Ohio State Reformatory : A Haunted Visitor’s Guide

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, OH, USA | Addresses – 100 Reformatory Road – MAP

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Glattke | Inmates | Guards | Psychopath | Ghosts | Reformatory Rd Ghost

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A Gothic prison was born of hope in Mansfield, Ohio.

Completed from 1886 to 1910.  It took years to build up those massive cell blocks.  Inmates moving in and out during that time.

Then in 1910 when the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) broke a world record.  Cell blocks an amazing 6 levels high.

Outside the Ohio State Reformatory - - Current Day
Outside the Ohio State Reformatory – – Current Day

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.  He chose a half German castle and half Gothic church design.  Scofield believed in the psychology of buildings.  His creation would provide spiritual uplift.

Maybe just coincidence that the “spiritual” Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) would became a paranormal magnet today.

Other prisons focused on revenge and suffering.  Mansfield was about motivation, rehabilitation and mercy for prisoners meant for greater things.

It ran on this intention for 100 years.  Closed on New Year’s Eve 1990.  The reason… the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) was deemed cruel by modern standards.

Mansfield, Ohio State Reformatory
Impressive shot of the famed cell blocks – – Ohio State Reformatory Current day

Arthur Glattke

Arthur Lewis Glattke was a memorable Warden at the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) after being appointed by Governor Marty Davey.  A returned favor after helping the politician get elected in 1935.

Arthur implemented new ideas.  Included keeping inmates calm with slow music pumped into cell blocks.

Not sure if Stephen King knew this when writing The Shawshank Redemption.  The movie was filmed inside Mansfield.

In the movie 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 above scene was filmed in his actual office.

Disaster strikes – –

All was great for Glattke.  Respect from guards and inmates alike.  He operated a calm prison praised by the community.  Then it changed one Sunday morning in 1950 while inside the Warden’s apartments of the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield).

As his family got ready for church, Glattke’s wife Helen reached into the closet for her jewelry box.  She pushed aside a hard steel object and felt the wood of the box as the steel object fell to the floor.  A loaded gun, it hit and fired.

Helen was shot.  Arthur rushed her to Mansfield Hospital but it was too late.  She held on for 3 days before dying.  Official cause, “pneumonia brought on by a wound”.

Fake News – –

People gossip.  Say Arthur took down the gun down and shot his wife.  Then made it look like an accident.

Ridiculousness reported in supposed “ghost stories” of the 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 this article living in Canada.  Just read a tiny bit about the man and you’d agree.

He obviously loved Helen.  Her lose brought on his decline.  9 years later in 1959 Arthur was working in his office.

Pain exploded in his chest.  The guards called an ambulance and rushed him to the Mansfield Hospital.  He died soon after.

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.  100 years of trying and there’s going to be some failures.

A Riot – –

In 1957 120 Mansfield inmates rioted.

Guards got it under control but this must be deterred.  Punishment was tough.  120 men put into 20 solitary cells made for 1 man each.  6 men in each tiny space left in pitch darkness for a month.

Without thinking the guards paired up two of Mansfield’s most violent inmates.  They fought for space.  No guards came in or heard as one was killed.

A month passes.  They the cell and find only 5 men.  A corpse was 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 while in his cell, James poured the liquid over his head and lit a match.  His neighbor screamed as flames shot out of Lockhart’s cell into his own.  Scooped sink water over his skin to stave off burns.

The guards helplessly watched James as the fire slowly burned out.

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 a transfer to another prison, Larry pulled all the sheets off his bed.  Rolled them tight, tied an end to the towel rack and 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.  Said, “spend old age at home with your loving wife”, but former British police officer stayed on.  He loved his job… until meeting Philip Orleck.

Orleck was recently paroled.  An opportunity to start a new life but friendship brought him back to Mansfield.  He planned to bust his buddy out.

He entered the West Gate.  Wilford recognized him and blocked the path.  Orleck pulled a gun and started firing until more guards rushed in.

Wilford successfully delayed Orleck and the other guards took him down.  Sadly the kindly old guard was dead.

The once freed Orleck followed him one year later via the electric chair.

Another escape was attempted in 1932 as several prisoners tried sneaking out a back door.  Mansfield guard Frank Hanger caught them.

The convicts ran as two stayed back.  Turning towards the guard, one grabbed an iron bar and hit Hanger.  The guard fell to the ground as the other rushed in.  They beat him with fists and the bar until Hanger stopped moving.

Then leaving.  They didn’t get far.

Every one of the inmates had Hanger’s murder added on to already long sentences.  For the 2 inmates who stayed back, 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.  Then Robert Daniels and John West 20 years later in 1948.  They’d bring on the darkest event in the Ohio State Reformatory’s long history.

Daniels was a “psychopathic personality” and West a moron.  They met in a Mansfield cell connecting on a shared enjoyment of robbery and chaos.

Paroled only 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.  The media dubbed them the “mad-dog killers” as Daniels and West went on a spree.

Different cities, drinking, robbing and hitting on girls.  Then one drunken night they remembered a guard named “Red”.  Back and forth, getting angrier with stories of the Red’s abuse.

Revenge was worth a trip back to Mansfield.

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.  Forced them down on their knees.

Daniels put the gun to each of their heads and fired without 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.

Robert Daniels winks for the audience
Psycho Robert Daniels winks for the audience of a local TV show

The now death row inmate Robert Daniels is interviewed by the Movietone News.  It’s a dramatic conversation as Daniels repeated his confession.

