Posts Tagged ‘haunted prisons’

As I mentioned at the end of my recap of ParaPsyCon, I would talk about the supernatural parts of my trip in another post. Congratulations, here’s that post!

So, after the setup session on Friday afternoon, we had a bit of time to grab dinner before vendors who had signed up in advance could get a haunted tour of the prison. Because, as we all know by now, Ohio State Reformatory is one of the most haunted prisons in America (click here and here for my past experiences at the prison). I grabbed some dinner, then came back to the prison. Plenty of other vendors were there early, so we stuck around taking photos and discussing ghost hunting/the paranormal/our various booths/etc. About 7:30, they let us into the prison and we started checking in. After that, we were divided into three groups. I was in Group 3, the smallest group, with the tour guide Lindsay leading the way.

I also had my writing colleague Tim McLaughlin, who you might have seen in the last ParaPsyCon post, was also in the group, and he filmed one of the videos taken during the tour.

And that’s a good point to bring up that I took plenty of video during the Ghost Walk. Below are the videos I took that I uploaded to my YouTube channel and either contain blatantly supernatural events or just interesting events during the story. Let me know if you catch anything I might have missed in the video, like EVPs or other unexplained phenomena.

The first video was taken right in front of Old Sparky, the electric chair housed at the Reformatory. Now, just to be clear, no scheduled executions ever took place at OSR, let alone with the electric chair. The executions took place at a prison in Columbus. After being retired, the chair was put into a warehouse before OSR scooped it up. And it apparently brought some of the spirits who died in that chair with them. In fact, Lindsay reported that some of these spirits, who may have been the worst of the worst in life, have been bullying the spirits of the prison!

And that leads to this video, which was taken with the Ghost Tube app on my phone.

This video is short, but what’s featured is extraordinary. In ghost hunting, you sometimes ask questions you already know the answer to in order to see if we’re actually speaking to a spirit and not just getting random responses. So, when I got a response that matched up with the historical record, that was a sign that we were speaking with an intelligent entity, not just getting random answers on the dowsing rods. Proof of the paranormal!

Later, we went into some of the more administrative parts of the prison, which led to the Chair Room, infamous for both its lack of windows and its titular, possibly haunted piece of furniture.

This video doesn’t contain too many paranormal instances beyond the messages I got on the app (and I don’t have any clue what they were referring to), but the stories were quite interesting. Imagine if someone was able to test if the chair did move through the night. What could happen?

My last video took place in the West Cell Block Attic, which is usually off the regular tours. As Lindsay says below, there was a time when the worst of the worst had to be stored in that attic temporarily due to a fire. They were kept separate from the regular population, who were non-violent first-time offenders. Not surprisingly, we got a few spirits in there, and one of them may have spoken to me during the video. What they said had an interesting parallel to what Lindsay says later in the video.

Please be aware, the video is restricted to 18+ viewers due to some nasty language in the video. Can’t be too careful, can you?

Pretty cool, huh? I hope I can someday do a proper investigation in the attic as well. Though if the spirits are in a bad mood, that could end up being dangerous.

Did anything weird happen that wasn’t caught on camera? Well, we might have gotten a few odd smells, especially in the warden’s living area. One warden and his wife are said to haunt the area and you can sometimes smell her rosewater perfume. I don’t think I smelled anything, but some other people might have.

In a couple places, I swear I heard whispers with no discernable source. In one room in particular, one with two large closets, I heard whispers from the closet further back from me. I looked inside, but there was no one there. I mentioned it to LIndsay, and she said I probably heard something after all.

Then, while going through the West Cell Block, I stopped by James Lockhart’s cell (you may remember him from some of my previous videos). I didn’t have a lot of time to ask him anything on the dowsing rods, let alone film it, but I did ask him how he was doing. He said he was well, which was nice. He died by self-immolation, so I’m happy to hear he’s doing better.

Later, in the shower room, Lindsay used her own dowsing rods to introduce us to the Baseball Team, a group of nine spirits who are obsessed with the Dodgers (though they prefer them from before they moved to LA and were known as The Bums). She says these spirits like to hear the latest baseball scores and will hang out with the prison archivist in the library when the latter is working. From what Lindsay says, the archivist will play movies and music for them and see what they like using dowsing rods (obviously, they’re sick of Shawshank Redemption).

