Once a year a holiday creeps in and makes everything completely magical. Everything shines a little bit brighter and you can hear the cries of children in the distance. The best people celebrate with films and drinks and their special outfits that they save for onc ea year. You must realize I’m talking about Halloween.
There are plenty of decent holidays in the year, but none capture even the slightest bit more of excitement for me than Halloween. I like dressing p, I love the creativity that’s involved when it’s done right. I love the kitschy skeletons and ghosts and effigies of Frankenstein’s monster. I like scary things that aren’t really scary at all. I have a Boris Karloffesque candy dish that permanently holds my chapsticks. I have German trick or treating figures on display year round and a singing mummy cat. I love that stuff. But equal is my love for actually being scared; which is why I adore haunted houses.
I lived in Mansfield, Ohio for almost a year. The first time I visited there I was with mymother and as we pulled away I saw a cool old looking building through the trees. I asked her to pull off and take a look when she said she bet it was the old, defunct Ohio State Reformatory that was used to film The Shawshank Redemption. It was all boarded up then, and the subsequent year I spent living there. Still, my love of old buildings kept me driving back there often just to look at the impressive facade. The odd thing was that after that first time no matter how hard I looked, and no matter the leafless state of the trees, I couldn’t ever see it from the freeway again.
Anyway, so awhile ago they opened the Ohio State Reformatory up to tours and a haunted prison experience at Halloween. I obviously wanted to go. And because I’m broke and cheap it seemed like a haunted experience would be more bang for my buck, a twofer if you will. But, I lived in Columbus then, and hour and a half way; by no means an unsurmountable distance but I also had a string of friends who were simply not that into Halloween. Finally, last year, we had a plan. K, J, and I were going to go. It was a busy day but we were going to make it happen. First it was the Bridge Project in Cleveland where we’d get to explore the insides of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, then off to Columbus to cheer the Crew on in a soccer match, which would get out just in enough time for us to drive to Mansfield and the haunted prison. It would have been perfect except for the ridiculous traffic jam we were stuck in for over an hour rendering us too late. But Steak & Shake feeds disappointment and we just said we’d try again next year.
And here is the point of this post because afer something like nine years and some failed attempts last night I finally went into that building. And it. was. awesome.
K and I sent off around eight, seventeen bucks in hand, figuring we’d get there around nine thirty, go through, leave around ten thirty and be home by midnight. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined how many other people would have the same idea. We arrived to a backed up exit that was either for the prison or the creepier Bible Walk wax museum down the street. I was betting on the later but it seemed Bible Walk was closed. Too bad for us. The line was unbelievable. And there were two of them. The line for tickets was an hour itself and then an additional three to get in. There were points, two of them, when I thought were getting close only to discover the line doubled from what we’d already been through. Through the smell of Port-O-Potty, dumpster, manure, and smoke (both cigarette and marijuana) we waited. We made friends with the small town family in front of us. We didn’t have much choice, four hours is a long time to be forced into someone else’s conversation due to proximity. And they ended up being cool, despite the use of the expression “that’s the crap!” as if all fecal related slag can be shoved into that phrase. You know, though, it was the sort of line where you start getting slap happy and case to care about what you’re waiting for except some sort of vague recollection that you can’t give up because you’ve already come so far. “The had better be the most amazing haunted house on the planet,” you start to think. “I’d better be pissing myself screaming.” “I don’t even care anymore!” and then finally the thought you’ve been dreading; “It can’t possibly be good enough to warrant this.”
Except, it sort of was. Seriously, the inside of that place was amazing. The architecture was astounding. The cell block (in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest free standing steel cell block in the world) stretches six stories high.
The staircases were narrow metal or broad wood. It was everything I would imagine an old prison to be and more because walking around a crumbing jail in the dark is scary enough without adding in actors to hide in corners and stairwells ready to jump out and scare the living shit out of you.
And, of course, K is such a wimp that they always target her and I end up screaming my throat raw. Which… was the desired effect. So yeah, It was a great haunted house, I’d recommend it. If only because it’s so many things I love rolled into one. History, haunting, scares, and festive. Sign me up.
**May I comment here that I did not get photos of my own so I scoured the internet. I take no credit for these. I think that should be obvious since I was there at night and these are mostly day photos, but whatever… there is my disclaimer.**