Whenever someone learns that I’m from Mansfield, between Cleveland and Columbus, their first reaction is usually something like, “Oh, have you been to the reformatory?” Until recently, I always said, “Of course not!” Now when someone asks, I’m forced to say, “Yes, I’ve been there once—and I’m never going back.” I’m a pretty jumpy, scared person, so haunted houses and horror stories aren’t my thing at all. Since moving in with my roommates last year, however, I’ve learned to expand my horizons and tolerate moments of terror in relation to the paranormal. In the spirit of the spooky season, with October and Halloween, I’ve decided to explore several places in Ohio that are infamous for their disturbing backgrounds and current rumors of supernatural presence.
The Ohio State Reformatory, located in my hometown of Mansfield, is easily one of the first places that come to mind when ghosts are mentioned. Although I’ve never been on one of the famous Halloween tours, and I never will, I did decide to take a self-guided tour with one of my friends during broad daylight. It was still immensely unsettling. OSR has a gruesome past with unruly inmates, abusive guards, and stories of deaths in multiple places on the grounds. For instance, my friend and I were guided through the miniature museum on the first floor towards stairs that led to the warden’s living quarters—where we found out that a wife of one of the wardens was accidentally shot and killed. Another warden had a heart attack and died in his office as well. As we continued to the actual cells, we noticed that one of them was labeled; it described the story of an inmate who allegedly set himself on fire in that particular cell. I think it’s safe to say that’s when I realized I would’ve rather simply read about the history online or in a short book. Needless to say, I made it through a whole tour without being scratched or grabbed by a restless spirit. I don’t think I’m going to test my luck with a second trip.
A little bit closer to my new home, on the other hand, is the House of Wills. Not as popular as OSR, but still just as creepy and sinister, the House of Wills is about ten minutes away from the heart of downtown Cleveland, on East 55th street. When one of my roommates described it for the first time last year, and asked if we wanted to drive by just for a look, I was a little reluctant. We went anyways, and it was unnerving. Unlike OSR, the House of Wills has an even darker history, one with a deep relationship with satanic worship and other aspects of that nature. It’s not open anymore to the public; it’s been closed for a while now. While we weren’t able to actually tour the building, I don’t think any of us really wanted to. The House of Wills was one of the first funeral homes run by a Black owner. Now, in recent years, there have been rumors of satanic rituals and sinister presences inside the building. If you check out some of the pictures from the interior, it’s not hard to see why.
Malabar Farm, unlike both OSR and the House of Wills, has never given me any sinister vibes. Sitting in the very small town of Lucas, Ohio, it was home to Louis Bromfield, a successful farmer and author through the 1930s and the 1950s. Right next to Malabar, however, is the Ceely Rose house. Every time my family and I visited Malabar, we usually walked by this house and tried to see if we could spot a glimpse of the ghost of Ceely Rose. The story, popular in Mansfield and surrounding areas, is that a young woman named Ceely Rose wanted to marry a young man that she had a crush on. Since he didn’t feel the same way, he told her that he couldn’t marry her because her family disapproved. In response, Ceely decided to kill her entire family by mixing in rat poison with their food. There’s a common belief that her ghost can often be seen in one of the windows of her house. It’s safe to say I always hated when my parents wanted to stop to admire this old building, but at least I never saw her ghost.
Although these are just a few, they’re the only notoriously haunted places that I’ve actually visited. I don’t think I’ll revisit them, or look for new ones in the future, but I’m glad that I went in the first place. I would encourage exploration for others who are genuinely interested in this kind of spooky history - especially since the House of Wills is so close. Hopefully you have more luck with the paranormal than I did.