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The Twisted Pain and Sadness of the Haunted Mansfield Reformatory

Part 2: Throughout the existence of the Mansfield Reformatory and what would later become the Ohio State Reformatory, a lot of different criminals have passed through the gates. Once the site was shut down, an assortment of odd occurrences were known to take place. Each year, a handful of visitors to the attraction reported strange happenings and ghostly encounters.

One of these tales involved a location on the site known as “The Hole,” which referred to the place inmates were sent for solitary confinement. In 1932, an inmate used an iron rod to beat a guard to death, which took place in the Hole. About six years earlier, a former prison inmate attempted to free one of his buddies and took the life of a guard in his efforts. 

In the summer of 1948, after just being released from the prison, two inmates went on to kill several people within days of their first taste of freedom. Ironically, the two former inmates were released because they showcased good behavior. The newspapers had a field day and called Robert Daniels and John West , the “Mad Dog Killers.” They started by slaying the owner of a tavern, then went on throughout Mansfield and kidnapped the prison farm superintendent, John Niebel along with his wife and their 20-year-old daughter. Later found in a cornfield, all three were killed. 

The next day, they went to another farm located in Tiffin and killed the owner, who just happened to have recently become a husband. His new bride was able to escape death. They then proceeded to take the life of a truck driver by shooting him to death.

It was not only one day later and the killers were stopped. West was killed in a shootout with police officers and Daniels was taken in custody. While in jail, Daniels bragged about his adventures and was looking forward to facing the electric chair in Ohio. The next year, Daniels was executed in January at the Penitentiary in Columbus.

Fast forward to November 6th, 1950, as an unfortunate event took place at the Ohio State Reformatory. The wife of the prison superintendent is said to have bumped into a gun that was sitting on the shelf. Unluckily, the gun was loaded and when it hit the ground, it discharged by mistake. As a result, she was hit by the bullet, which stuck into her left lung. The next day, she died while at the hospital in Mansfield.

As soon as the news hit the press, rumors started to fly. Conspiracy theories passed from one person to the next. One possible theory that was quite popular was that the superintendent shot her with the gun in order to prevent entering a messy divorce, as he didn’t want all of the legal attention or headaches.

In 1955, guards found that an inmate took his own life by hanging himself in his cell. Later on in the years, an inmate used paint thinner and turpentine as a method of suicide. He poured the highly flammable chemicals all over his body, using a match to set himself on fire. In another incident, two inmates were locked together in solitary over the course of one night. The next morning, it is said that one inmate emerged out of the cell, while the other was killed. His body was found stuffed underneath the bunk bed. These are just some of the things that have contributed to the scariness of Mansfield, which has also included tales of orbs, phantom mists, and odd shadows.