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

OHIO STATE REFORMATORY

Glattke | Inmates | Guards | Robert Daniels | Ghosts | Reformatory Rd Ghost

A gothic prison born of hope was built in Mansfield, Ohio.

Completed from 1886 to 1910, it took years to build up those cellblocks. Renovated and updated as inmates are moved in and out until 1910 when the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory broke a world record

Cellblocks an amazing 6 levels high.

Mansfield rises - -
In the perfect location, far enough from Columbus, and it’s the former Mordecai Bartley Civil War camp.

Architect Levi Scofield was hired. He decided on part German castle, part gothic church. Scofield believed in the psychology of buildings. His believed his creation would provide spiritual uplift. Maybe just coincidence that the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory would became such a magnet for the paranormal today.

Mansfield was different from other prisons which focused on pain and suffering. It was about motivation, rehabilitation and mercy. Prisoners at Mansfield where meant for great things.

It ran on these intentions for 100 years, officially closing on New Year’s Eve in 1990.

The government felt The Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory was cruel punishment by modern standards.

Arthur Glattke

Arthur Lewis Glattke was a memorable Warden at the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory.

Appointed by Governor Marty Davey after helping him get elected in 1935, Arthur would quickly implement new ideas and techniques.

He pumped slow music into cellblocks to keep inmates calm. Maybe Stephen King knew this when writing Shawshank Redemption (which was filmed at Mansfield Reformatory). The scene when Andy Dufrane (Tim Robbins) plays opera over the intercom.

In Glattke’s prison Andy would have been congratulated.

Disaster strikes - -
All was great for Glattke, he had respect from guards and inmates and operated a calm prison praised by the community.

It changed one Sunday morning in 1950 as his family got ready for church up in the Warden’s apartment in Mansfield.

His wife Helen reached into the closet for her jewelry box. Found it after pushing aside a hard steel object which fell to the floor. The loaded hit the ground by the handle and went off.

Helen was shot. Arthur rushed her to Mansfield Hospital but it was too late.

She held on for three days before dying with an official cause of “pneumonia brought on by a wound”.

Fake News - -
People gossiped. They said Arthur took the gun down and shot his wife then making it look like an accident. This ridiculousness carried on into some of the “ghost stories” inside the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory.

Doesn’t take a genius to see this is crazy. Definitely anyone who knew the man, or a Canadian author (like myself) just reading a bit of history would know his character.

The gossip was a lie. He obviously loved Helen, a lose that brought on Arthur’s decline.

9 years after her death, in 1959, Arthur was working in his office. Pain exploded in his chest and the guards call an ambulance.

Warden Arthur Glattke was alive when he left Mansfield Reformatory, later dying in the hospital.

He was a dedicated steward to the end.

What it’s like to be an inmate at Mansfield

The Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory’s goal was to motivate criminals who’ve given up on society. With 100 years of trying, there’s going to be failures.

A Riot - -
In 1957, 120 Mansfield inmates rioted. Guards got it under control, but punishment must be dealt.

All 120 men were put in solitary. 20 small cells made for 1 man were packed with 6 men each, then left to endure darkness for a month.

The guards mistakenly 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 or heard as one of the men was murdered.

One month later… they open that cell to find just 5 men and a corpse, neatly stuffed under the bed.

James Lockhart - -
He was in cell #13, 4th level, on the north side of East Block.

Lockhart stole turpentine from the prison furniture shop. Then on January 30th, while inside that cell, he poured the liquid over his head and lit a match.

His neighbour started screaming as flames shot out of Lockhart’s cell into his own. The man had to splash sink water to stave off the burns.

The guards came but 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 just one year at the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory for damaging some property during a break in.

Then 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 for him at the other prison and fear of some type of revenge made Larry choose death.

What it’s like to be a guard at Mansfield

72 year old Urban Wilford was a guard at Mansfield in the 1920s. Supposed to be enjoying retirement with his loving wife, this former police officer from England still loved his job at the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory.

Until the day he met Philip Orleck.

Orleck was recently paroled. He could have started a new life but friendship brought him back. He came up with an escape plan for still locked-up buddy.

He came back to Mansfield, entering by the West Gate. Wilford recognized him and blocked the path as Orleck pulled a gun and started shooting as other guards rushed in.

Thanks to Wilford, Orleck was delayed, allowing the guards to get him. Sadly the kindly old guard was dead.

Orleck followed him just one year later via the electric chair.

Another escape was attempted in 1932, as several prisoners tried sneaking out a back way just as guard Frank Hanger walked in.

They ran as two inmates stopped to slow Hanger. One grabbed an iron bar and hit the guard, knocking him to the ground. Both men beat on Hanger, the bar swung down until the guard stopped breathing.

They all ran, and were all quickly found.

Every one of the inmates convicted of Hanger’s murder.

