Monday, September 7, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 66 - Ohio State Reformatory

Moment in Oddity - The Hammersmith Ghost

The year was 1803 and superstitions ran strong in the Hammersmith District of London. Many people started coming forward and complaining to authorities that a ghost had been harassing them near the Hammersmith Graveyard. Rumors circulated that the ghost must belong to someone at unrest in the graveyard because its body had been buried in consecrated ground. The belief at the time was that if someone committed suicide, they could not be buried in consecrated ground or the soul would not rest. Thus the culprit of these harassments must be the spirit of a suicide victim. An excise officer by the name of Francis Smith decided to take matters into his own hands and he hid outside the graveyard, waiting for the ghost to appear. Why he thought a bullet would kill a ghost is beyond our understanding. Sure enough, the ghost appeared and Smith fired his gun. The ghost fell over dead. And as you probably already guessed, the ghost Smith saw was actually a real man. He was a plasterer named Thomas Millwood and he was wearing the customary white shirt, pants and apron. Smith was arrested and tried and although he argued that he only shot because he thought Millwood was a ghost, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang. The King later commuted the sentence to hard labor. It was sometime later when an elderly shoemaker came forward and admitted that he was the Hammersmith Ghost. Apparently, he would wear a white sheet because he wanted to scare his apprentice who had in turn been scaring the elderly shoemaker's children with ghost stories. Now that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Perkin Warbeck Declared Richard IV

On this day, September 7th, in 1497, a sailor by the name of Perkin Warbeck is declared to be Richard IV on Bodwin Moor in Cornwall. The only problem is that Perkin is not a part of the monarchy. Perkin's true past is cloudy, but he would claim after being imprisoned that he was born to a Flemish father. Perkin first claimed the English throne in 1490. He had been traveling with a merchant and had put on some of the fine silk clothing the merchant sold. When the people of York saw him in the clothing, Perkin claims they demanded that he pretend to be the younger son of King Edward IV in order to get revenge on the king. Perkin tells people that he is Richard of Shrewsbury and that he has been absent because he and his brother, Edward V, had been captured. His brother had been killed, but the captors let him go if he promised to hide his identity for seven years. The aunt of the real Richard backed Perkin and he gained more support. King Henry VII knew that Perkin was an imposter though and he complained to other royals. After officially being declared King Richard IV on Sept. 7th, Perkin put together a Cornish army and went after King Henry VII. When Perkin heard of Henry VII's forces, he became fearful and abandoned his army. King Henry captured him and threw him into the Tower of London where he would confess to being a pretender. He later escaped twice and was finally drawn in Tyburn where he read a confession, Tyburn was the principle place for executions at the time. After reading the confession, Perkin was hanged.

Ohio State Reformatory

Sometimes a place is needed to help with reforming young people when they wander down the wrong road in life. That is what the Ohio State Reformatory was originally meant to do: help wayward young men get back on the right road. The beautiful Gothic reformatory built of iron and limestone is so picturesque that it was used as a location in the movie, "The Shawshank Redemption." But what happened to many of the residents of this building was anything, but beautiful and certainly was not about truly reforming young men. Stories that include torture, beatings and other misdeeds are numerous. And wherever strong emotions are built up, we usually find some kind of unexplained phenomenon. Come with us as we venture inside the Ohio State Reformatory!

Mansfield, Ohio was established in 1808 by three men: Joseph Larwill, Jacob Newman and James Hedges. The town was right near a fork in the Mohican River. The Surveyor General of the United States at that time was Jared Mansfield and the residents decided that Mansfield would be a fitting name for their town since he had helped with the plotting. In 1846, a railroad line was built in Mansfield that traveled to Sandusky and the town really began to flourish and grow at that time. Hautzenroeder & Company was a major cigar company that based itself in Mansfield and by 1888 it was the largest employer in town. Other manufacturing in Mansfield produced paper boxes, linseed oil, brass objects, doors and even suspenders.

In a field in Mansfield, a training area was set up for Civil War soldiers in 1861. The camp was named Camp Mordecei Bartley after the Governor of the state who served in the 1840s. In 1867, it was decided that the area would be perfect for the Intermediate Pentitentiary. That is the name that the reformatory would originally go by. It was named Intermediate because it was meant to be a midway stop between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster and the State Penitentiary in Columbus. This was a place for first time offenders. The city of Mansfield and the state of Ohio worked together to purchase 180 acres of land. They spent over $1.3 million to construct the facility.

The architect for the Reformatory was a local Cleveland architect by the name of Levi T. Scofield. Scofield went all in and decided on not just one architectural design, but three of them. These styles were Queen Anne, Victorian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque leading many to think that the reformatory is chateau-like in appearance. And it is indeed a beautiful building. Many involved in the creation of the jail hoped that the structure would somehow inspire those locked within to change their lives and turn from a sinful life to a spiritual one. Another architect named F. F. Schnitzer completed the construction and became the first Superindentent of the reformatory. The cornerstone was laid on November 4, 1886 with Schnitzer's name on it. Even before it was finished, the structure changed names and in 1891 it became officially known as the Ohio State Reformatory. The East Wing became known for its unique cell block structure. The cell block was built from steel and rose six tiers and was amazingly free standing. The only cell block in the world to be free standing at that height. The doors officially opened in September 1896 even though construction would continue until 1910. One hundred and fifty young men were the first occupants.

