Mohican region offers stunning fall views, haunting adventures

Art Weber

        One of Ohio’s best fall destinations is the Mohican Region, anchored by Mohican State Park. The forest there is heavily populated by red maples, which promise to be stunning later this month.
        Side trips – the extra stops that add a bit of spice and make a great trip even better – are plentiful in the region. Nearby Mansfield has one of the very best for some scary fun with the Halloween season.
        Many are aware that one of the best movies of all time, “The Shawshank Redemption,” was filmed mostly in the Mansfield area. They’ve developed a Shawshank Trail Self-Guided Driving Tour that connects each of the filming sites.
        There are 15 sites in all, including the cabin in Malabar Farm State Park where Andy’s wife was murdered, Brooks’ bench, the grocery where Brooks and Red were instructed to double bag all purchases, the workshop, the courthouse and, well, you get the idea. It’s enough to satisfy even the most ardent Shawshank fan.
        The site that jumps to forefront this time of year is the star site of the movie, the Ohio State Reformatory. It’s a very impressive and institutionally elegant, yet ominously imposing stone structure. It’s an architectural crossroads borrowing from a number of styles including Victorian Gothic, Romanesque and Queen Ann. The claim is that it’s among the top five castle-like structures in the country.
        It’s also said to be one of the most haunted prisons in the United States, combining six tiers of 600 dismal prison cells with tales of tortured souls said to be trapped and destined to wander the oppressive edifice forever. Paranormal energy seems to center on the chapel, which occupied a room where executions once occurred.
        The magnificently dignified and majestic exterior contrasts with the obviously squalid living conditions that prisoners had to endure, primitive conditions that fostered violence among prisoners, pathetic sanitary conditions, and lousy food. Not surprisingly, the prison was the last stop for more than a few prisoners.
        What better place to enjoy a hauntingly different Halloween event? Here’s what the event’s promotional brochure has to say.
        “`Escape from Blood Prison’ offers the only haunted hellscape in a real prison at the Ohio State Reformatory. Don’t wait to test the authenticity. Violent men were kept here, and some never left – even in death.”
        If you dare to come, you’ll walk where criminals feared to go, feeling the brutal history, feeling the chill as you hear some of the “countless tales of strange occurrences believed to be the work of restless spirits of both former inmates and guards alike.”
        Come if you dare. Escape from Blood Prison tours are offered through Oct. 30, Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
        Tickets are $35 per person general admission. Advance purchases are available and recommended. There are premium options including ultra-lightning admission, which advances you in the wait line, a touch pass which heightens the experience by allowing all scare characters to touch you.
        Blood Prison staffers assure all visitors that “Should your body come up missing, parking is free for all of eternity. Not surprisingly, the Blood Prison experience is not recommended for those aged 10 years and younger.
        For more information, visit and
        The final stop on the Shawshank Trail, by the way, requires a bit more planning. It’s the beautiful white sand beaches in the U.S Virgin Islands that were the setting for the final movie scenes.


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