Saturday, November 21, 2009
My brother recently moved to Canton, Ohio. My parents went to visit him and took a trip to Mansfield Prison, which was used in the film Shawshank Redemption. The prison was built in 1886 and held over 150,000 hardened criminals. The prison is supposedly one of the most haunted places on earth.
I happened to be up last night watching the Travel Channel and there was a documentary on the prison. It was so interesting that I thought I would share some information about the dreary place with you all.
The cornerstone laid on November 4, 1886 evolved into this magnificent Chateauesque structure. Cleveland architect Levi T. Scofield designed the Ohio State Reformatory using a combination of three architectural styles; Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne. This was done to encourage inmates back to a "rebirth" of their spiritual lives. The architecture itself inspired them to turn away from their sinful lifestyle, and toward repentance. This grand structure is comprised of more than 250,000 square feet and houses the world's largest free-standing steel cell block.
The Reformatory doors were opened to its first 150 young offenders in September 1896. After housing over 155,000 men in its lifetime, the doors to the prison closed December 31, 1990.
No matter what their crime, some sent to Mansfield have never left. They rest unclaimed in a cheerless graveyard just outside the fence. 215 numbered markers laid out row on row. Most were victims of disease, influenza, tuberculosis, but some died of less natural causes; From the violence, that is all to common inside any prison and was far from unknown in this one. And the worst of it occurred well away from the main cell block with their rows of cages stacked tier on tier, and inmates, one or two to a cell. There were too many eyes, too many witnesses here, no the worst of it was reserved for a far lonelier place, deep beneath the prison ground. A place called local control, or solitary, by some, known by everyone else as the hole. Near total isolation can crack all but the toughest of cons, but none was so alone that there wasn't room for death. At least one inmate managed to hang himself, another set himself on fire, once two men left too long in a single tomb like cell, only one walked out, leaving his cellmate's body behind, stuffed beneath a bunk.
Even when they're empty, some swear something walks these halls. It isn't enough for contemporary visitors not to wonder off alone while sight seeing, what‘s become one of Mansfield's more popular tourist attractions. But the bloodiest single incident in the old prison's history occurred outside it's walls. In July 1948, when the Reformatory's farm boss, his wife and daughter were kidnapped and shot to death by two parolees bent on revenge. A six state manhunt for the so called mad-dog killers ended in a shootout that left Robert Daniels of Columbus in custody and his partner, James West dead. "I'll get the Chair" Daniels told police as he signed the confession. And on January 3rd, 1949, he did. A year later in 1950 disaster struck again. This time, here in the living quarters of the Warden himself. The Warden's wife, removing a jewelry box from a closet shelf dislodged a pistol from it's hiding place. When it hit the floor, the gun went off inflicting a fatal wound. And within the decade, even more bad luck. The Warden, hard at work in his office, suffered a heart attack and died. All this was nearly 40 years ago and more, how then to explain the voices shaken tour guides swear they hear today? Man and woman talking, to faint to understand, too persistent to ignore and chilling to listeners who think they're alone, only to find themselves apparently eavesdropping on the warden and his wife locked forever in an endless conversation from beyond the grave.
The tour guides often have experiences they cannot explain. The photos my parents took had hundreds of orbs all over them. I can't wait to visit. Enjoy your Saturday friends!
All information provided by: Ohio State Reformatory