Life in the reformatory was similar to full blown prison with boys creating shanks and shivs. Violence between inmates was very high. The 1930s would see such an influx of first time offenders that the prison became overcrowded. Most of the staff lived at the reformatory as well. Inmates claimed that the place was overrun by rats and disease. The food was unpalatable. Sweat boxes were used to punish mainly black prisoners. The worst place to go was The Hole. These were solitary confinement cells and inmates sometimes had to sleep on the concrete floors. Following a riot, 120 inmates were thrown into The Hole. That's a lot of men having to share only twenty cells. They were forced to stay in there for thirty days. One inmate was murdered during the punishment. In 1948, a prison farmer and his family were murdered by an inmate.

The Boyd Consent Decree was issued by a judge in 1986 after several lawsuits about the inhumane conditions at the reformatory where brought before him. The decree ordered the facility to be closed and another structure was built to the west. That opened as the Mansfield Correctional Institute. The doors to the Ohio State Reformatory closed officially on December 31, 1990 and in its time, the reformatory had housed over 155,000 men. Two hundred of them died during incarceration. This number does not include the deaths of non-inmates at the facility. The facility is now run by the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society and tours are conducted from April through September. It becomes a haunted attraction during the Halloween season.

The Reformatory not only gained fame being used as a location in films, it also has been investigated by several reality TV paranormal shows. These included "My Ghost Story," "Paranormal Challenge," "Ghost Hunters," "Ghost Hunters Academy," "Ghost Adventures," "Scariest Stories on Earth," "Scariest Places on Earth," and "Ghost Asylum." The reason for so many appearances on paranormal shows is that the Ohio State Reformatory is considered to be one of the most haunted places in America.

Warden Arthur Lewis Glattke was a hard man. He served as Warden from 1935-1959. He and his wife Helen lived in the Administration Wing. It was in 1950 that his wife Helen died in that wing after an accidental gunshot. She apparently was reaching into a jewelry box when the gun went off. She contracted pneumonia while recovering and died three days after the accident. Was it truly an accident or had the Warden killed his wife? Some believed the latter. When he later died after having a heart attack in his office, haunting activity began in the Administration Wing. Helen wore rose scented perfume and it is sometimes smelled in the hallways. She also reportedly likes to visit the library. The Warden has been heard in his office saying, "Catch me if you can." Or it could be an inmate saying something to the Warden. Pictures have been photographed of what looks like someone sitting in the Warden's chair. Sandra experienced the olfactory paranormal sensation in 2007 and wrote of it:
"My family toured the Ohio State Reformatory last weekend when we were in that area for another occasion. I didn't know anything about the place before going on the tour. While we were in the area where the Warden and his wife used to live, my 8 year old son was getting tired of listening to the guide, so we started browsing through the rooms alone. We walked into a room and I immediately started to smell roses. Without saying what I smelled, I asked my son if he could smell anything. He answered, "Yes, flowers." A moment later others from the tour walked into the room and the smell instantly disappeared. After the tour, I mentioned my experience to a volunteer at the front desk. She told me that the Warden's wife, Helen, loved roses.

When I got home I started searching online for information about the Reformatory. Several links mentioned visitors smelling roses, and it meant that Helen was near. I didn't believe in the supernatural going in, but since I specifically smelled roses without any knowledge of previous stories, I definitely believe now! I didn't want my son to be scared by the experience, so I told him Helen must have liked us because she took the time to say hello to us, and left when the others came in."
The Chapel is haunted by strange noises and shadowy figures that disappear quickly when spotted. Unusual photographs have been taken inside as well. Occasionally, people claim to feel as though they are being touched by a spider web even though they have not actually walked through a spider web. Others are scratched or pushed. Disembodied screams are heard in the hallways as if someone were being tortured. The sounds of cell doors slamming shut echos in the corridors.

One of the wayward boys at the reformatory was a fourteen-year-old boy who was beaten so badly, he died. The incident took place in the basement and it is believed that his spirit now knocks about the place. The basement is also where The Hole is located. Because of the severe punishments that took place here, anyone who enters claims to feel a certain malevolence and even glowing eyes have been witnessed.

A woman named Carrie was on a ghost hunt and reported to the website Grave Addiction, the following experience:
"I just got back from visiting the OSR, and a group of us had an experience in the cell block. The cell that I am speaking of is the one marked with the "X" that has been reported to have activity. We were taken back to the block when the tour was over, there were about 9 of us along with the guide. We heard someone running. The guide asked who was running because there shouldn't be anyone. Immediately the cell door slammed shut. It scared us all and we wasted no time at all getting out of there. The guide was so scared that he was soaking wet with sweat."
Do some of the past inmates of the Ohio State Reformatory still remain in their cells? Have the intense emotions associated with this place been locked into the stone shell and do things replay themselves over and over? Is the reformatory haunted? That is for you to decide!

 Show Notes:
Our interview with Patrick Keller on the Big Seance Podcast:

We received an email from Apryl, a listener, with an update about the infamous wall from the St. Valentine's Museum. Part of it still exists at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Here is an MSNBC clip featuring the museum: 

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