Step Into America’s Brutal Prison That Inspired ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

The Ohio State Reformatory, located in Richland County, is not only a former maximum security prison, it’s also the most haunted penitentiary in America.

It’s an imposing place, with broken windows, peeling paint and collapsing walls. Mysterious footsteps have been heard, apparitions seen and strange sounds reported, including yells, screams and weeping. The ghosts of inmates and guards are said to be caught between worlds, roaming the hallways and moving between the walls.

You may recognize the building from Stephen King’s movie The Shawshank Redemption — the warden’s office and the exterior of the prison were used to film various scenes. It’s said to be the most legendary prison in movie history.

The 250,000-square-foot stronghold first opened its doors to 150 offenders in September 1896 and was meant to be a place where young men that were first-time, non-violent offenders could be rehabilitated, instead of being sent off to the state penitentiary. Unfortunately, by the 1970s, it became a full-scale maximum security hell, where prisoners were subjected to “brutalizing, inhuman conditions.”

Suicide, murder and even insanity were common occurrences among the hundreds of thousands of men imprisoned.

For those who broke the rules, there was even a section of the prison strictly reserved for solitary confinement known as the “Hole,” which was notorious in the movie.

The amount of pain, trauma and terror experienced by inmates seems to have left a lasting impression on the prison. Even in death, there is no escape for former prisoners.

The 118-year-old prison was finally shut down on December 31, 1990, about four years before being celebrated on film.

Each year, countless movie buffs, tourists and ghost hunters visit the grand structure, as well as a few ex-convicts who come here to find closure.

Daring visitors are even given the opportunity to stay overnight locked in a cell within the haunted prison, and fan weddings, which start at $1,000, are commonly performed on the grounds.

Check out a few great Ohio State Reformatory photos in the slideshow above, or learn more about planning your own haunted visit here.

Images: BBC