I managed to ask using my own dowsing rods if they might be interested in audio books, and even got a response. Apparently, they would like audio books, but they’re not interested in fantasy. They are, however, interested in horror. I told this to Lindsay later and she mentioned she would pass it onto the archivist, but I’ll have to follow up to see if she actually did.

Hmm…perhaps I’ll get some fans on the other side if I send them an audio copy of Rose.

Other than that, nothing supernatural that I can recall. There were some moments where I thought I saw something, but it turned about to be something ordinary. In solitary, for example, I thought I saw an orb, but it turned out to be a reflection from the exit sign off a security camera. DEBUNKED!

And then on Sunday, right before the convention started, one of my neighbors and I thought we saw a bright light moving across the ceiling. Sadly, that was just a reflection off someone’s watch. DEBUNKED!

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this Vendor Ghost Walk. Yeah, I would love to have spent more time in various areas and trying to catch some spooky happenings. Maybe even on camera. But it was still cool to see some of the history and hauntings I wasn’t aware of or forgot about since my last trip to the prison. And taking a tour with so many other vendors was fun too.

If you ever get the chance to do a ghost walk at the Ohio State Reformatory, I highly recommend it. It may even whet your appetite to do a private ghost hunt, something I hope to do someday.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have exercise to do, stories to write, and other tasks to take care of. I’ll catch you on the flipside. Make sure to check out my YouTube channel in the meantime. And until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’m sure you’re all champing at the bit to hear how ParaPsyCon was. And I think the best word to describe it would be AWESOME! I mean, it was a convention full of ghost hunters, psychics and mediums, and authors, among others, inside the Ohio State Reformatory, one of my favorite places on Earth (as well as one of the most haunted). I got to meet so many cool people, hear about so many different businesses and places, and, of course, I may have minted some new Followers of Fear.

Now, of course I took a lot of pictures and video. In fact, I created this YouTube video, which you can see below.

Fun fact: this video was originally supposed to be longer, but due to a glitch some of the footage I took got corrupted. I figured out what caused it and how to avoid it in the future, but I had to make some cuts because of the issue.

Which is unfortunate, because even if the video was at the intended length, you only get so much from it. ParaPsyCon was an experience, and the video only relays so much of that experience. So, let me tell you all about my trip to the Ohio State Reformatory this past weekend and what occurred there.*

I love coming to this place.

So, if you’re unaware, ParaPsyCon is a convention held at the Ohio State Reformatory, an old prison in Mansfield, Ohio that’s now a museum, filming location (most notably The Shawshank Redemption), and haunted hotspot. The convention was held in three areas across two floors: the West Cell Block, where the bigger tables and the celebrities were (I don’t show it in the video, but the prison showers were turned into a makeshift auditorium. I wish I’d taken a photo, it was so surreal); the Central Guard Room, which one could call the center of the convention; and the East Diagonal Room, where I was situated.

And this convention had everything. Ghost hunters and paranormal groups were showing us their equipment and the books about their experiences, while mediums were doing readings and authors like myself were trying to rope in new readers (I also did Tarot readings). But that was just a small fraction of the booths. There were people selling T-shirts, jewelry, self-care products. One or two booths specialized in reiki healing, while one woman near me was selling jewelry she said could improve moods and mental states. There was another table advertising the Haunted 1889 McInteer House in Kansas (a place I’m adding to my next list of haunted locations), while down the row from me were a mother and daughter selling creepy dolls which I wished I could afford.

My friend Tim McWhorter’s booth looks pretty cool.
Tim McLaughlin and his wife Carol at their booth.
The table I mentioned with the creepy dolls. I wish I could have bought them, but they cost too much for me!
Did I forget to mention meeting Bumpy, the mascot for the Bump in the Night Society?

Not to mention the number of tables selling New Age products, cool sculptures and crystals and jewelry, homemade soaps and snacks, books and Tarot cards and so much more. There was an even a table for a group that believes Bigfoot might be real, if you can believe it! And who knows? While I’m skeptical, there’s plenty in this world I don’t know about.

Of course, I already had a few friends at this convention. Greg and Kathy Fetekik of Tri-C Ghost Hunters, whom you may remember from my trip to the Bellaire House last year, were running the convention and it was cool to see them again. Plus, there was Tim McWhorter and Tim McLaughlin, whom you saw in the video, two authors I’ve gotten to know fairly well through HWA Ohio and through Twitter. It was nice seeing them.