Three served long sentences. The other two, the men who physically killed Hanger 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 (Mansfield) Reformatory’s long history.

Daniels was a “psychopathic personality” and West was a moron. The two in their 20’s would first meet in a Mansfield cell, connecting on their love for robbery.

Released on parole just one year apart, they would meet up on the outside in July of 1948. Together they walked into a local tavern, shot the owner and a woman. The owner died but the woman lived.

Called the “mad-dog killers”, Daniels and West went on a spree. Different cities, they would drink, rob and hit on girls.

Then one calm, drunken night they remembered an Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory guard named “Red”. Talking back and forth, saying how Red treated them poorly, he was so mean.

They decided 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, walking them into a field and down on their knees. They shot and killed them all.

A manhunt concluded with Daniels and West meeting the Van Wert County police.

Daniels is captured alive just before simpleton West starts shooting at a Van Wert Sergeant. The Sergeant is hit, falls to the ground, rolling and returning fire. The bullet hits West between the eyes.

Not long after, death row inmate Robert Daniels is interviewed by the Movietone News.

Robert Daniels winks for the audience

A dramatic conversation as Daniels repeated his confession to the police. Said he just wanted “Red”, the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory guard.

He didn’t want the Niebels to die. He would have tied them up, but there was no rope.

Roberts said, “I’m sorry the wife and daughter had to die. After my score was settled with Red, I was ready to die. I haven’t got it settled, but guess I’ll die anyhow”, then winking to the camera, stunning the audience.

One year later Robert Daniels life was ended in the electric chair.

Hollywood Visits Mansfield Reformatory

Mansfield Reformatory was the backdrop for many movies and TV shows like…

  1. Harry and Walter Go to New York
    They spend time behind bars. The real jail was still open when filmed in 1976
  2. Tango & Cash
    Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell filmed all prison scenes in Mansfield
  3. Fallen Angels
    Horror movie filmed entirely in Mansfield
  4. Air Force One
    Harrison Ford was in Mansfield used as a Russian prison holding Ivan Radek
  5. 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.

The Ohio State (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 that kind of energy which creates haunted places. All that death, mixed with Scofield’s energetic 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. They may remain.

A smell of roses hangs near the “pink bathroom”. This was Helen’s personal bathroom.

Old buildings have trouble with heating and cooling. Heat will fill the apartment on hot days, but at its most sweltering cold spots are still felt in random spaces. Many ghost hunters are refreshed on the hottest day.

Cold spots are common in haunted places, could be residual (or left over) energy.

Faint voices are heard in the middle of conversation. Volunteers at Mansfield have heard the talking, sounding like a man and woman. Sometimes when shutting down, late at night, voice faint from an opposite room while walking through the Administration Wing.

They think its guests, lost and trying to find their way out. The volunteers walk into Glattke’s apartment to find it empty, the voices gone.

Theodore Glattke is the youngest son of Arthur and Helen. He was raised in the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory apartment and hates how the building is run today.

He wanted his views known, sitting down for an interview with a ghost enthusiast named Rebecca Muller, he told her…

“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 - -
It’s a mysterious space inside Mansfield Reformatory. Not because of the religious gatherings of reformed men, but instead legends the space was used by guards for torturing inmates.

Many orb photos are captured inside the chapel. Maybe dust in a very dusty Mansfield.

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 felt in different ways. Like dread, depression and visitors getting sick.

Injured and diseased inmates in the Reformatory spent much 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 - -
Featuring the unproven legend of a boy believed to be only 14 years old. It’s unknown why he wanders the basement.

The former employee communicated with many psychics. He told them how he died from a beating when cornered by inmates in the basement. Why it happened is unknown.

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

Objects are seen moving around the room.

When entering, people see a woman. She walks through the room, surprising the visitor and making them question whether it happened.

Communication has been achieved by visitors revealing her as a nurse.

The woman said she was killed by a prisoner and she always “liked the library”.

The Six Level Cellblock - -
Ghosts come from history but can also be part of it.

When Mansfield was still a prison, many inmates told guards they were scared at night.

Soundly sleeping they’d feel hands grab the bed sheets as the fabric is pulled tight, then loose again. Like a ghost was “tucking them in”.

Different inmates all over Mansfield had the experience, always at lights-out. Some scrambling out of bed to see the covers tucked completely under the mattress. Causing the most tough and violent inmates to freak out.

Reported to Graveaddiction.com in 2006 - -
Carrie says, “I just got back from visiting Mansfield. We had an experience in a cell marked with an "X".

“Taken back to the cellblock after a tour, 9 of us with a guide. The guide went silent. We heard running. The guide yelled, “running is not allowed” thinking it was one of us. Then noticed no one was missing and a distant cell door slammed shut.

“We all left. Our guide was 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 high school students in front.

“I’m clumsy; was holding tight to my friend's hand and the railing when a hand slapped my back.

