When you chase monsters for a living, you start to become accustomed to the strange and the unexplained, but every once in awhile something happens that slaps you across the face and reminds you that when it comes to the paranormal, things can get hairy when you start to get comfortable. Such an event happened last weekend when Planet Weird found themselves lucky enough to join the Nick Groff Tour at Ohio’s amazing Mansfield Reformatory. What started as a fun meet and greet with the star and executive producer of Ghost Adventures ended up being a night of scares, strange whispers in the darkness, and an attack by an unseen force… so you know, just your average night on the Nick Groff Tour.
Before we get to the spooky evidence that left us rattled, it’s necessary to step back and take a look at the history of Mansfield Reformatory.
Built between 1886 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory served many purposes during its life as a functioning prison. Initially used as a camp to train Civil War soldiers, the reformatory was an awful place to spend your time behind bars. 154,000 inmates passed though the massive gates during its 94 years as a working prison, though quite a few never made it out alive.
Mansfield was a violent place, and the stories of abuse, torture, and murder have become part of its legendary history. Known for its “brutalizing and inhumane conditions”, it’s no surprise that Mansfield Reformatory has an infamous reputation as one of the most paranormally active buildings in the entire state of Ohio.
Everyday life for the inmates included living in absolutely deplorable conditions, rampant sickness, and in some cases, even premature and preventable death. Shankings, vicious beatings, and even cases of men being tossed over the six-story catwalks are just a few of the violent stories that make up the disturbing history of OSR.
Over the years there’ve been a handful of places throughout the jail that have managed to become synonymous with paranormal activity, but for the purposes of our own personal brush with the angry spirits of Mansfield Reformatory, we’ll stick to the Cellblock, “The Hole”, and a small space on the 3rd floor known as the “Chair Room”.
I’ll say it up front: if you haven’t been to one of the events on the Nick Groff Tour, you’re missing out. Nick Groff, host and Ghost Adventures exec-producer (2007-2014), and creator of Destination America’s Ghost Stalkers, is one of the nicest people on the planet, and every one of his events have proven to be a blast. If you get the chance, grab some tickets and GO!
Once night settled on Mansfield and we’d sufficiently creeped out all the guests with our Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult, we grabbed our gear and headed off to begin an investigation on the cellblock. If you’ve never been to OSR, you might not understand the overwhelming feeling of oppression you get looking up at 6 tiers of stacked cells. It’s easy to let your imagination get the better of you when you consider that each cell held some of the most violent men in the state.
Walking the catwalk in the pitch dark, you’re sure that you can hear the faint sound of footsteps following along behind you, or you might think that your vision has caught something shuffling around inside a darkened cell. Of all the stories of death and misery to come out of OSR, one particular piece of history kept popping into my memory: the horrifying suicide of Inmate #54673.
James Lockheart was an inmate who doused himself with turpentine and paint thinner, set himself on fire, and burned himself alive in his cell. According to another inmate, his body pealed off in chunks as they pulled him along the catwalk to the infirmary. To this day, Locheart is said to be among the most violent spirits still trapped on the cellblock.
Our next stop was “The Hole”, two rows of never-ending cells where prisoners would be held in the darkness from day until night. As you’d expect from a place nicknamed “the hole”, many men died here, often in unimaginable ways.
During our exploration of “The Hole”, myself, NG Tour Staff ninja, Donnie, and the Weirdest Man on Earth, John E. L. Tenney, separately (and without each other’s knowledge) felt drawn to a single, particular cell. At one point, we all huddled around the darkened bars to conduct an impromptu EVP session. When we played back the digital recording, the audio appeared to capture a man whispering the answers to our questions See the video below.
Later on in the evening, myself and Week in Weird Editor-In-Chief Greg Newkirk found ourselves tagging along with Michael Humphrey, a former Ohio State Reformatory inmate-turned-tour-guide, to a room simply known as “The Chair Room”. Little is know about the chair room, aside from the fact that over the years, the relatively small, windowless room has been the center of some very strange activity.
According to the stories, the room is home to a dark entity who hates it when people sit in his chair. As Mike tells it, if you move the chair away from the center of the room, the entity will move it back. In fact, Humphrey told us that he experienced this phenomena himself one day. After sliding the chair to the back of the room, he made his way to the floor below, and just as he reached the landing, he heard the unmistakable scrape of the chair moving back to its original spot… only there was no one else in the building.
As we each took turns sitting in the chair, Michael did some light provoking. Ok, maybe not so light. Alright, alright.. so he might have told the entity that he was going to drag the chair outside and smash it up into firewood. Week in Weird doesn’t exactly condone yelling at ghosts, but we were in Michael’s house, so we observed. The fact is, whatever he did worked. Maybe a little too well.
After 10 minutes of absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, Greg suddenly stumbled forward, nearly falling to the ground. Visibly shaken, he explained that he’d felt something push on his back, as if he was in a crowded room and someone had bumped into him in an attempt to get by. After a few minutes of trying to figure out what had happened, he began to experience a burning sensation on his back. The below video documents the entire experience.
Interestingly enough, none of the skin on Greg’s back was broken, and while the mysterious marks looked like scratches, they actually appeared to be welts.
Our experience at Ohio State Reformatory was a very strange one. After the scratches appeared on Greg’s back we tried to decipher how it could have happened. Did he lean against something hot? Had he scratched himself unconsciously and forgotten? His un-scuffed jacket and shirt argued that he hadn’t leaned against a wall and mistakenly scratched himself on a nail or a piece of drywall. The positioning of the scratches themselves would have made it very hard for him to have reached back to cause the marks himself. Very strange indeed.
Was Greg attacked by a ghost? Were the mysterious welts the sign of a damned soul reaching out from beyond the grave? An evil entity upset at a former inmate’s taunts? We aren’t exactly sure what happened, and to be honest, we’re okay with that.
For more information about the Nick Groff Tour, including upcoming investigations, tickets, and video recaps of past events, head to NickGroffTour.com. The tour recently announced a trip to Pennhurst State School and Hospital, which is pretty much guaranteed to be amazing. There’s also whispers of a Labor Day getaway at Virginia City…