Ohio State Reformatory | Mansfield Ohio | USA

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

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

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Mansfield Reformatory is Born

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 the new Ohio State Reformatory (aka 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 Gothic prison born of hope in Mansfield, Ohio.  Started in 1886, building continued to 1910.  Took years to build up the massive structure. 

In 1910 the new Ohio State Reformatory, aka Mansfield, broke a world record.  Cell blocks an amazing 6 levels high.

Mansfield was put in a perfect location.  Far from the city of Columbus and on the former site of Mordecai Bartley, a once Civil War camp.

They hired architect Levi Scofield who chose a design quoted as, “half German castle, half Gothic church”.  Believing in psychology, his creation was to provide spiritual uplift.  As a side, it’s ironic the “spiritual” Mansfield Reformatory became a paranormal magnet.

Impressive shot of the cell blocks c1971

Other prisons focused on revenge and suffering. Mansfield was about motivation, rehabilitation and mercy. Motivating criminals to greater things. It ran on this intention for 100 years, closing New Year’s Eve 1990. The official reason… cruel by modern standards.

It ran on this intention for 100 years, closing New Year’s Eve 1990.  The official reason… cruel by modern standards.

Arthur Glattke

Arthur Lewis Glattke (glaa-k) was appointed Warden by an Ohio Governor named Marty Davey.  In return for helping the politician get elected in 1935.

Arthur & Helen Glattke
Arthur & Helen Glattke

Taking charge, Arthur implemented many new ideas.  Like pumping calm classical music into cell blocks. 

I wonder if Stephen King knew this little piece of history when writing The Shawshank Redemption.  A movie filmed inside Mansfield with a scene where Andy Dufrane (played by Tim Robbins) locks himself in the Warden’s office.  His goal… play opera over the intercom. 

Andy was punished, but in Glattke’s prison he’d be congratulated.  That scene was filmed in Arthur’s actual office.

Disaster strikes – –

All was great for Glattke.  Respect from both guards and inmates.  Operating a calm prison praised by the community. 

It all changed in 1950.  On one Sunday morning while inside the Warden’s apartments.  His family getting ready for church, as Glattke’s wife Helen reached into the closet for her jewelry box. 

Feeling a steel block, she pushed it aside and reached higher as the block fell to the floor.  This was Arthur’s loaded gun, which hit the floor and fired upwards into Helen. 

Rushed her to the Mansfield Hospital, Helen held on for 3 days.  Official cause of death, “pneumonia brought on by a wound”.

Fake News – –

People gossiped.  Said Arthur grabbed the gun down and shot his wife.  Made it look like an accident.  Ridiculousness reported in supposed “ghost stories” from some paranormal groups today.

I have to call this out.  Doesn’t take a genius.  Definitely anyone who knew the man, or even for me, a simple storyteller living in Hamilton, Ontario Canada

Just read a tiny little bit about this man and you’d agree, he loved his wife. 

Losing her brought on his own decline and only 9 years later, in 1959, Arthur was working in his office.  The guards heard a noise and found their Warden on the floor.  Rushed him to 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 Mansfield… save men who gave up on life.  With 100 years of trying there’s going to be failures.

A Riot – –

1957 120 inmates rioted.  Guards controlled it, but punishments were harsh to deter repeats.  120 men put into 20 solitary cells made for 1 man each.  6 per cell left in complete darkness for an entire month.

Not thinking, the guards paired up two of Mansfield’s most violent inmates.  A month later and they open one cell to find only 5 men.  Along with, a corpse neatly stuffed under the bed.

James Lockhart – –

James Lockhart.  He was in cell #13 on the fourth level, north side of East Block.  One day he stole a bottle of turpentine from the prison furniture shop.

Inside a cell at Mansfield (Current)
Inside a cell at Mansfield (Current)

Back in his cell, James quietly poured it over his head and lit a match.  Guards only knew it was happening when the man in #14 screamed.  Flames were spreading into his cell.  He scooped water out of the sink to stave off burns.

The guards helplessly watched from a distance as the fire burned itself out. 

Larry Harmer – –

We don’t know why in 1974 an inmate named Larry Harmer wanted to die.  A light sentence of one year at Mansfield for damaging property during break-in.