And it was nice seeing so many people at the convention. We had a really good turnout, which I chalk up to a number of factors, including the location, convention subject, and people just wanting to get out during a pandemic. I’m not sure how many people were there, but the parking lot was full both times I went out to grab lunch (they had concessions in front of the prison), and they had cars parked on the grass. So there’s that.

Hell, even my dad and stepmom stopped by to see how I was doing. That was a nice surprise (and yes, they were originally supposed to be in the video, but their footage was corrupted as well).

My table wasn’t the most extravagant, but it still got some good traffic.

My favorite part though was probably all the people coming to my booth. I actually got quite a bit of traffic, even though my booth was one of the more understated of the convention. I handed out a lot of my business cards, but I also got to do plenty of Tarot readings, which most people found accurate to their circumstances. I’ve gotten very good at reading Tarot since Iowa last year, so I think that helped. That and maybe my cards really are magic.

And, of course, I got to sell some books. All my books–The Quiet Game, Snake, and Rose, as well as the chapbooks of “Agoraphobia” and “Mother of the King”–sold copies. And it was a delight to have so many people get excited to read my work, and then to sign said work for them. I hope I get to hear from them soon about what they thought.

All in all, I consider ParaPsyCon a great experience and came home exhausted but glad I went. I made some great memories (not to mention bought some great souvenirs), and managed to make about double what I put down on my table. And I got some great ideas on how to improve for next year should I go (which I think is a good possibility). For one thing, I’m investing in a sign with changeable letters, so that could draw in more attendees who like horror at future conventions.

For now though, I’ve got video evidence to review, souvenirs to hang up, a podcast tomorrow (click here to check that out), and–oh yeah, stories to write. Not to mention, I’ve got things I can’t talk about yet until the time is right and a day job that’s eating up a lot of my time. So I’ll catch up with you later, my Followers of Fear. I hope this post made you want to consider going to the next ParaPsyCon, no matter where you are right now.

Either that, or subscribe to my YouTube channel. Or both. I’m not picky.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*I’ll be saving the supernatural stuff for another post, as I still have to look over some of the footage I took and see if I got anything spooky on camera. However, I can say that I did experience some things, so keep an eye out for more videos and another post.

So as you likely know by now, I’ll be attending some events as a vendor. And I’ve been promising an update to let you know what the status of those events are. Well, not only have I created a post with updates on the events I’ll be attending later this year. I created a YouTube video about it!

So if you didn’t have time to watch that, let me just tell you about the events I’ll be at later this year.

First, I’ll be a vendor at Paranormal & Psychic Convention, or ParaPsyCon, 2021. This will be held at May 22nd-23rd, 2021 at the Ohio State Reformatory. If you’ve been following this blog for forever, you know that this is a former prison that later became a film set (it was actually the set for The Shawshank Redemption) and now it’s a museum famous for its architecture, history and numerous spirits haunting the building.

Yeah, you read that right. It’s haunted, and I have the documentation to prove it. Click here and here to find out what spooky stuff I witnessed while at the Reformatory.

Anyway, entry into the convention is just the cost of entry into the Reformatory, about $25. Not only will you get to tour the prison, but you’ll get access to the convention. Along with me, there will be other authors, reiki healers, Tarot readers, jewelry makers and vendors, paranormal teams, and so much more! You can check them out on the convention website here. I hope you’ll stop by and check them out.

The other event I’ll be attending as a vendor this summer is Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, Chicago 2021. This will be at the Quarry Chi in Chicago on June 19th, 2021. This is being held by the same group that I did the book expo in Iowa with last year. With the pandemic improving and a big urban center, hopefully more people interested in reading books by lesser-known authors will stop by. And as far as I know, there’s no charge to get in, so that should help with people’s book budgets. I hope you’ll stop by to see me and all the other amazing authors there. In the meantime, check out IABE’s website here for more information.

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines last year. That was a fun time. Hopefully fun times are ahead this year.