“I just wanted Red … I’m sorry the wife and daughter had to die.  There was no rope … After my score was settled with Red, I was ready to die. I haven’t got it settled, but guess I’ll die anyhow.”

 

The audience was stunned when Daniels 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”.

Energy creates the haunting mixed with death and Scofield’s spiritual design.  Mansfield is 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 in the air near Helen’s personal bathroom, referred to as the “pink bathroom”.

Also old buildings have trouble with heating and cooling.  Normally in the summer heat fills that apartment.  But strangely at its most sweltering outside, cold spots are felt in random spaces.  Ghost hunters refreshed on the hottest days.

Cold spots are common in haunted places.  Considered residual (or left over) energy.

Voices are heard as if mid conversation.  Volunteers hear a man and woman when shutting down late at night.  Faint whispering through the wall as they walk through the Administration Wing.

Thinking it’s lost guests 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.  It’s believed to be from what the guards did.  It’s said they tortured inmates in the chapel.

Orb photos are captured.  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 ghosts at hospitals, this energy fells different.  Dread, depression and nausea affecting visitors.

Injured and diseased Ohio State Reformatory inmates spent a lot of time in this room.  Some never left.

Walk through the infirmary and be sensitive to 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.  Said “They beat me to death”.

Why is unknown.

The Library – –

The most impressive room in the Ohio State Reformatory.  There’s nothing like ghosts in a library.

Objects are seen moving around the room.

A woman is witnessed to glide across the room as visitors enter.  A quick blur and then nothing.  People question if they saw anything at all.

Communication has revealed the ghost to be a nurse.  She said a prisoner killed her, and…

“I always liked the library”.

 

The Six Level Cellblock – –

Ghosts come from history but can also be part of it.  When Mansfield was open inmates told guards they were scared at night.

When Sound asleep they felt hands grabbing at the bed sheets.  The fabric pulled tight and loose like a ghost was “tucking them in”.

Different inmates all over the jail with the same experience.  Some scrambled out of bed to see the once loose covers tucked neatly under the mattress.

The most violent inmates completely freaked out.

Reported to Graveaddiction.com in 2006 – –

Carrie says,

“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 saw no one was missing.  A distant cell door slammed.

“As we left I noticed our guide, looking scared and soaked with sweat.”

Also reported to Graveaddiction.com – –

Gina says,

“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 there.”

 

Reported to Ohio State Reformatory’s Facebook Page – –

Randy says,

“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 military and familiar with the code.  He listened closely.

“It wasn’t Morse.  We thought it a code developed by prisoners to communicate without the guards knowing.  The ‘tapping noise’ was caught on our recorder just in that cell.  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.  Inmates once 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 and familiar red glow like a Muppet named Elmo.

Elmo has no shape and causes feelings of fear and anger in visitors.  It’s believed to be dangerous because accidents happen when he appears.  Guests are pushed on stairs or are hit with something unseen.  Photo evidence usually exposing the guilty red glow.

They say if bright red then Elmo’s posing.  If a cluster of three red orbs a rotten smell will soon follow.

A group walked through one room as the smell rolled in.  Looking around, each accusing the other of something, then every camera shut off.  They retreated to the Administration Wing.  The smell was gone and all cameras 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 it.

A working prison exists behind the Ohio State Reformatory.  The cemetery sits on “restricted space”.

If you mistakenly stumble back a dark SUV will approach.  Guards emerge and grilled you with questions.  You might 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 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.

Picture of Phoebe Wise in her later years - - Reformatory Road Ghost
Picture of Phoebe Wise in her later years – – Reformatory Road Ghost

The farm was inherited from her father.  A successful surveyor in Mansfield, Ohio.  After his death in 1887 the house fell into disrepair with Phoebe living inside alone.

She didn’t work and money issues caused her to sell half the land.  For some reason people thought she was rich because she didn’t trust banks.  They thought a fortune was stuffed somewhere in the house.

On Christmas Eve in 1891 3 men went to prove it.  Phoebe heard something.  She walked into the sitting room to see the men holding guns with bandannas over their faces.

One squeezed Phoebe’s throat as the other 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 led them to a diamond ring, gold watch, chain and some cash but no treasure.  The frustrated men sat in the kitchen and ate pie while deciding how to share the loot before leaving.

The police arrested the men.  Neither spent 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 the window, knocking at the door and watching her through the windows.

Jacob said Phoebe’s beautiful piano music enticed him to go into the house.  He assaulted her.

The disturbed man was arrested and went to jail.  Later transferred to an insane asylum before being released.

He went right back to Phoebe’s house.  In May 1898 Jacob yelled through an open window,

“Marry me or kill me Phoebe Wise”

 

She chose the latter.  Pointed a rifle through the window and fired instantly killing the disturbed man.  The Mansfield News Journal said it best the next day, “Phoebe Wise rids herself of an intolerable nuisance”.  She wasn’t 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.  They tore apart the floors and walls but nothing was never found.

The house a distant memory in that empty field.  But Phoebe is still there.  They see her walking along Reformatory Road at night.  Seen by ghost hunters staring out the windows of the Ohio State Reformatory.

Read about other abandoned jails & asylums being “saved by ghosts”
West Virginia Pen | Charleston Old City Jail | Alcatraz | Rolling Hills Asylum | Tran-Allegheny Asylum

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