Abandoned insane asylums, gothic prisons, crumbling funeral parlors, and the childhood home of a serial killer ... these are just a few of the lovely sights that potentially await you on your next Ohio road trip. A haunted road trip, that is. Join us won't you, as we descend into a terrifying, yet scenic hellscape from which there is no return ... probably.
Welcome to Helltown (Boston Township)
If you are looking for a great place to retire to someday, put Helltown way down the list. However, it does make for an excellent haunted excursion. Formerly known as Boston, Ohio (not a great name either, let's be honest) this little village has seen a lot — murders, massacres, chemical spills, and a forced evacuation, just to name a few. In the 1970s, residents were forced to leave when the town was repurposed as National Park land thanks to President Gerald Ford.
The town's buildings have been torn down, but a disturbing atmosphere lingers ... as do tales of ghosts and monster sightings. If you take a road trip here, we suggest you bring a friend or two.
Ohio State Reformatory School (Mansfield)
My goodness, just look at that building. This is not a place you want to spend 10 to 20 years. This prison was opened in 1896 to young offenders and kept up the "reforming" of prisoners until 1990 when it was closed due to some horrific conditions. You don't even want to know what the cafeteria served.
Now open for guided tours, this is the same prison where they shot the classic Shawshank Redemption and the lesser known, but wildly underrated Tango & Cash. Many who visit claim to hear the agonizing screams of prisoners echoing from cells that have been empty for years. This October, a special Halloween tour is being offered: "Escape From Blood Prison." Sounds delightful — good luck with that!
Erie Street Cemetery (Cleveland)
Located near downtown Cleveland on East 9th Street (formerly called Erie Street), this old cemetery instills fear upon first glance. Surrounded by a 19th-century wrought iron fence, it is anything but inviting. The Cleveland Downtown Haunted History Tour offers a chilling stroll through the grounds. Paranormal sightings are the norm here, not the exception.
Mirror Lake (Columbus)
Ah, college! For students embarking on their first year at The Ohio State University, there are so many wonderful new experiences: the challenge of college classes, bonding with new friends, and late-night strolls around Mirror Lake. Unfortunately, Mirror Lake is one of the most haunted spots in Columbus. If you listen, you may even hear the soft rustling of spirits in the water. Located on the grounds of Ohio State campus, Mirror Lake is stunningly bright and beautiful by day, but at night the water seems almost too still and an eerie glow settles overs it. Students beware.
Athens Lunatic Asylum (Athens)
Also known as The Ridges, this mental hospital first opened its doors in 1874 and sadly, business was soon booming. By the early 1900s, the hospital was overcrowded and rumors of inhumane treatment of patients abounded. Lobotomies, psychotropic drugs, and other unusual experiments were all in play here, we are talking Handmaid's Tale type stuff. Its halls and grounds have had numerous paranormal sightings from former patients, including Civil War veterans, violent criminals and of course, the insane.
One unfortunate patient left quite an impression here, literally. In 1978, Margaret Schilling somehow got lost in an abandoned part of the hospital and her body wasn't found for several months. The outline of her final resting place can still be seen today (pictured below).
The property is now part of Ohio University, but walking tours are available on weekends. Just don't ask too many questions on the tour, or they take you to the electroshock therapy room. JK.
Franklin Castle (Cleveland)
Widely considered to be one of the most haunted sites in Cleveland, this Victorian mansion has seen its share of tragedy. In the late 19th century, the children of a wealthy German family started dying for a variety of suspicious reasons. Was it the parents? A poor health care system? We'll never know, as the parents also died before any charges could be brought against them. It's also rumored there are secret passageways and underground tunnels that were used for bootlegging during Prohibition. More recent owners have attempted to renovate the castle, but fires and other mysterious events have conspired to delay that. If you can't make it here for a visit, at least try some of the Franklin Castle Pumpkin Spice Ale, courtesy of Market Garden Brewery.
Malabar Farm (Lucas)
Don't let the bucolic setting fool you, Malabar Farm in Lucas has a checkered history. While it's widely known as the place where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall wed, it is also the sight of a ghastly murder.