That’s all the events for 2021 so far. If I end up attending any others, I’ll be sure to let you know. I’m actually trying to set up a few author readings for when I’m traveling during my vacation later this year. However, most of the places that are willing to work with me have cautioned that unless I have some sort of local presence, it’ll be difficult to have a successful event of any sort (do I have any Followers of Fear out in St. Louis? Vegas? New Orleans? Bueller?).

And if you’re not able to attend any of those events, you’re always welcome to check out my work by using the links below. Yeah, I’m listing my links again. Sorry, but writing is a business as much as it is a labor of love. Anyway, if you do decide to check out and read my works, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me out in the long run (as well as other readers).

Also, check out and maybe consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I don’t post as often as some YouTubers, but I’m passionate about every video, so that should make up for the difference.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Assuming my first dose of the vaccine doesn’t throw me out of commission, I’m off to devour my enemies with a clan of gargoyles. Until next time, happy reading, a good April, and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Last year, I posted about a couple of conventions and book expos I was signed up to attend as an author or vendor. I’m putting out a quick update on that to keep you all updated. And I’m hoping a couple of you will be able to come and see me if you know about them well enough in advance.

First, there’s the Paranormal and Psychic Convention, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event held at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. You know, the former prison that was used as the set for the Shawshank Redemption and which is very haunted? Anyway, they released a new poster on Facebook today, which I’ve included below, and has said that, at the present, the convention is still a-go. This makes me very happy, because I love this location and I look forward to seeing all the different vendors there. Not to mention some friends and readers.

If you’re interested in attending, it’s going to be May 22nd-23rd. All you need to do is buy a regular ticket into the prison to attend. The convention is wrapped into the ticket cost! You can find out more details here.

And if you’re a vendor interested in joining in on the fun, I think the convention is still taking applications for vendors. You can look at their vendor application page here.

The other event I’m scheduled to attend is the Indie Author Book Expo in Chicago, or IABE Chicago. Sponsored by the same group who held the event I attended in Des Moines back in July. This one will be held at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th Street in Chicago, Illinois on June 19th. I don’t think the location has ever been haunted or used as a film set, but the photos online show a very nice event space. You can walk around, check out some authors and books, and maybe say hello to me while you’re there.

And that’s the total number of events I’ll be attending this year. So far, anyway. It’s still early in the year, so if something comes up that I can go to, I will. And I’ll post about it too. (Let me know if you know of any I could go to.)

And yes, I know that COVID-19 could interfere at any time. Believe me, it interfered with ParaPsyCon last year. As in canceled it. But with the vaccine rolling out and early results showing promise, I’ve reason to hope. And make plans. And maybe see some Followers of Fear in real life, rather than through a screen.

Well, I just wanted to update you on all that. If anyone needs me, I’ve dinner to make and the first short story of 2021 to write. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines this past year. I’m hoping to have wonderful experiences at the events I’ll be attending this coming year as well.

I know it’s early. We still have three months and nine days left of 2020. I also know that, with COVID-19, any planned event is subject to change or cancellation. And there’s no telling when this pandemic will end. But I want to be optimistic and hope things work out before these events happen.

Plus, I’ve already talked about one of these events on most of my other social media in order to help get more vendors there. And if you want to get this stuff on people’s calendars, you gotta get the word out as early as possible. Before they put weddings and bar mitzvahs and other conventions on their calendars.

What was I talking about? Oh right. So, I’m signed up to be a vendor or author at a couple of conventions and book fairs next year. And I’m letting you know about them in case you’d be interested in them or going to them.

First, there’s Paranormal and Psychic Convention 2021, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. You know, the haunted former prison where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption. The one I’ve been to twice and filmed some of my best haunted footage at. It’s from May 22nd-23rd, 2021,* and all it takes to get in is admission to the convention is to pay for admission to the prison. You can find out more on their website here.

Fun fact: I was actually supposed to be at this convention earlier this year. But we were in the early days of the pandemic, and the convention organizers were wise to cancel it. They then offered to put me on the vendor list for 2021, and I accepted. I’m hopeful that by then, things will be a bit safer and we can go to the convention in peace.

Then the month after, I’ll be at an event hosted by Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, the very same group who hosted the expo I went to in Des Moines back in July. However, this time, I’ll be at IABE Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. It’ll be held on June 19th, 2021 at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th street. Not sure what the parking situation is, or if this location has been used as a film set, or if it’s haunted. But hey, doesn’t mean it won’t be a good time. You can find out more about it, as well as the other events IABE will be holding next year, on their website here.

