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Haunted? Really? The Skeptic’s Guide to Paranormal Activity

Nearly half of Americans believe in ghosts and the paranormal activity surrounding their existence…however, suspiciously murky spirit photography and unreliable rumors lead skeptics to wonder: How much of this so-called “evidence” is based in truth, and how much is based in fiction (intentionally or unintentionally)?

We asked one of the enthusiasts. Molly Cabrera is the Program Coordinator at the Ohio State Reformatory, the famous site of a multitude of compelling ghost sightings.

What does a genuine paranormal experience look like?

Cabrera sees the physical experience of a ghost hunt as the most memorable form of evidence. “There’s no way to capture the feeling of your skin crawling as the temperature of the room drops,” says Molly. “The best tools investigators have are their senses.”

Guests walk through the Reformatory’s doors hoping to witness a paranormal occurrence—and to walk away with an impressive picture or two for Instagram. According to Cabrera, many succeed.

“Typically, they capture that [evidence] with the use of cameras and voice recorders… That is how most would recognize a haunting.” 

How do the ghosts at the Reformatory typically reveal themselves?

“The most common report of paranormal sightings at OSR would be shadow figures,” Cabrera reports. “I have had multiple visitors (and staff) speak of a tall, dark, human-like figure lurking in solitary confinement.”

Other phenomena reported include footsteps down the halls (with no apparent source), strange smells (including the scents of roses and cigars in Warden’s Quarters), and the sudden sounds of slamming doors.

Haunted? Really? The Skeptic’s Guide to Paranormal Activity | The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH

 How does one recognize a fake haunting?

Just the experience of being in a new and unfamiliar place can feel like a haunting without truly being a paranormal moment, causing visitors to mistake the natural for the supernatural.

“Because the building is old, it has squeaky floors and strange, unfamiliar noises,” Cabrera explains. “To no fault of ours, some guests will take those noises [to be] paranormal.”

“You hope that places with paranormal claims are truthful with the activity that happens, but some are just not credible.”

Facilities that advertise fake hauntings can fool the inexperienced ghost hunter by tampering with evidence: editing photos and distorting recordings.

Don’t be fooled! Take up the Ghost Hunt Challenge

If you have an interest in the paranormal (skeptical or otherwise!), the Ohio State Reformatory is a powerful place to begin, with a rich history of hauntings dating back to the prison’s early days.

Make a date to experience the Reformatory’s guided tour to learn more about its inhabitants on the other side, or enroll in ghost hunting classes to increase your chances of spotting the paranormal. Learn more >>