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Why Do People Visit the Ohio State Reformatory?

Why Do People Visit the Ohio State Reformatory?

For nearly a century, the Ohio State Reformatory housed first-offense criminals sentenced for everything from burglary and robbery to assault.

In the 30 years since the prison closed, the foreboding old building has found new life for filmmakers, ghost hunters, and historians alike. 

But where might you have seen it, and can you see it in person? 

Let’s dig in!

About the Ohio State Reformatory

The Ohio State Reformatory was built in the late 1800s. The building would house a prison facility for inmates who were likely to reform. Inside, they learned trades in addition to other educational and religious services. The first inmates joined the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896.

The facility had a low relapse rate, but the state didn’t want to support the reform model. Instead, they pulled state support and converted the Ohio State Reformatory into a maximum-security prison.

The old building certainly wasn’t designed for such a purpose. As a result, living conditions deteriorated quickly, and inmates successfully sued the state of Ohio.

The facility closed as a jail in 1990 but has since become a treasured historic site.

Why Do People Visit the Ohio State Reformatory?

People visit the Ohio State Reformatory for its history, connection to popular movies, and paranormal sightings. In fact, its most famous association is that it was the setting for “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Visitors can take tours that focus on any of those aspects. The historical tour discusses inmate life there and includes explorations of cells and warden’s quarters. 

Where Is the Ohio State Reformatory? 

The reformatory is located in the northeast part of Ohio in the town of Mansfield. It lies halfway between Cleveland and Columbus on Interstate 71.

Can I Tour the Inside of the Ohio State Reformatory?

Yes, you can. Self-guided tours of the whole building are always available. You can also book tours, some of which include areas not open to the general public. 

Guided tours about the prison history are available. A former inmate of the Ohio State Reformatory leads one such excursion and shares his memories of life there. 

If you want to see sites related to “Shawshank Redemption,” there are many ways to do that. The Ohio State Reformatory offers tours that highlight places where scenes were filmed. You can also book a Shawshank-themed bus tour that includes the reformatory and other filming sites nearby.

The prison offers frequent nighttime events centered around ghosts and the paranormal. These include public and private investigation events based on the participant experience level for people aged 18 and older. Alternatively, the reformatory offers ghost tours in which a guide tells stories as you tour the building.

Those tours are available for 13+ visitors.

Best Hikes Near the Ohio State Reformatory

Richland B&O Trail

This trail is a paved, well-maintained 18.5-miles with a very gentle grade. Wheelchair users will certainly find it’s a good choice for exploring the area. The path winds along the river through several bridges, and the surrounding wildflowers are a big draw as well.

Gorman Nature Center

The trail at the Gorman Nature Center is 1.4 miles, paved, and praised by visitors for being uncrowded and well-maintained. The path includes passing through some covered bridges.

The natural views are stunning, and you can get information here about what wildlife you see. The trail is extra picturesque in snow, but some caution that it can be slippery then.

Best Camping Near the Ohio State Reformatory

River Trail Crossing RV Park

Located on the Clear Fork River, this RV park offers 42 spacious and level sites. It’s terrific for people who don’t want to be in a crowded resort. They provide a range of hookups, with pull-through and big-rig sites.

River Trail Crossing offers numerous activities, including fishing in the river and walking or biking the 18-mile B&O trail. You can even try your hand at panning for gold!

A laundry and a dump station are available, and pets are welcome. The current rates are $35/night. 

Pleasant Hill Lake Park Campground

With 380 sites, this campground is a place to be a little out of the way but still socialize. Pleasant Hill has full hookups and also offers dry camping. In fact, they even provide horse corrals. 

The campground has various outdoor activities such as fishing, basketball, and volleyball. There are also cabins for camping and a general store on-site. Recently, the campground added a new section that features roomy concrete pads. The current rates are around $50/night.

Is a Trip to the Ohio State Reformatory Worth It? 

Yes, it is! The Ohio State Reformatory is incredibly rich with intersecting stories of history, movie-making, and paranormal research. When you visit, you’ll be struck by the images you’ve seen in the “Shawshank Redemption.”

And you can pair that with the experience of an actual former inmate guiding your tour. Then, end your visit with an evening ghost hunt.

Is the Ohio State Reformatory on your bucket list now?

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  1. Bob says:

    I don’t know why. I haven’t and won’t as no desire to.