I’ll be at both events, selling books,** doing Tarot readings, meeting readers, writers and others alike, and just trying to have a good time. So, if you’re able to come to either, please do. I’d be happy to see you.

And if I sign up for any other events, I’ll be sure to let you know well in advance that I’m attending. Don’t know if there will be. Some won’t happen unless the pandemic gets better. Others won’t let you sign up unless you’ve had a book published within a certain time period, so my attendance will depend on what occurs over the next year or so. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If any of you are able to make these events, I hope I’ll see you then. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Same weekend as StokerCon, I know, but I already had this on the calendar. What are you going to do?

**And some other things. I’ve had a few ideas on other items I can sell alongside my books. And I’ll probably think of a few more before the first convention.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week, but I had to upload some videos onto YouTube, and then I was writing a short story, and editing a novella, and life got crazy. Anyway, no time like the present, so let’s talk about something I did last weekend that I’ve wanted to do for almost a year. That’s right, I did a public ghost hunt!

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember I wrote about visiting the Ohio State Reformatory, filming location of the Shawshank Redemption and all-around haunted location open to the public (you can read the original post here). I got a lot of paranormal evidence off video with my dowsing rods and was eager to visit again. I’d also known about the public ghost hunts they conduct during the summer months for a while. My vacation was coming up, so I thought, “Let’s do it!”

I’m not going to recount the whole evening (we were there from 6 PM on June 1st to 3 AM on June 2nd), or we’ll be there the whole day. However, I can hit you with the highlights. I arrived at the prison a little before six and waited with a couple of other early arrivals for the gate to open. Once it did, we trundled in and checked in at the front entrance. Once that was taken care of, I was led to a big gathering room where you could see the east and west cell blocks through glass windows on either side. Since the fun wasn’t set to begin until 7 when everyone was checked in, I spent time talking to other people and did an initial dowsing test, which led to this video.

Yeah, so already the place was active. And as my questions proved, this wasn’t just me manipulating the rods or anything. Something invisible and intelligent was manipulating them!

After everyone was checked in and the schedule and safety procedures were outlined, we were split into three groups. My group was full of people who just wanted a quick overview of the hot spots in the prison and how to use some of the ghost-hunting tools the prison rents out during the public ghost hunts. After that, I went with one of the staff members, Doug, to check out first James Lockhart’s cell and then solitary confinement, where the ghost of Officer Hanger hangs out. My idea was that I got such good results last time from those locations, I wanted to see if they could be replicated.

Replicated, they were. And if you watch the Lockhart video, you’ll notice at one point my cell phone’s camera refocuses for a split second. Did it perhaps sense Lockhart and was trying to focus on him? Lord knows I wasn’t the one who needed refocusing on.

 

After that, I went back to the “base camp” between cell blocks to grab dinner, and I ended up making a few friends: Dave and Danette, a couple on a road trip from New York to Florida, and Greg and Kathy, regular ghost hunters who volunteer a lot at these ghost hunts. I ended up spending the rest of the night with them. We got on pretty well, and I had a lot of fun going to the different spots in the prison to find evidence: the west end showers, the “Jesus Room” (that’s a thing, though it’s not on the usual tour route), the library, the “toilet room” (it has a lot of toilets on a shelf for some reason), the attic, the administration block, and the warden’s quarters.

Sadly, we only got so much evidence. For some reason, it was a pretty quiet night, at least according to the veterans like Greg and Kathy (and that was despite a thunderstorm going on outside. You’d think that would be perfect for both atmosphere and energizing spirits). However, there were some moments where we did experience something. Off the toilet room, for example, we ran into Mr. Salts, a former guard who prisoners had to see before being allowed to visit the hospital wing. He would feed Epsom salt to inmates he suspected of faking being ill to get out of work. Here’s the video of that (sorry if the angle is weird. Next time, I’ll hopefully have a legit ghost-hunting camera and spare batteries too).

So if you didn’t watch the whole video, while we were talking, Greg got swatted on the head by something we couldn’t see, possibly Mr. Salts. And then David tapped my head as a joke.

The other area we experienced something weird was the attic off the chapel (also not on the normal tour route). There, while standing in the dark, several of us noticed some strange, dull-green lights moving about. A couple of times, I thought I saw a misty-like figure. And during this, someone or something threw a rock at us from behind (and there was no one back there!). It was crazy!

