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Exploring The Ohio State Reformatory At An Overnight Ghost Hunt

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A huge thank you to the Ohio State Reformatory for allowing us to participate in this experience and hosting us!

Exploring The Ohio State Reformatory At An Overnight Ghost Hunt

In the middle of Ohio, in the little town of Mansfield, you’ll find an incredibly old state prison that once housed some of the worst and most violent criminals around. If you’ve seen the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption”, then you are already pretty familiar with the Ohio State Reformatory as filming of the movie took place there. Today when you visit, you can even go on a Hollywood tour that shows you these popular filming locations.

I am going to share UNEDITED photos within this post.

Wardens office Shawkshank Redemption Ohio State Reformatory

There’s something else you can do when you visit – you can stay overnight for one of their public ghost hunts. I’m not kidding. You arrive between 6 and 7 pm to check-in with a tour of the building to kick things off. When the tour is over, you can have a late dinner (pizza, drinks) and start exploring. On your own. In a pitch black, haunted, prison. You feel like you are on a popular ghost hunting show (yes, the reformatory WAS featured on these!).

Surprisingly, even though I worked myself up for days leading to our visit, when we started, I wasn’t nearly as nervous or scared as I thought I would be. Adrenaline kicks in and you become very aware of your surroundings. The only light you have is coming from whatever source you are using (flashlight, headlamp, iPhone flashlight), and your senses are definitely heightened.

Prison cell at Ohio State Reformatory

There are a few things that I highly recommend you do or bring with you:

Preparing For a Ghost Hunt at The Ohio State Reformatory

  1. Take the tour. Even if you’ve been before during a daylight tour, take it again so some of the locations are fresh. Grab a paper map and mark the top areas you want to investigate: the hospital, the chapel, certain cells, the showers, etc.
  2. Bring flashlights and extra batteries, but leave the extras in your car. At any time during the hunt, you can visit your car (you just can’t leave through the front drive gates, there is no re-entry!).
  3. Keep water and snacks in your car too. Sure, you might fill up on pizza, but you may find yourself hungry around 1 or 2am (if you stay the entire time), or want something on your way home/to your hotel.
  4. Have a camera (we mainly used our iPhone cameras), extra film if you need it and batteries.
  5. Bring a voice recorder if you plan to sit in one location for a length of time and try to communicate with any spirits.
  6. Bring a portable battery charger/backup for your phone! You can have a SMALL bag with you inside, so this plus a charging cord were in our bag and VERY helpful as my phone (the main one for the camera) started to get low.
  7. Go outside for fresh air. The cool air felt good and it also felt good to breathe some cleaner air considering all of the dust and everything inside.
  8. Watch your step! There are cracks, uneven surfaces, super creaky stairs, small steps, etc that you can absolutely trip over! Use your flashlight to see what’s coming and so you don’t shine it in someone’s eyes and blind them.
  9. Have fun. It doesn’t matter if you are there on a serious hunt or just having fun with friends, it’s a great experience and chance to explore when others can’t. It’s fun no matter what happens!

storage room Ohio State Reformatory

If the haunted aspect of The Ohio State Reformatory doesn’t interest you, don’t discredit the history! There are so many things to learn, THIS is a great place to start.

Originally built as a boy’s reformatory school and
opened in 1896, the Reformatory housed over 155,000
inmates within its walls until it closed in December 1990.


The link above is an AMAZING read. When you do go on one of the tours during the day, the guided tours are a great way to hear the history and hear the stories of inmates. You can even do an inmate tour, with a previous inmate as your guide. During the Halloween season, there are no tours offered so you need to plan accordingly. Check out their events calendar for tours and special events you can attend.

administrative building stairs Ohio State Reformatory

If you specifically looking for paranormal programs (hunts, walks, classes, etc), then visit this special page to learn more.

Here’s a look at SOME of the prison – I can’t possibly show you everything, so this is just a tease…

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