If touring creepy, historic prisons and getting a “behind the scenes” look at a famous movie filming location is your cup of tea, you are in for a treat.
We had the pleasure of visiting The Ohio State Reformatory, located in Mansfield, Ohio, a prison that was built in 1886 and closed in 1990. This magnificent structure was built for young first-time offenders to have a spiritual rebirth and later became famous for violence and inhumane conditions. It housed over 155,000 men over the years, and is now a museum and historical site.
The reformatory has been featured in many tv shows, movies, and music videos, including “Tango and Cash (warning- bad language in this scene),” “Airforce One”… and most notably, “The Shawshank Redemption.”
There are pieces of Shawshank memorabilia throughout the prison, as well as throughout the surrounding Mansfield area, where you can enjoy on the “Shawshank Trail“. Scenes from the outdoor courtyard, the warden’s office, and Brooks’ and Red’s halfway house room, Andy’s time in “the hole,” and the parole board hearing were filmed at the prison. The famous shots of Andy’s escape (from his cell and crawling through pipes) were partially filmed in two long tubes that were on display, as well. Interestingly, the actual prison scenes were filmed in an offsite set.
Shawshank Redemption Fans… Rejoice!
Andy’s Escape Hole in his cell (it’s actually a long tube):
The Pipe Andy Crawled Through (yep, another dirt and rock filled tube):
Brooks’ and Red’s room in the Halfway House (actually filmed in this room in the reformatory):
Andy’s Solitary Confinement Cell:
Parole Board Hearing Room:
Touring The Reformatory
The cells were small and sobering.
The East Cell Block is imposing. It remains the largest free standing steel cell block in the world at six tiers high.
The tour has two distinct areas- 1) housing for the staff and their families and 2) the prison. The transition between the two areas takes visitors across a very tall walkway from the Chapel into the East Cell Block. It’s vertigo-inducing (and completely terrifying).
Exclusive Look- Check out the video to experience the walkway and the tour:
The Solitary Confinement area was small, dark, and will prompt you to want to behave.
The Warden’s Quarters
Although some of the building has been restored, much of it is in disrepair. The reformatory raises funds for restoration and operations through tours, etc.
Before our tour, I was aware that the reformatory held ghost hunting tours, and it has been the site of many ghost hunting TV shows. But I am easily creeped out, so I purposefully didn’t do any research before our trip. Thankfully, I experienced nothing out of the ordinary or paranormal during our visit. In writing this post, I have done a bit of reading on the paranormal activity of the prison and it’s violent history. All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t know about it before I went on the tour. Eeek!
Get Busy Living
Whether you are a history buff, a movie fan or a ghost hunter (or a combination of the three), I highly recommend a visit to the Ohio State Reformatory. It’s a unique way to spend an afternoon for the entire family. Personally, I really enjoyed seeing where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I now have the pleasure of connecting my own memories and experiences with this film.
I’ll leave you with one of my all-time favorite scenes from the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” which features the famous quote about choices in life. I have a feeling that it’s meaningful to many RVers out there, too.
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy