Starting Sept. 28 and running through Oct. 31, The Ohio State Reformatory will host its wildly popular Haunted Prison Experience "Dead Walk." Always described as "worth the trip," the award-winning scare fest uses professional actors, Hollywood animatronics, props and special effects to create a haunted tour that goes far beyond anything offered at a typical "haunted house." Not appropriate for anyone under age 13, Haunted Prison Experience hours are Thursdays and Halloween (Oct. 31), 7-11 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m.-midnight and Sundays 7-10 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. The Ohio State Reformatory doors opened in 1896 and, after housing 155,000 men in its lifetime, its 1990 closing left a nearly 125 years of history in the old cells. Made famous after serving as the set location for "The Shawshank Redemption" and other major motion pictures, its year-round tours make the prison one of Ohio's most popular attractions. More information on the Haunted Prison Experience is available www.hauntedx.com.
The 125 year-old Bissman Building, a wholesale grocery distributor in the 1870s, remains an eerie reminder of the Bissman family history. From the mysteriously slamming doors and blasts of icy air, to chilling images of child ghost, the imposing Bissman Building is a known haunting hot spot. Paranormal Investigations and public tours are available Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m.-3 a.m. for $70/person, with a minimum group size of eight. Day tours detailing the history of the building are also available by appointment. Travelers can visit www.bissmanbuilding.com or call (740) 972-5400 for more information.
Known as the premiere showcase for theater and entertainment in north central Ohio, Mansfield's historic Renaissance Theater also hides its share of secrets behind stunning marble floors, sweeping stairways and a 1,400-seat auditorium. Even a beautiful restoration and expansion cannot erase the theater's 84-year history, which still send a chill down the ghost hunter's spine. Visions of a shadowy "woman in white" and vestiges of what's believed to be a murdered former theater manager have been reported during paranormal investigations. Held for adults only from 8 p.m.-3 a.m. at $60/person for groups of nine or more, tours can be booked by calling (419) 295-5002. As a special Halloween event, on Oct. 26 at 8 p.m., Renaissance Theater will host the Neos Dance Theater performance of “Count ... The Legend of Dracula.” Tickets are $25 and are on sale at www.mansfieldtickets.com/
Just across the street from the Renaissance Theater, Mansfield Woman’s Club is one of the oldest homes in Mansfield. The 1840s Victorian former residence boasts beautiful period decor and rich architectural detail; but it also a spooky side, marked by strange noises, odd drafts and a general feeling of uneasiness experienced by all who enter the second floor. Guests can tour the property and experience some of its known ghostly hotspots. After the tour, guests will be able to conduct their paranormal investigations. Tours are booked by calling (419) 295-5002.
An evening of freakishly frightful theater takes the stage in the Malabar Farm State Park barn. The live theater performance of "Ceely,” tells the twisted tail of a gruesome murder that took place in 1896 at the neighboring Ceely Rose House. With nightly performances Oct. 12-14 and Oct. 19-21, the ticket package includes show tickets, a wagon tour of the beautiful Malabar Farm grounds with sinister stops at the Ceely Rose house and the on-site graveyard. Guests also enjoy fully catered barbecue dinner. The entire evening is just $36/person with details available at www.malabarfarm.org (419) 892-2784.
Mansfield Fire Museum pays homage to the traditions and history of firefighting by collecting, preserving and interpreting artifacts. It's a surprise to most that the museum also offers paranormal investigations. Unexplained happenings, such as flickering lights, mysteriously moving mirrors and strange shadows send shudders through visitors. There is a group minimum of nine people for ghost tours, which are offered 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at $45/person. More information is found at www.mansfieldfiremuseum.com.
The stunning architecture of Brownella Cottage was home to Bishop William M. Brown, a national political and religious leader in 1887. Dr. Doug Gruber reveals his paranormal findings as he explains the home's history of the home. Guests are then invited to utilize paranormal research equipment as they perform their own investigations, which have revealed strange voices, lights that turn off on their own and strange door slamming. The experiences have visitors asking if the now-deceased Bishop Brown still roams the halls. These investigations will be held from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. for $25/person and are limited to 12 people. Brownella Cottage also offers day time tours for $5/person. Details on this spooky tour are found at www.galionhistory.com.
A destination unlike any other, Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio’s wealth of unusual travel adventures and experiences, from visiting the working farm where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married, to spending the night in a haunted former state prison where Hollywood blockbuster movies are shot or seeing the world’s first robot. Breathtaking scenery, rural and hometown experiences, as well as hiking, biking, golf, cross-country and downhill skiing, bird watching and loads of other outdoor adventures attract families and visitors of all ages. For information or to order a Visitors Guide, consumers can call (800) 642-8282 or visit www.MansfieldTourism.com.