Mansfield offers travelers access to creepiest haunted venues
By: Mansfield & Richland County
Travelers come from around the globe come to brave the historic Ohio State Reformatory's hair-raising, one-of-a-kind Haunted Prison Experience. "Supernatural III" starts Sept. 25 and runs through Nov. 1. Always described as "worth the trip," the award-winning scarefest uses professional actors, Hollywood animatronics, props and special effects to create a haunted tour that goes far beyond any typical "haunted house." Not appropriate for anyone under age 13, Haunted Prison Experience takes place Thursdays 7-11 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m.-midnight;
Built in the same year and designed by the same architect who drew up plans for the Reformatory, the 128-year-old Bissman Building started its life in downtown Mansfield's historic district as a wholesale grocery warehouse. But experienced ghost hunters report that when the company closed its doors, "Not all of the employees left the building." Today, travelers can tour the haunted Bissman Building, as guides unveil its unique history, stories of movies and videos filmed on site and chilling tales of its ghostly spirits. A Ghost Walk through the building is offered Oct. 2 at 8:30 p.m.at just $10 per person. The event does not sell out and no reservations are required. Guests under 18 are welcome with parent/legal guardian. Tours also include a full-blown paranormal investigation. A public Ghost Hunt is offered Oct. 31 and private tours for groups of up to 30 are available by reservation. Tours begin at 7 p.m., typically run until 3 a.m. and cost $50 per person. They can be scheduled by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (419) 295-5002.
Employees and patrons alike have reported many creepy encounters at Mansfield's Renaissance Theater over the years. Footsteps have been heard on the elegant grand staircase and along the dark hallways and twisting corridors outside the second floor grand ballroom. Spectral figures have been spotted in the balcony. Disembodied voices, laughter and even music have been heard coming from the theatre – long after the audiences have gone. The projection booth is the purported haunt of “Pete” – who took up residence at the Renaissance shortly after his beloved projector was transplanted here from the demolished Madison Theatre down the street. Wall sconces in the lower lobby's elegant marbled grand salon are said to have a mind of their own and, when the building is unlocked in the morning, are often found turned completely upside-down. Whispered voices have been heard in their catacomb-like rooms under the stage. And actors and crew have reported seeing a shadowy “woman in white” standing in the wings during performances. Perhaps the most haunted area of the theatre is the lobby, where theatre manager Edward Rafter was murdered in a botched robbery attempt on Oct. 30, 1929. A man, disguised in women’s clothing, shot Rafter four times, then fled into the night. For 80 years, witnesses have reported seeing a forlorn Rafter pacing back and forth along the marble floor. Some report seeing the ghost of his assailant, hiding menacingly in the darkest corner of the lobby. Tours point out these and other spots for paranormal occurrences, with guests then welcome to perform their own paranormal investigations, visiting backstage, the basement area, upstairs ballrooms and even camp out in restrooms.
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 overnight ghost hunts in a haunted former state prison and touring sites where "The Shawshank Redemption" and other Hollywood blockbuster movies have been filmed. 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.