After that, the rest of the night went by pretty quickly. Dave, Danette and I went around the warden’s quarters with an app on Danette’s phone that was supposed to catch ghost energy and translate it into words (reliability of said app, we all admitted, was questionable at best) before heading back to base camp to turn in our rented equipment and check out. I promised to get in touch with my friends, and then we left the building. Most people drove off, while I stayed an extra minute to burn some sage so nothing followed me back to the bed and breakfast I was staying at (ain’t nobody have time for that!).

All in all, it was a fun and amazing experience. I got to see places in the prison and sides to it that most people on the day tours never get to see, and I got to witness some really cool stuff. And you can’t discount making new friends. That’s always wonderful.

Chilling right before going on a ghost hunt!

The one criticism I have for the ghost hunt is that it may have had too many people and was kind of disorganized. There were maybe seventy people there that night, and they were free to travel just about anywhere they wanted, sometimes making a ton of noise as they went. It’s difficult to hear ghost voices or catch phenomena when you have to wonder, “Is that a spirit trying to manifest, or is someone waving a flashlight in the chapel and we’re seeing it here in the back of the attic?” A smaller number of people and a little more organization so as to minimize cross-contamination would’ve been nice.

All in all though, I would gladly go again if I get the chance. It was a lot of fun, and I got to ghost hunt firsthand, rather than just watching it on TV or pulling out the dowsing rods in a place where ghosts are known to hang out. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to investigate some other places. Greg and Kathy mentioned going to Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Kentucky. I could see myself having a blast there, so if I can…who knows?

And if you have the chance, I highly recommend doing a public ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory. You never know what you’ll come across.

In the meantime, this is just a reminder that you have till tonight at 11:59:59 PM to sign up to be an advanced reader for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose from Castrum Press. The novel follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you are interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after it’s released. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve mentioned time and time again how I want to visit haunted locations. In the past, I managed to visit the Paris catacombs, where I saw plenty of skulls but no paranormal phenomena, and last year I visited The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, where I caught my first paranormal evidence on video. And over this weekend, I had the opportunity to visit another one, one that’s in my home state of Ohio that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time: The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. And wouldn’t you know it? I saw plenty of stuff that can be considered out of the ordinary (besides me, I mean).

Some context first: for a while now, my dad’s side of the family have been planning an “Ungarfest,” where the whole family gets together and hangs out. It’s a chance for all three of the families–my dad and his family, his brother and his family, and his sister and her family–to see each other now that most of the next generation are grown and there’s a chance our lives will take us all over the place. Currently all three families still live in Ohio and Michigan, so the majority of us were able to come together and see each other. And guess where the family ended up spending the afternoon after spending the morning at a nature garden in the morning? You guessed it, the Ohio State Reformatory.

Now some of you may know the reformatory, or OSR for short, as the place where The Shawshank Redemption, among other famous films and a few TV shows, were filmed. However, the OSR is also famous for being something of a paranormal hotspot. Plenty of deaths have occurred there over the years, and of course stories of hauntings have popped up over the years. With that in mind, I bought my own pair of dowsing rods so I could speak to the spirits there (the ones at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast worked so well for me).

Me protesting my guilt with a cell-door on the lawn.

Me pretending to shank my stepsister for some reason.

So once we got there, we went in (two of my sisters decided not to go in because they found the whole thing too freaky), and met JD, our tour guide, who was honestly just the best tour guide we could ask for have (I’ll get into why in a bit, but for now, just know that if you get to come here for a tour, you can’t go wrong by asking for JD). He took us around for the first half of the tour, talking to us about the history of the prison and what it was like for a prisoner during the prison’s heyday.

How can one describe the prison accurately? Well, it’s big, I can say that. Metal and drywall and brick and stone are everywhere. The paint on the walls and every other surface is peeling all over the place, and you can smell the building’s age and paint everywhere. In various rooms, you’ll see original artifacts from when it was an active prison, such as the original electric chair that was used there, products made in the shops the prison ran, and much, much more.