“It threw me forward and jarred my friend to the side. I fell, hard, down to a knee, quickly spinning to face my attacker. No one was behind me.”

Reported to Ohio State Reformatory’s Facebook Page - -
Randy says, “On my last visit to the Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield), my camera and recorder picked up tapping.”

He heard tapping on some cell walls. Thinking it was Morse Code, he let a military friend listen. The friend knew Morse, and knew this wasn’t it.

“Might be a code the prisoners developed themselves, [to communicate] and keep guards from catching on.

“[Not an equipment malfunction as] this 'tapping noise' is not on any other recording before the Ohio State Reformatory or after.”

The Hole (Solitary Confinement) - -
The Hole embodied suffering for 100 years. 20 small basement cells used the active Ohio State Reformatory.

It’s dark in there on the sunniest day, where inmates were forced to lay on roach infested floors and starved with small portions of bread and water served every 3 days.

Visitors enter the Hole feeling sick before stories are told. Chills running up their spines and a feeling someone is watching from dark cells. Some have seen glowing eyes.

Again from the GraveAddiction.com, Michelle reports in 2007, “I worked haunted prison last year and was assigned to solitary confinement. Me and another girl, down there on opposite ends, and we heard people shuffling around the hallway.

“[Thinking it was visitors, and] they 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 yelled at no one. 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 ghost in human form, but instead an element appearing in photos. The shining and familiar red glow like a Muppet named Elmo.

Elmo has no shape and causes visitors to feel fearful and angry.

Elmo is dangerous. Accidents occur like guests being pushed down stairs or struck with unseen objects. Right after, photo evidence reveals the guilty red glow.

They say Elmo is posing if bright red, or a cluster of three red orbs, just as a rotten smell invades your space.

A group moved through one room as the smell rolled in. Looking around as if each was accusing the other, then every camera shut off at once.

They retreated to the administration wing, where the smell was gone and all cameras working again.

The Inmate Cemetery - -
Unclaimed inmates rest in a godless field just outside the fence.

215 markers as a final honour to hated men claimed by influenza, tuberculosis and violence.

Not much to report from the cemetery. The reason, you can’t go back to investigate.

There’s a working prison located behind the Ohio State Reformatory and the cemetery sits on restricted space.

If you mistakenly stumble back there, a dark SUV will approach. Guards emerge and ask questions. And you might get arrested.

Worth a Visit

The Ohio State Reformatory sits on many “most haunted place” lists. A big part of the “save history with ghosts” movement. Or a way to open historic structures, like TransAllegheny and West Virginia Penitentiary.

Everything at Ohio State Reformatory started positive with good intentions. Scofield had no idea what would happen.

Today it’s a spooky looking, abandoned complex filled with dark history, enough to draw any enthusiastic ghost hunter.

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 thought her insane.

They witness Phoebe having full conversations with her horse, dog and many stray cats.

She inherited it from her father, a successful surveyor in Mansfield, Ohio. He died in 1887, and the once nice house fell into disrepair as years pass, Phoebe living alone.

She didn’t work and couldn’t afford the house, causing her to sell off half the land.

But for some reason people thought she was rich. They heard Phoebe didn’t trust banks, meaning there must be a fortune stuffed somewhere in the house.

On Christmas Eve in 1891, 3 men went to prove the legend.

Wise heard noises in her sitting room. She walked in, the men holding guns with bandannas over their faces. One grabbed Phoebe by the throat and squeezed as another yelled for the money.

She coughed out, “I’ll show you”, but didn’t move or say where.

They’d tie Phoebe to a chair, light a torch and burn her feet while screaming, “Where’s the money?” over and over. She cracked, the men led to a diamond ring, gold watch, a chain and some cash. No treasure.

Frustrated, they sat in the kitchen and ate pie, deciding how to share the loot before leaving.

The police found all 3 men, arrested but not one spent time in jail.

The crime brought unwanted fame to Phoebe Wise.

A stranger named Jacob started stalking her. He’d visit the house on Reformatory Road many nights, tapping on her window, knocking at the door and watching her through the windows.

He’d later say it was Phoebe’s beautiful piano music enticing him to stay and eventually break into the house. He assaulted her, was arrested and went to jail. Jacob ended at an insane asylum before being released.

He went right back to Phoebe, one last time in May of 1898. Jacob yelled through an open window, “Marry me or kill me Phoebe Wise”.

She chose to kill him, pointing a rifle at the window and firing. The spray of bullets into the man’s shoulders and lungs instantly killed him.

The next day Mansfield’s newspaper reported, “Phoebe Wise rids herself of an intolerable nuisance”.

She was never charged.

Phoebe Wise died in 1933 of old age. The famed house left abandoned, but not for long.

Many locals still believed the legend. They went in, tore apart floors and walls looking for the treasure. 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, including ghost hunters staring out from the Ohio State (Mansfield) Reformatory.

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Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, OH, United States of America