At last year’s Inkcarceration Music & Tattoo Festival, which was held on July 14-16, 2023 at the Ohio State Reformatory, a historic and allegedly haunted former prison which most famously featured in the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption”, PANTERA frontman Philip Anselmo went on a private tour of the “Blood Prison” haunted house. A video recap of the experience can be seen below (courtesy of Danny Wimmer Presents).
“Blood Prison” is a harrowing walk through the unrelenting horrors of the Ohio State Reformatory — the state’s notoriously haunted prison. In this unsettling space where paranormal activity abounds, hear the ear-splitting wail of the warden’s widow. Encounter the frightening phantasms of maniacal inmates and deformed guards in the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block. Descend into the suffocating blackness of The Hole.
The haunted house takes guests on a 45-minute walk through several haunts, including the warden’s widow’s quarter, a post-apocalyptic corridor, and an area roamed by clowns.
“Some people come just to see the scenes, some people come for entertainment and others come for fear,” owner Victor Amesquita told Spectrum News 1. “You are going to get some sort of thrill while you are here.”
The “Blood Prison” has been a part of the Ohio State Reformatory since 2017.
According to Amesquita, the prison’s haunted reputation helps them bring the scares to their guests. “A lot of people were already thinking that coming in,” he told ABC 6. “That they’re actually coming into a haunted facility. That’s very paranormal and it’s active in that manner. So that adds a little uneasiness to the guests.”
Built in 1886, the Ohio State Reformatory served for 94 years as a working prison, housing more than 154,000 prisoners and setting the scene for major motion pictures, including “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Air Force One” and others. Listed on the National Register Of Historic Places, the prison boasts the world’s largest free-standing steel cellblock and is known as the ultimate place to ghost hunt.
By the 1920s, Ohio State Reformatory went from a prison used to reform small-time criminals to a full-fledged maximum security prison. It was eventually closed due to unsuitable conditions and overcrowding.
According to some estimates, 25,000 prisoners, including several corrections officers, lost their lives inside the prison walls.
“The Shawshank Redemption” was filmed at Ohio State Reformatory and central Ohio in June, July and August 1993.
According to The Ohio State Reformatory Preservation Society, the Ohio State Reformatory was designed by Cleveland architect Levi Scofield. Scofield designed the striking limestone building to be an uplifting, inspiring, and intimidating structure. The Reformatory was originally called the “Intermediate Penitentiary” since it accepted inmates who were too old for juvenile corrections but had committed offenses more minor than those that sent others to the Ohio State Penitentiary. The facility admitted its first inmates in 1896 after ten years of construction.
The goal of the institution was truly to “reform” and rehabilitate its inmates, who received three things during their time at OSR: religion, education, and a trade. Inmates were admitted for 18 months, and if they showed progress, they could be released after that time. If not, they received another 18 months. The model was successful and Ohio State Reformatory had a high success rate and a low recidivism rate.
By the early 1960s, however, the state pulled its financial support from the reform model and began converting Ohio State Reformatory into a maximum security facility, a purpose for which it was never intended. By the 1980s, the conditions had deteriorated to the point where the inmates sued the state of Ohio. The lawsuit was successful, and construction began on a new modern facility nearby. The Reformatory was finally closed in 1990. It sat empty for several years until local activists rallied to purchase the building from the state (for $1) and committed to repairing and restoring this historic structure.
The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society is a non-profit overseen by a volunteer board and every donation goes directly to the maintenance and restoration of the building.
The Reformatory houses the official Ohio State Corrections History Museum, is a popular site for ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts, hosts numerous special events, and as of 2018 welcomes more than 120,000 visitors per year.
The building’s striking architecture is a favorite choice for filmmakers. A number of films and music videos have been made at Ohio State Reformatory over the years, with “The Shawshank Redemption” as the best known and most widely loved. Other films include “Harry And Walter Go To New York”, “Tango And Cash”, “Air Force One”, “Escape Plan: The Extractors” and “Judas And The Black Messiah”.