Part of this trip was planned around one big side trip, a return trip to the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR). We stumbled upon this place last year when we were making another pilgrimage East but that was in October and the place was being readied for the annual Halloween activity, The Haunted Prison Experience: Death Row. Anyway we had to look at the place from a quarter-mile back through a chain-link fence. We could only imagine what marvels were hidden behind those thick brick walls and what wonders could be had from the gift shop. So this year Curt insisted we drive through Mansfield, Ohio on the way to the Heuer Family Reunion.
If you haven’t heard of this place the Historical Marker in front tells it all, “…the Ohio State Reformatory opened its doors in 1896 as a facility to rehabilitate young male offenders through hard work and education.” ” As social attitudes towards crime hardened in the mid-twentieth century it became a maximum security prison.”
The place didn’t close till 1990. Then the state just closed it down, turned off the lights and the heat and left it to the elements. In the winter the pipes froze, then burst and really did a number on the place. In 1994, Castle Rock Entertainment rented the place, put on coats of paint to disguise at lot of really bad damage, moved Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) in and filmed The Shawshank Redemption (an adaptation of the novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King.) In 1997, OSR became the Russian Prison in the movie, Air Force One.
For eight bucks you are treated to a 2 hour tour (for us it was in 85 degree heat with 75% humidity) which includes everything from the Warden’s (and his family’s, including children) living quarters (shown in the photo below labeled “Front Entrance”), outside turrets and cell blocks to the showers and solitary confinement. The East cell block is reputed to be the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block at 6 tiers high! The contrast between the Warden’s quarters and the cell blocks is striking. The place is doubly creepy because a century’s worth of paint is peeling off in large chunks, windows are broken and some vandalism is still evident from the years it was ignored. Props from the movies are still around too, like the escape tunnel and Andy’s posters of Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch. Hope our pictures get you excited for a trip of your own and make sure you go in the gift shop, they have a penny smasher!