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SHOCKING PROOF of 10 Real-Life Ghost Stories at an Ohio Prison

From the suicides of desperate inmates to the mysterious death of the prison superintendent’s wife, death was a constant within the Ohio State Reformatory’s walls for decades. These dramatic past events make for the perfect hunting ground for haunting grounds.

Here are some of the prison’s most famous residents… some of whom you might meet when you visit*…

1. HELEN GLATTKE: In 1949, Helen Glattke, the wife of Arthur Glattke (the prison’s superintendent from 1935 to 1959) died unexpectedly: as Helen reached up to her closet shelf to retrieve her jewelry box, a handgun fell – according to the official report – and discharged, striking Helen’s left lung. Two days later, she died of complications from the injury.

GLATTKE GHOST SIGHTINGS: Ghost hunters have smelled the scent of roses (Helen’s distinctive perfume) and seen Helen walking to her bathroom. Others have reported smelling the fumes of the cigars he habitually smoked.

When Helen and Arthur passed—he died of a heart attack nearly a decade later—they left their sons orphaned. Molly Cabrera, the Ohio State Reformatory’s Program Coordinator, says: “We believe Helen and Arthur are attached to this building because they raised their family here,” who moved out following their respective high school graduations.

2. THE GUARDS KEEP GUARDING: Working in one of the country’s most disreputable prisons, over-crowded, disease-ridden, and brutal on inmates, the prison’s guards were frequently subject to violence… even as they doled it out to prisoners. They linger still.

GUARD GHOST SIGHTINGS: Some investigators have experienced invisible hands assisting them up the stairs at the Reformatory, feeling pressure on the small of their backs or arms.

3. FRANK HANGER: One of the prison guards, Frank was murdered by a disgruntled inmate in the 1940s. He can still be found at his old place of business.

HANGER GHOST SIGHTINGS: “We have had reports of [Hanger] … being spotted repeatedly, not only on camera but during a live investigation,” says Cabrera. Frank, true to his role in life, is “known to respond well to authority figures, like police officers.”

4. IN THE HOLE: Two inmates went into solitary confinement, but only one came out. The other was found dead, stuffed under the bed.

THE HOLE GHOST SIGHTINGS: “The Hole,” is one of the most haunted spots in the prison: visitors report experiencing nausea and discomfort, as well as other phenomena like cold spots, the feeling of “being watched,” and mysterious breathing down their necks.

5. THE BOY IN THE BASEMENT: The Ohio State Reformatory’s basement is the site of a particularly disturbing tale of a boy of only fourteen being beaten to death.

BASEMENT GHOST SIGHTING: Sightings of the boy’s small figure have been reported, along with a vague sense of his “malicious presence.” Others claim to have seen a figure running away, as if in fear. 

6. SUICIDE SPIRITS: Life at the Reformatory could be brutal. More than a few inmates committed suicide out of desperation. In the shower room, located in the east block cell, a supernatural presence is often noted, thought to be the spirit of one inmate who hung himself.

SUICIDE GHOST SIGHTINGS: Today, he messes with flashlights and other electronics. Visitors have also reported feeling as though they, too, are being choked.

7. GRAVEYARD GHOULS: As frequently as inmates died, it should be little surprise that the Reformatory boasts a substantial cemetery. A former area of the grounds, it’s still used to bury prisoners who die while incarcerated. Many people believe that inmates who were buried in the cemetery still come back and haunt the reformatory and report to us. 

8. DEATH BY FIRE: According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the East cell block is the largest free-standing group of cells … and the quantity of ghosts is equally as daunting! Here, among numerous violent deaths, one infamous story stands out as particularly macabre: One desperate inmate doused himself in kerosene and lit a match, burning himself to death.

FIERY GHOST SIGHTING: Rumor has it that occasionally, his dying form is visible to visitors, a startling sight for the mild-mannered. 

9. WATCH YOUR STEP: The stairway leading to the guard tower at the Mansfield Reformatory is more perilous than it might first appear.

STAIRWAY GHOST SIGHTINGS: There have been reports of unseen occupants shoving visitors, who must take care to avoid falling as a result. Voices and laughter can be heard echoing there, as well. 

SHOCKING PROOF of 10 Real-Life Ghost Stories at an Ohio Prison | The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio

In December of 1891, Ms. Wise was tortured by robbers who broke into her home to steal the “family treasure” rumored (falsely) to be hidden on the premises. After stealing what money and jewelry she had, robbers left a brutalized Phoebe to free herself from where she was tied and make her way to the Reformatory to contact the police. A local “eccentric,” Ms. Wise can’t seem to move on, perhaps as a result of this horrific trauma and the many others that plagued her.

WISE GHOST SIGHTINGS: Relatively harmless but liable to startle newcomers, Phoebe can often be seen heading toward the Reformatory, either in pursuit of police aid or to fetch water from the spring nearby, and some claim she’s tried to hitch a ride back. Her appearance can be alarming: during Ms. Wise’s life, her stooped form and state of dress, combined with her reputation for shouting angrily at passersby, convinced local children that she was a witch.


*Not all areas are accessible on ghost hunts.

Skeptical? Want to experience the Reformatory for yourself? Stay the night in the Reformatory and take the Ghost Hunt Challenge. Learn More >>