
- Air Force One – Harrison Ford was in Mansfield used as a Russian prison holding Ivan Radek
- The Shawshank Redemption – The prison exterior is Shawshank, Glattke’s office was the warden’s office in movie. The famous escape was in a fake tunnel setup in Mansfield, still on display in the prison.
Mansfield Reformatory is haunted
154,000 inmates passed through Mansfield in 100 years. 200 inmates and guards died from disease or “other causes”. It’s energy which creates a haunting. Death mixed with Scofield’s spiritual design makes Mansfield unique.
**Sorted by location in Mansfield
The Administration Wing – –
Location of the Warden’s office and family apartment. Where Arthur and Helen Glattke started towards death, and where some believe they remain.
The smell of roses hangs in the air near the “pink bathroom”, Helen’s personal bathroom.
Normally old buildings have trouble with heating and cooling when heat fills the apartment on hot days. But strangely, at its most sweltering outside, cold spots are felt in random spaces and some ghost hunters are refreshed on the hottest days.
Cold spots are common in haunted places, could be residual (left over) energy.
Faint voices heard as if mid conversation. Volunteers hear talking, a man and woman, when shutting down late at night. Faint voices whispering through the wall as they walk through the Administration Wing. Maybe some guests got lost on their way out. They’ll walk into Glattke’s apartment to find it empty and quiet.
Theodore Glattke is the youngest son of Arthur and Helen. He was raised in the apartment and hates how the building is run today.
Wanting his views known to the paranormal community, Theodore sat down for an interview with ghost enthusiast Rebecca Muller, he said…
“I find it hard to think a spirit stays in a place rather than with [their] loved ones. I think haunting a house is a concept left over from when people didn’t move far from their birthplace. What if Mansfield Reformatory was destroyed? I have little respect for the [ghost] stories… All the inaccurate pieces, places where my parents died and the sensationalism regarding their lives.”
The Chapel – –
A mysterious space inside Mansfield Reformatory. Not due to religious gatherings of reformed men, but because what the guards did. They used the space to torture inmates.
Orb photos are captured inside the chapel. Other than a creepy look and legends, the story ends there… for now.
The Infirmary – –
Death in Mansfield’s infirmary was normal. Like the unspoken mystery around hospitals, it’s energy fells different. Dread, depression and nausea affecting visitors.
Injured and diseased Reformatory inmates spent a lot of time in this room. Some never left.
Walk through the infirmary and be sensitive to the temperature. Like Glattke’s apartment, cold spots are felt.
The Basement – –
The unproven legend of a 14 year old boy who wanders the basement.
The little “former employee” communicated with psychics how some inmates cornered him in the basement. “They beat me to death”. Why this happened is unknown.
The Library – –
The most impressive room in the Ohio State Reformatory, and everyone knows there’s nothing like ghosts in a library.
Objects are seen moving around the room. And a woman seen gliding through the room as visitors enter. A quick blur and then nothing, making people question what they saw.
Communication has revealed the ghost to be a nurse. She said a prisoner killed her, and…
The Six Level Cellblock – –
Ghosts come from history but can also be part of it. When Mansfield was an active prison, inmates told guards they were scared at night.
Sound asleep, they’d feel hands grabbing at the bed sheets. The fabric pulled tight and loose again, like a ghost was “tucking them in”.
Different inmates all over the jail with the same experience at lights-out. Some scrambled out of bed to see the covers the once loose covers tucked neatly under the mattress.
The most violent inmates completely freaked out.
Reported to Graveaddiction.com in 2006 – –
“I just got back from visiting Mansfield and we had an experience in the cell marked with an “X”
“Taken back to the cell block after a tour, 9 of us and a guide heard something in the hallway. The guide went silent. Sounded like running and she yelled out, “running is not allowed” thinking it was a guest. Then she noticed no one was missing as a distant cell door slammed.
“As we left I noticed our guide, looking scared and soaked with sweat.”
Also reported to Graveaddiction.com – –
“Our group was walking down metal stairs from the tower. My friend and I in the back with some high school students in front. I’m clumsy and held tight to friend’s hand and the railing. Someone slapped my back!
“I fell forward into my friend and over to the side of the railing, my arm clutched as my muscles pulled to a painful angle. Then down to a knee, I quickly spun to face my attacker. No one was behind me.”
Reported to Ohio State Reformatory’s Facebook Page – –
“On my last visit to the Mansfield, my camera and recorder picked up some tapping on the walls of a jail cell. My friend and I thought it was Morse Code. My buddy was in the military, and being familiar with the code, he listened closely.
“It wasn’t Morse, but maybe a code developed by prisoners to communicate without the guards knowing. The ‘tapping noise’ was caught on our recorder, just in that cell and at no other time during our visit.”