You also got to see a lot of the locations where The Shawshank Redemption and other films used as sets. Warden Norton’s office is perfectly preserved for the most part, as well as the door that the guard broke the window in that one scene of the movie. And apparently Brooks and Red’s apartment was filmed in the prison too. It was cool to see that piece of film history on display there.

JD (left) and his fellow tour guide Michael (right) talking to us in the room where a scene from Air Force One was filmed.

Me at the foot of the stairs where Andy Dufresne and Warden Norton talked about budget issues in getting a library.

I’m at Warden Norton’s desk. There’s a bit of “blood” still on the window.

Me doing my imitation of that guard from the movie. Also, this is my new author pic.

And so was Rami

But definitely one of the best parts of the tour was JD. He was friendly, funny, and a really cool dude with a voice that reminded me of musicians I’ve seen in movies and TV (and that description is how you know I’ve been writing for a long while). I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he was a musician, he seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy playing some guitar on the weekends. But he was also very inspiring. You see, JD was an inmate for a short time at OSR back in the 1980s. During the tour, he took us by the cell in the west block where he stayed while there, and how his experience at OSR helped him turn his life around. It was really inspiring to hear. A lot of people think of people who have gone to jail, and it isn’t usually a positive image. But JD was able to give us this personal story of how his stay affected him. Combined with his friendly and very humble personality, it really made his story all the more powerful. You couldn’t help but like him, not just as a tour guide but as a person. And on top of his personal knowledge of what it was like to be a prisoner at the Ohio State Reformatory, it just made for an excellent tour.

JD in front of his old cell, telling us how being at OSR changed his life.

If it’s not obvious, I highly recommend JD as a tour guide. On a scale of 1 to 5, a definite 5. If you get him as your tour guide, you won’t regret it.

Of course, you’re curious about the paranormal stuff I witnessed. First off, the dowsing rods had an excellent first time out. I got a lot of communication from spirits, some of which made it onto video and then onto YouTube. One of the first places we visited was solitary confinement, where the spirit of Frank Hanger, a security guard who was murdered by three inmates in that area, is said to hang out. Here’s the video of that particular encounter.

Something you should know: that question Jay threw out about the electric chair was a trick question to make sure we were actually talking to a spirit and it wasn’t random movements on the part of the rods. Turns out it wasn’t random movements: those three convicts committed suicide, so Officer Hanger’s “no” was a point for the I-was-communicating-with-spirits side.

The other major spirit I spoke to was that of James Lockhart, an inmate who killed himself by immolation. His cell is notoriously haunted. I got to speak with him as well, and learned some interesting things.

Sorry about the vertical filming. You can only do so much with your cell phone.

I also had a lot more communications, some of which I got on video. But these are the best quality, so I wanted to make sure people got to see them. You can draw your own conclusions on what happened while at OSR that day (just don’t leave vitriol-filled comments for me to read), but I like to think that I got some communication from the other side that day. And a lot of people who witnessed me using the rods, including this one family I kept seeing around the east cell block (they’re the ones asking me to ask Lockhart if he burned himself), probably believe me now (I think they took video footage of some of my communications. There may be footage of that floating around the Internet somewhere).

Oh, one more thing I want to mention. This isn’t so much explicitly paranormal as it is weird, but it’s worth a mention. You remember that photo of me at Warden Norton’s desk? Well, this may have just been an issue in the transition from my camera to Instagram, but it’s still weird and kind of freaky.

I have no idea what happened here. The photo of me at the foot of those stairs seems to have been overlaid with me at Warden Norton’s desk. Not sure how that happened, but it is pretty cool. Even if it isn’t exactly supernatural.

All in all, the Ohio State Reformatory was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful building, filled to the brim with history, pieces of culture, and a few spirits. I’m so glad I got to go, as well as to test out my dowsing rods in such a great venue. And now that I have my driver’s license, I may be able to go up again someday very soon and perhaps get some more proof of the paranormal. In fact, you should bet on that happening (Zak Bagans, call me). Until then, definitely consider making a trip to the Reformatory and seeing the history and hauntings yourself. Guaranteed you won’t regret it.

And thanks to JD and the folks at OSR for hosting my family this weekend. We enjoyed ourselves immensely while there. I hope you’ll see us (or maybe just me) again soon.

The Ungar clan, AKA 40% of the reason I’m as messed up as I am.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue. I’ll be seeing you all again very soon. Until then, pleasant nightmares!