In the early summer of 1896, 23-year-old Celia Rose decided she'd had just about enough of her family. Celia had been upset with them because they didn't approve of her relationship with her neighbor. To get back at them, she laced their cottage cheese breakfast with arsenic. Her father and brother died, and while her mom initially survived, Celia re-poisoned her again a short time later. That's a very trusting mother. The Rose house still stands today and many visitors claim to have seen Celia's visage staring out the window when the moon is full.
Hilton Cincinnati Nederlander Plaza (Cincinnati)
If you dare stay at this historic hotel in downtown Cincy, you may be lucky enough to meet the ghostly Lady in Green. As the tale goes, this lady's husband was killed during the hotel's construction in the 1930s and his body was never found. Now she haunts the halls and guest rooms looking for him. She sounds very romantic, but she's also giving off a little bit of a stalker vibe. She's most likely to be seen in the Hall of Mirrors (pictured below).
Moonville Train Tunnel (Zaleski)
Trains no longer run through the old Moonville Tunnel, which was built back in 1856. It used to be part of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad line when the town was a mining camp. Moonville is a ghost town now, but the tunnel is still used by hikers and many witnesses swear that they've seen a man dressed like a railway brakeman carrying a lantern. He sometimes will reveal himself in photos taken near and inside the bridge. All aboard?
The Elevator Brewing Company & Draught Haus (Columbus)
Formerly the Bott Brothers Saloon, this tavern from the 1890s turned craft brewery is the site of an unusual murder. A notorious womanizer named Col. Randolph Pritchard was stabbed just outside the establishment and that night the saloon clock stopped at exactly 10:05 p.m. The killer, believed to be a spurned woman, escaped without leaving a clue.
The stopped clock remained a memorial to the murder for decades after. Although the historic clock was eventually replaced, the haunted ambiance remains. If you're imbibing a pint or two at the brewery late at night, look out for the debauched spirit of Colonel Pritchard, the ghost of the Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus.
Victoria Theatre (Dayton)
This stunning theatre has some dark secrets. In the early 1900s, an actress disappeared without a trace from the ladies' dressing room. Actors and stagehands over the years since have reported seeing her and smelling her rose-scented perfume, as well as other disturbances.
Another theatre critic who sat in the suite box overhanging the stage reported being slapped in the face by an unknown presence. Perhaps someone didn't like their reviews!
House of Wills (Cleveland)
Does a tour of an abandoned funeral parlor sound like fun to you? The House of Wills offers just that. Mind yourself to not step on the embalming fluid. This is considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in the state. Over the years it has been a German Opera House, a hospital, a speakeasy and, lastly, a funeral home. I'll take the speakeasy over the other options.
In recent years, the House of Wills has been more of a House of Will Not. It has been closed and left to decay, but the owner does open its doors for tours several times a year, especially in October. There are also rumors that this has become a secret satanic meeting place, but we're not one to gossip.
A Wilderness Nightmare (Medina)
If we have not properly frightened you enough yet, how about we drive you deep into the woods and let you hike your way home through a ghoulish maze filled with monsters, freaks, and scary clowns? This is the premise for Nightmare in The Wilderness, a haunted attraction in Medina County.
For 25 years this attraction has been terrifying visitors and there's even a bit of history behind it. The local legend says that danger awaits whoever wanders past the apple orchard and into the Lodi Forest beyond it. It's believed many who did venture too far never returned. The townspeople were so convinced of the nefarious nature of these woods that it was off limits for many years.
Jeffrey Dahmer's Childhood Home (Akron)
The next stop on our chilling tour is the home of one of the world's most notorious serial killers. Before he became a terrifying cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer grew up in the charming town of Bath, Ohio. Seems like a fine house to grow up in. What could possibly go wrong?
Kingsbury Run (Cleveland)
This area in Southeast Cleveland has become synonymous with the Cleveland Torso Murderer. Between 1935 and 1938, as many as 13 unfortunate people were sliced, diced, and dumped in Kingsbury Run by a serial killer who was never caught, despite the best efforts of famed lawman Eliot Ness.
The victims were mostly drifters and their bodies were often found headless and limbless (hence, torso only). This neighborhood hasn't changed all that much over the years and remains extremely creepy. A vast network of sewers that merges here adds to the macabre atmosphere. And yet, it still makes for a rather interesting hike ... during the daytime.