Mansfield Reformatory Ghost Hunt
September 7th, 2001
One of the most extraordinary events that we have ever attended has to be the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) Ghost Hunt, located in Mansfield, Ohio. The ghost hunt is sponsored by the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (MRPS). The MRPS Ghost Hunt is an informal attempt to document paranormal activity at the former prison. The Ghost hunt provides an unusual first hand experience to delve into the possibility of other realms, as well as the opportunity to explore a unique historic structure. Many men have died at the prison since its inception in 1886; perhaps their spirits still haunt the massive and ominous castle-like building. According to MRPS there have been reports of shadowy figures, strange lights (often called orbs), voices, strange smells, and footsteps in an otherwise deserted building. In order to find out for yourself you must be over 21 years of age and pay a fee of $50.00. This fee entitles you to explore the prison unattended from 8pm until dawn the next day, and it gets you a late night dinner of pizza and soda. The prison is not lighted or heated and sections are seriously deteriorating so wandering about this place at night is an adventure in and of itself, never mind the possibility that ghosts are lurking in the shadows. This unique event is the first of its kind in the country.
We arrived late to the prison on the night of our hunt, and unfortunately we missed the briefing on the grounds. Luckily we had researched the prison on the internet and were somewhat familiar with the supposed active areas of the building. One area being the Warden’s Quarters. It is here that the Warden’s wife was accidentally killed when she pulled a hatbox from the top shelf of her closet. Unbeknownst to her there was a loaded gun behind the box which fell and discharged killing her. Her name was Helen and it is said that her spirit still occupies the quarters. Encounters with Helen range from hearing voices to the most interesting manifestation of smelling her perfume. The warden himself also died at the prison and many claim to have felt his presence as well. Several people say that they smell the aroma of cigars when his spirit is near; others have heard him and his wife arguing. The prime time for all of this activity seems to be after midnight, specifically after 3am. We decided we would explore the cell block first and then return to this area later in the evening. We headed towards the dark cell block armed with headlamps, cameras, and a video camera. Our hearts were pounding as we entered the desolate looking row of prison cells. We had read that the best way to document spirit activity was to take pictures and video the area. Apparently, orbs or streaks of light often manifest on film but are rarely seen by the naked eye. So we walked around filming in night vision and snapping photos with our 35mm camera. We never felt anything strange but one of our photos did come back with unexplained streaks of light surrounding me while I stood in a cell. Now, I have been a photographer for many years and I know how it is possible to fake such things, but I honestly cannot explain how those lights could have gotten in the picture. The area was pitch black and both Pick and I turned off our headlamps when taking the photo. No one else was in the area either that could have shined a flashlight our way, it is truly eerie. It was now close to midnight so we headed back towards the front of the building for some soda and pizza and to check out the gift shop. An event that was to change our lives was only hours away at this point.
Shortly after midnight we finished our pizza and decided to head up to the Warden’s Quarters. Pick lead the way up the massive staircase and I followed closely behind. Near the top of the second set of stairs Pick stopped abruptly and with a shaky voice said “Do you smell that?” I answered that I did not notice anything and then it hit me. Hanging in the air was the strong scent of perfume. The odor was not anything I can describe in modern terms. It can only be described as an old-fashioned rose water or lavender perfume. We continued on up to the top of the stairs and found a room off to the left of the hallway where it seemed the smell was coming from. We walked into the room and discovered that it was an old bathroom. Already investigating the scent were a pair of twins, they inquired if we noticed the aroma as well. We acknowledged that we did indeed and then all at once it disappeared. The four of us walked around the room for several minutes and we began to notice that the smell would reappear in certain areas then vanish. Sometimes the rose smell was so over-powering that it was somewhat sickening. Being a bit skeptical I wondered if someone could have sprayed something, but it became quite obvious that it was unlikely. If someone had sprayed something how could it just disappear and then reappear in a different area of the room? I became convinced that we were truly experiencing something paranormal, was it the ghost of Helen? The twins, Carol and Cheryl, were avid ghost hunters and they informed us that it was quite likely that it was indeed Helen’s spirit as this was her bathroom. The fragrance lingered around for about fifteen minutes and then finally disappeared for the last time. This event genuinely freaked Pick out. She was reluctant to go on the ghost hunt in the first place, and this event confirmed her fears. I personally was thrilled to have experienced something so extraordinary; it was just what I was hoping for.
We stayed late into the night hoping for, but at the same time dreading, another experience. Pick became more and more apprehensive as the night went on especially as we neared the “witching hour” of 3am. Her apprehension even started to unnerve me. It was then that we met a group of students who relayed their experiences from previous hunts. They told us that it was quite common to have electrical disturbances during the later hours. They said that when an energy is present your camera, video camera, and flashlights are likely to just go completely dead. Well, this was enough for Pick. She decided she had had enough of ghost hunting. We left the prison around three in the morning and headed home. We will never forget the experience that we had that night and someday I hope to talk Pick into going back, but until then I can say that I truly believe we encountered something paranormal that night. I leave it to all of you to decide for yourselves.
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