The cells of the old Mansfield Reformatory stand empty. Is that the howling of the wind or is it the agonized wail of a doomed soul imparting a warning. Do specters lurk in the shadows wondering why we try to get in when they would have given their immortal soul to get out? Journey through the dark corridors of this immense fortress with the Fringe team as we attempt to unlock the secrets of the Mansfield Reformatory.
Investigation Date: 8-13-11
Location: Mansfield, Ohio
- Don C
- Kelly S
- David T
- Fred S
- Jake K.
|Barometric Pressure||29.93 in.|
|Wind||3 mph S|
Before the reformatory was erected, the site the prison now stands on was grounds for a civil war training camp which opened in 1861. Camp Mordecai Bartley was named to honor the governor who served Mansfield in the 1840’s. The camp was located just north of the current reformatory. The first regiment, the 32nd, to train at the site consisted of 750 men.
Mansfield Reformatory itself was built between 1886 and 1910. The original architect was Levi Scofield of Cleveland, Ohio and construction was overseen by F. F. Schnitzer. This castle like building is classified as a Romanesque architecture. In 1990 the reformatory was shut down by order of the federal court. This decree, the Boyd Consent Decree, addressed the inhumane conditions that developed at the prison over time. After its closure, many of the support buildings and the outer wall were demolished. In 1995, the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society formed and undertook the task of rehabilitating the old reformatory. The prison now houses a museum and conducts tours regularly to help fund the rehab efforts. The reformatory is credited with having the largest free standing steel cell block in the world. The East Cell Block stands six tiers high
There are numerous reports of tragedy on the property. Arthur Lewis Glattke was the Superintendent from 1935 until 1959. He was respected by both inmates and his contemporaries. In 1950 Mrs. Glattke died of pneumonia three days after an accident where a handgun discharged as she reached into a jewelry box on a closet shelf. Mr. Glattke died of a heart attacked suffered in his office in 1959. According to records over 200 inmates died at Mansfield Reformatory as well as several guards who were killed during escape attempts. Most of those who died in the prison were victims of disease, influenza, and tuberculosis. Some also died of unnatural causes at the hands of other inmates. Inmates often met there demise in solitary confinement, or the hole. At least one inmate hung himself, one set himself on fire and one’s lifeless body was found stuffed beneath his cellmate’s bunk (prisoners sometimes shared a spot in solitary confinement). Many of the inmates who perished at the prison were buried in graves on the property marked by tombstones. The stones bear no names, only numbers; 215 in all laid out row by row.
The most notorious incident in the history of Mansfield occurred in July of 1948. The reformatory’s farm boss and his wife and daughter were kidnapped and shot to death by two men on parole who sought revenge. The men were hunted across six states and were finally captured in a shootout. One man was shot dead and the other was taken into custody. Six months later the man in custody received the death penalty; the electric chair.
In recent years the prison has been the backdrop for a number of films and TV shows. Such productions include “Ghost Adventures” and “The Shawshank Redemption” among others.
After a lurid history and much tragedy associated with an old prison it is not surprising that there would be claims of paranormal activity at this location. Tour guides and visitors claim to hear the voices of a man and woman talking. Belief is that these are the voices of the warden and his wife. Visitors claim to have sighted the wife in the superintendent’s quarters inside the administration building. In 2009 the television show “Ghost Adventures” filmed a segment at the facility and experienced problems with their equipment and charged batteries draining inexplicably. In 1926, a former inmate named Orleck attempted to free a fellow inmate still in the prison. His plan was thwarted when he was accosted by a guard, Urban Wilford, outside the West Gate. A struggle ensued and Orleck gunned down the guard and fled. Orleck was captured two months later and sentenced to death. Several witnesses claim to have seen this scene repeated (commonly referred to as a residual haunt). The claimants usually report seeing an inmate struggling with a guard near the west gate of the prison with most witnesses reporting the scenario dissipating before the fatal shot is fired.
The Fringe team arrived on a pleasant afternoon. Driving down the long entrance drive to the parking area one is amazed by the size of the prison. The structure is very imposing due to its mass and gothic-like architecture. Entering the foyer we stopped by the gift shop and small museum. After milling around a bit we took a tour of the facilities provided by the curators of the reformatory. The prison complex is very large and required much walking and stair climbing throughout the structure. There are 600 cells in the prison measuring approximately 5 x 7 feet and each cell block stands six tiers high. Interesting side notes include a cell with a gold painted toilet seat and matching trim (used for a music video shoot) and a cell with a penciled “X” above the door featured in an episode of “Ghost Hunters”. We were somewhat concerned as to how this investigation would play out as it was not a private investigation and we were sharing the location with a large group. Our concerns, however, were unfounded as the facility proved large enough that the presence of others would not contaminate any audio or visual evidence.
The Fringe team began the investigation in the lower level of the reformatory and moved upwards throughout the cell block. Our six man team split into two groups of three; David, Jake and Ray in one unit and Don, Kelly, and Fred in the other. Teams roamed through the reformatory investigating various parts of the prison. Due to the size of the location we limited our equipment usage to digital voice recorders and digital still and video cameras. Key areas we focused on included “the hole” and the warden’s living quarters area. Throughout the evening the Fringe team conducted EVP sessions and snapped photos. Later in the evening when both Fringe units merged we discussed any events that we may have experienced. Agent Jake had a personal experience during his time in one of the upper cell blocks. He claims to have felt a searing pain in his side towards his back while investigating with his teammates. He also sported a faint mark at the location of the pain. Co-director David and agents Jake and Ray also report seeing several shadows as well as hearing footsteps. They also documented a few spikes on their KII meter. At around 3:00 am the Fringe team wrapped up its investigation at the Mansfield Reformatory.
While we take our agents’ personal experiences during an investigation seriously, we can not categorize said personal experiences as evidence in and of itself. We can not explain the KII metter spikes as the lights in the facility were turned off during our stay. There were also no electrical boxes close by that may have caused a KII meter reading. This is to be expected as it would have been foolhardy to locate electrical outlets in or near a cell in a prison.
The Fringe team had an interesting evening at the old reformatory in Mansfield. As with any location that is supported by financial resources we must exercise a bit of due diligence in regards to accepting claims of paranormal activity. While we can not dismiss the experiences of others at this location, we also can not substantiate claims of activity at the reformatory. The Fringe team was not able to capture any scientifically acceptable evidence during this investigation. There are several possible reasons for the lack of evidence at this site. It may be that the environmental conditions were not conducive to paranormal activity on this evening. Paranormal activity is most often unpredictable and may not have been “hot” at this location on this night. It may also be that this location does not actually have any such activity occurring and that any such claims can be explained by natural means. That being said, we will go on record as saying that this location at this particular point in time during this particular investigation produced nothing of extraordinary note.
Prepared for Fringe Paranormal by Don C
The Mansfield evidence video
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