One week before Larry was to be transferred, he pulled the sheets off his bed and rolled them tight. Tied one end to the towel rack.  Wrapped the other around his neck and sharply dropped to the floor.  Gravity did the rest.

Why’d he do it?  Nobody knows.  Here’s my guess… maybe someone was waiting at the other prison.  Fear of revenge is a great motivator and Larry choose death.

What it’s like to be a guard at Mansfield

Urban Wilford was a 72-year-old guard still working at Mansfield in the 1920s.  Officials wanted him to retire, “Go on, spend retirement with your loving wife”.  The former British police officer refused. 

Seemed he loved his job more… until meeting Philip Orleck.

Philip Orleck
Philip Orleck

Orleck was recently paroled.  Given an opportunity to start over, but friendship brought him back with a plan help his buddy escape. 

Entering through the West Gate.  Wilford recognized Orleck and blocked his path.  Orleck pulled a gun and fired.  Wilford held him to the ground on as other guards rushed in.  Pulling them apart to find Wilford was dead.

At one time a free man, just one year later Orleck sat in the electric chair.  Executed for murdering the kindly old guard.

Another escape in 1932

Mansfield guard Frank Hanger saw inmates sneaking out a back door.  Yelled, “Stop!”, and two of the convicts turned to greet him. 

One grabbed an iron bar and hit Hanger.  The guard fell to the ground as the other convict rushed in.  They beat him with bare fists and the bar until Hanger stopped moving.

Then leaving but not getting far.  Every one of the inmates were caught, returned, and had Hanger’s death added to sentences.  The 2 inmates who turned back felt the cold wood of an electric chair.

Revenge, the farm boss murders

Why would any free man return to Mansfield?  First Orleck.  And then Robert Daniels and John West 20 years later in 1948.  Bringing with them the darkest event in the Mansfield’s history.

Daniels called a “psychopathic personality”, and West called a moron.  Became friends in a Mansfield cell through the shared enjoyment of crime and chaos.

Paroled just one year apart, they’d met again in July 1948.  Walked into a local tavern, shot the owner dead and wounded a woman.  She told the story.  The media calling them “mad-dog killers”. 

Daniels and West went on a spree.  Daniels quoted later, “[we loved] drinking, robbing and hitting on girls”.  One drunken night they remembered a Mansfield guard named “Red” who abused them to no end.  Going back and forth with stories. 

Revenge was worth a trip back to Mansfield.

Daniels Show his Violence

Only 2 weeks after the tavern killing, Daniels knocked on the door of John Niebel, Mansfield’s farm supervisor.  They took John, his wife Phyllis and their daughter into a field. 

Niebel Family

Forced them down on their knees, Daniels put a gun to each of their heads and fired without no hesitation.  There’s no report of how West reacted to the murders.

Enter the effective Van Wert County police.  Soon Daniels was captured.  The simpleton West got away.  Now alone and unsure, he runs, turns and starts shoots at the police.  Hits a Sergeant who falls to the ground, rolls and fires back.  Got West right between the eyes.

Report of the Interview with killer Robert Daniels
Report of the Interview with killer Robert Daniels

Now a death row inmate, Robert Daniels is interviewed by the Movietone News, an early version of today’s Fox News.  In a dramatic conversation Daniels repeated his official confession,

“I just wanted Red (the abusive guard) … I’m sorry the wife and daughter had to die. There was no rope (to tie them up) … After my score was settled with Red, I’d be ready to die. I haven’t got it settled, but guess I’ll die anyhow.”
Robert Daniels winks for the audience
Psycho Robert Daniels winks for the audience of a local TV show

The audience was stunned when Daniels turned and winked at the camera. One year later he 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.  During that time 200 inmates and guards died from disease or violence.

Energy mixed with death and Scofield’s spiritual design makes Mansfield quite unique.  Here are reported ghost stories sorted by location.

The Administration Wing – –

Location of the Warden’s office and family apartment.  This is where both Arthur and Helen Glattke began their journey to death, and where some say they remain.

Roses smelled when near Helen’s personal bathroom, referred to as the “pink bathroom”.

It’s true old buildings have trouble heating and cooling.  Summer heat fills that apartment, but strangely at its most sweltering, cold spots are felt.  Refreshing Ghost hunters on the hottest days. 

