Travel Treasures Close to Home: The Mansfield Reformatory

by Tom Reed
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed April 22, 2004

We may travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to visit a tourist destination, but we sometimes overlook the attractions in our own backyard . These may be in Greater Cleveland, elsewhere in Ohio, or in neighboring states. Here is the first in a series of articles about such places by Tom Reed, a freelance writer who specializes in travel, and who has been writing about various subjects in our Reed's Read segment.

If you'd like to see the inside of a prison without being locked up, take a tour of the old Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.

The castle-like structure hasn't been used as a prison since 1990. The cell bars are rusting; paint is peeling off the walls and the ceilings. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society is gradually restoring the structure. But with more than 250,000 square feet of floor space, it's a big job.

The organization conducts tours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays from May 16 to September 26 this year. Weekday tours, Tuesday through Friday at 2 p.m., are offered in June, July, and August.

You have your choice of three tour routes: the tower tour, the dungeon tour, and the Hollywood tour. Movie buffs will find the latter especially fascinating. Four major motion pictures were filmed here, including The Shawshank Redemption and Air Force One. In Air Force One, the reformatory was used as a Soviet prison. The movie crew built a fake wall, using fiberglass molds to resemble the real thing. Some signs with Russian lettering are still visible.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for youth 7-17 years of age. Tours are not recommended for children under 7.

If you want to spend even more time in the slammer, try one of the overnight Ghost Hunts, scheduled on a dozen dates from May through November. Originally created as a way to document paranormal activity, the Ghost Hunts have now become a popular tourist attraction, and an important fund-raising activity for the preservation society. The cost of $50 per person includes a late-night dinner of pizza and soft drinks. Participants must be 21 or older.

To get to the reformatory, exit I-71 at U.S. 30, then go west to S.R. 545.

For more details about the tours or Ghost Hunts visit the website

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Copyright 2004 Tom Reed