Family Travel with Teens or Young Adult Children: Taking a Look at Haunted Mansfield, Ohio

I will admit--as the kids grow older and the always on/ instant gratification factors of social media come into play--it gets a little harder for parents to plan a family travel adventure that actually entertains and holds the interest of our older digital-age kids! I will also admit that, even after living here my entire life, I still find myself a bit surprised by some of the activities, attractions and events that Ohio offers. Living in Central Ohio makes it easy to make a day or weekend trip to virtually anywhere in the state within a few hours. While I drive through (or by) Mansfield several times a year when traveling to Cleveland or Lake Erie--we have never toured the city of Mansfield as a travel destination. Now that the girls are older their interests historical and scenic destinations have increased significantly.  Combine those things with the paranormal--and I think I would have a winning weekend trip with my older girls! We recently learned a lot about Mansfield--and some of its haunted / paranormal happenings--and we have made a list of some must-visit sites that would make a perfect weekend trip over the summer (or during those fall Halloween months) for those of us with older teens or college aged kids!

Haunted Mansfield? For years, my only real experience with Mansfield was my daughter's weekly, school ski club outings to Snow Trails where she was learning to snowboard! Then--I learned a little about the Ohio State Reformatory and its connection to the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. But--neither of these things really hinted much at ghosts, hauntings, or the least at first. Prisons, hospitals, asylums, etc., ALL seem to offer some paranormal activities--especially the old, larger ones--so, it wasn't a great surprise when The Ohio State Reformatory opened its doors during the year for ghost tours and supernatural experiences. What has been surprising to me is the number of reported haunted sites in Mansfield that have spawned a national interest from ghosthunters and spirit seekers! If you have an interest in the supernatural / paranormal--Mansfield has some offerings for you--AND offers a unique trip for family travelers with older kids!

What Should You Do in Haunted Mansfield?

Take the Ghost Hunter Class. New this year, those seeking paranormal experiences can leap right into the world of the supernatural with the Ghost Hunting classes offered at the Ohio State Reformatory. These classes are taught by expert paranormal investigator Sherri Brake. The classes cost $115 per person and take place at 1 and 4 p.m. May 19 and Sept. 1. Students receive hands-on training in professional ghost hunting techniques, including proper protocol; how to use the ghost hunting equipment many of us have seen only on t.v., document evidence and communicate with spiritual entities; and learn some local paranormal history and lore. After the ghost hunting class, the group will return to the Reformatory for a private ghost hunt from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., allowing newly trained, amateur paranormal investigators an opportunity to test out their newfound skills in a site known to have paranormal activity.

NOTE: This class may not be for everyone--or for travelers under age 13--because visitors may get up close and personal with the spirits that are believed to haunt the prison’s halls.

Join a Ghost Hunt at The Ohio State Reformatory. The popular Ghost Hunts are offered several times each month and sell out pretty quickly. New this year, Ghost Hunts are presented in two categories, including the Ghost Hunt Challenge, offered for first-time hunters beginning April 14 at $70. Intermediate/Advanced hunts are $100, begin April 21 and are open to those who have attended three or more ghost hunts, walks or classes in the past.

NOTE: These hunts may be a little intense for some visitors--but, may be well suited for families with older teen children.

Participate in a Ghost Walk at the Ohio State Reformatory. Ghost Walks are available beginning April 20 for $25/adults and $20 for youths age 13-17. Doors open at 7 and 9:30 p.m., with walks beginning at 8 and 10:30 p.m. These walks seem more like tours--with less "investigation" and "work" on the part of visitors. My family will likely do a ghost walk before a tour--just to learn a little about the history and become a little familiar with the building's environment.

Tour the Bissman Building. Built in the same year and designed by the same architect who designed the Reformatory, the 132-year-old Bissman Building operated in downtown Mansfield's historic district as a wholesale grocery warehouse. It is reported by ghost hunters that, although 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, share stories of movies and videos filmed on site and reveal its more chilling side with tales of its ghostly spirits, including that of a former employee decapitated in the elevator. Regular Ghost Walks take place beginning in May at $10 per person. These do not sell out and no reservations are required. Guests under 18 are welcome with parent/legal guardian. Tours include a full-blown paranormal investigation and may be scheduled by calling (419) 295-5002.

Visit Malabar State Farm. Ghostly sightings also have been noted by both staff and visitors alike at the historic Malabar Farm State Park. Stories of flickering lights and ghostly appearances by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter Louis Bromfield – and his beloved bull dogs -- intrigue ghost hunters. In addition to spirited visits by Mr. Bromfield, the farm is also home to the family house of Ceely Rose, a young woman who murdered her entire family in the summer of 1896.

Tour the Mansfield Fire Museum.
At the Mansfield Fire Museum, strange things have been known to happen. Unexplained sounds, movement, flickering lights and shadowy figures hint at paranormal activity.  Open Saturday and Sunday, May through October from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the free tour points out known paranormal hot spots and occurrences. Guests are also welcome to schedule private paranormal investigations by calling (419) 529-2573.

We are going to try to make a few visits to some of the haunted Mansfield sites over the summer--and, we'll share our experiences with readers as we make the trips!

Some Things to Consider. 
Haunted Mansfield may not be ideal for every family with teens.  Now.  I have said these could be great, off-the-beaten-path-summer adventures for those with teens and near-adult children.  I think my family would love them--but, you know your kids better than anyone.  These experiences aren't parlor-game, haunted farms set up for Halloween with actors and props. These sites are not creating experiences for visitors--they are allowing visitors access to experience the sites. These haunted sites and paranormal experiences appear to offer actual paranormal experiences--and those are not always predictable....and I am going to guess that there isn't always a "safe word" to make the experience stop if a visitor feels uncomfortable. 

Make some backup plans during the trip.  I know that my older teens are interested and I would feel comfortable starting with ghost walks and site tours--but, even then, I would let my girls only move toward the ghost hunts and more in-depth experiences as they wish...Or not.   Totally up to them.  So--when we visit--we will have back up plans for every activity--just in case one of the girls decides that the paranormal is awesome in a book or movie....but, not her cup of tea in person.  Who knows?  I may be the one heading back to a lodge room, checking out the local parks or going to a restaurant for a late dinner!

Dates, times, rates, descriptions are all subject to change.  All of the rates, dates, times, phone numbers, descriptions, etc--are offered as a service only for readers beginning to plan visits--and may only be relevant for a few weeks or months from publication.  PLEASE check with each destination before you visit to be sure that you have the most up to date information.  I highly recommend calling ahead and/or booking tours well in advance of visits because many do fill quickly.

Disclaimer:  We were not compensated for this post--we were simply interested in sharing a local travel destination that may be of interest to families like ours. 

Learn about The Ohio State Reformatory

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