Cold Spots

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

Voices are heard.  When shutting down at night volunteers hear a man and woman as if in mid conversation.  Faint whispers drifting through an apartment wall into the hallway.  First thinking it’s lost guests on their way out.  They’d go into the apartment to find it empty, the voices stopped.

Theodore Glattke is the youngest son of Arthur and Helen.  He was raised in that apartment and hates how the building is used today. 

Wanting to speak out, he sat down with a ghost enthusiast named Rebecca Muller, and said (edited for space)…

“I find it hard to think a spirit stays in a place rather than with loved ones. Haunting a house is a concept left over from when people [died where they were born]. I have little respect for the [ghost] stories… All the inaccurate pieces and sensationalism regarding their lives.”

The Chapel – –

A mysterious space.  Not due to religious gatherings, but what the guards did.  It’s said they tortured inmates inside the chapel.  And orb photos are captured.  

That’s it for the chapel.

The Infirmary – –

Death in the infirmary was normal.  Like the unspoken ghosts of hospitals today, this energy is very different. 

Guests feel dread, depression and nausea when entering.  Injured and diseased inmates spent hard time in this room.  Some never left.

Be sensitive to the temperature.  It’s said when walking through the infirmary cold spots are felt. 

The Basement – –

Home to the legend of a 14-year-old boy.  Thought to be the son of a guard.  Why he’s there is unknown. 

Psychics has talked with him.  The story goes that some inmates cornered the boy.  When asked how he died, said simply, “They beat me to death”.

The Library – –

The most impressive room at Mansfield.  And we all know there’s nothing like ghosts in a library, ala the opening scene of Ghostbusters.  Oh man I love this stuff.

And just like that scene, objects are seen moving around the room.

A woman is witnessed as visitors enter.  The quick movement, like a blur across their vision, and then nothing.  It’s so quick many question seeing anything at all.

Communication has revealed the ghost as a nurse.  She said a prisoner killed her, and told psychics,

“I always liked the library”

The Six Level Cellblock – –

Ghosts come from history but also can be part of it.  Over the years many inmates told guards they were scared at night.  How they’d wake to invisible hands grabbing at the bed sheets.  Pulled tight and loose as if a ghost was “tucking them in”.

The six-level cell blocks (tallest in the world)
The six-level cell blocks (tallest in the world)

Different inmates all over the jail saying the same thing.  Some would peak over the side to see once loose sheets tucked neatly under the mattress.

Imagine that, the most violent men turned into scared boys.

And the following are more written accounts of Mansfield experiences.  In each I’ll give the source, the witness’s reported name and what happened…

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.”

Metal stairs to cells
Metal stairs to cells

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.”

And then there’s the most dreaded area known as, “The Hole”.

The Hole (Solitary Confinement) – –

It embodied suffering for 100 years.  20 pitch black basement cells on the sunniest day.  Inmates forced down on roach infested floors.  Starved with small portions of bread and water served every 3 days.

No surprise visitors entering The Hole feel sick.  Also chills and the uneasy sense someone is watching from an empty cell.  A few 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 Mansfield!  Not a human ghost but elemental, basically a build-up of energy appearing in guest photos.

A shining and familiar glow, red just like a famous Muppet.  That’s why they call it Elmo.  It has no shape and causes feelings of fear and anger.  Believed to be dangerous.  When it appears, accidents happen. 

Guests have been pushed on stairs or hit across the chest by an unseen force.  Photos taken at the time expose a guilty red glow.

If bright red Elmo’s posing.  If a cluster of three red orbs, the rotten smell of decay will follow.

A group walked through a room as the rotten smell rolled in.  Turning on eachother, saying “Who farted?” just as all the cameras shut off.  

Retreating to the Administration Wing, the smell gone and all cameras worked.

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 can’t go back there.  A working prison exists behind Mansfield.  The cemetery sits on what’s called “restricted space”.

Mistakenly stumble back there and be met by a dark SUV.  Angry guards will question and maybe arrest you.

Worth a Visit

Mansfield Reformatory appears on many lists of America’s most haunted places.  A big part of the “save history with ghosts” movement, old prisons and asylums reopened for history and ghost events.

Why not?  After all Mansfield started with good intentions.  Levi Scofield didn’t know what would happen.

Today the spooky, abandoned complex is filled with enough ghosts to draw the most enthusiastic ghost hunters. 

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.

Phoebe Kills Him

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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