The Hole (Solitary Confinement) – –
The Hole embodied suffering for 100 years. 20 small basement cells, dark on the sunniest day, and where inmates were forced down on roach covered floors, and starved with small portions of bread and water served every 3 days.
Visitors entering the Hole feel sick. Chills and the feeling someone is looking out from dark, empty cells. Some have seen glowing eyes.
Again from the GraveAddiction.com, Michelle reports in 2007,
“I worked in Mansfield last year and was assigned to the Hole. Me and another girl in the empty space on opposite ends. We heard shuffling around in the hallway.
“[Thinking it was visitors who] didn’t know we were there. I looked over to the other girl and smiled, as if to say ‘let’s scare them’. She smiled back.
“We jumped out and screamed. The hallway was empty, the shuffling gone.”
Elmo the Elemental – –
Negative energy rarely has a name, but not at the Ohio State Reformatory! Not a human ghost, but an element appearing in many guest photos. A shining, familiar red glow like a Muppet named Elmo.
Elmo has no shape and causes feeling of fear and angry in visitors. Elmo is believed to be dangerous. Accidents happen when he appears, like guests being pushed on stairs or the feeling of being hit with something unseen. And also, photo evidence revealing the guilty red glow.
They say if bright red that Elmo is posing. Or if a cluster of three red orbs, a rotten smell has just invaded your space.
A group walked through one room as the smell rolled in. Looking around, each accusing the other of something, then every camera shut off at once. They retreated to the Administration Wing, the smell was gone and all cameras came back on.
The Inmate Cemetery – –
Unclaimed inmates rest in a godless field just outside the fence. 215 markers as a final honor to men claimed by influenza, tuberculosis and violence.
Not much to report from the cemetery. The main reason, you not allowed to investigate. There’s a working prison behind the Ohio State Reformatory and the cemetery sits on “restricted space”.
If you mistakenly stumble back, a dark SUV will approach. Guards emerge and grilled you with questions, and you may be arrested.
Worth a Visit
The Ohio State Reformatory appears on many lists of America’s most haunted places. A big participant in the “save history with ghosts” movement.
Everything at Mansfield started with positive good intentions. Scofield had no idea what would happen.
Today it’s a spooky, abandoned complex is filled with enough dark history to draw any enthusiastic ghost hunter.
BONUS STORY – – The Ghost of Reformatory Road
Directly across the road from the Ohio State Reformatory once stood a wood farmhouse. Locals remember the lilacs surrounding and a beautiful lily pond owned by Phoebe Wise. It’s the late 1800’s and townsfolk think she’s insane.
They see her having full conversations with her horse, dog and many stray cats.
The farm was inherited from her father, a successful surveyor in Mansfield, Ohio. After his death in 1887 the once nice house fell into disrepair and as years pass Phoebe was living alone.
She didn’t work, and money concerns caused her to sell half the land. But for some odd reason people thought she was rich because she didn’t trust banks. They thought a fortune was stuffed somewhere inside the house.
On Christmas Eve in 1891, 3 men went to prove this, but Phoebe heard them. She walked into the sitting room to see the men holding guns, bandannas cover their faces.
One grabbed and squeezed Phoebe’s throat as another yelled for the money. She coughed out, “I’ll show you”, but didn’t move. They’d tied her to a chair, lit a torch and burned her feet while screaming, “Where’s the money?”
She gave up and led them to a diamond ring, gold watch, a chain and some cash, but no treasure. The frustrated men sat in the kitchen and ate pie, deciding how to share the measly loot before leaving.
The police quickly arrested the men. None of them would spend time in jail.
The crime brought unwanted fame to Phoebe Wise. A stranger named Jacob started stalking her. He’d visit the Reformatory Road house many nights, tapping on her window, knocking at the door and watching her through the windows.
He’d said Phoebe’s beautiful piano music enticed him to go into the house where Jacob assaulted her. The disturbed man was arrested and went to jail, then an insane asylum before being released.
He walked right back to Phoebe’s house one last time in May 1898, yelled through an open window,
She chose the second, pointing her rifle through the window and firing, hitting his shoulders and lungs and instantly killing the disturbed man.
The Mansfield News Journal reported, “Phoebe Wise rids herself of an intolerable nuisance”. She was never arrested.
Phoebe Wise died in 1933 of old age. The famed house left abandoned, but not for long. Locals who believed in the treasure broke in, tore apart floors and walls. It was never found.
Now an empty field, the house a distant memory and Phoebe is still there.
They see her walking along Reformatory Road at night, mostly seen by ghost hunters staring out the windows of the Ohio State Reformatory.