Travel: Shawshank redemption

Growing up in the 90’s meant finding Shawshank Redemption on TV at least 2-3 times a week. Even after 50 viewings, I’ll stop what I’m doing to watch it again. So naturally when I discovered the set location was only 3 hours away, I had to make the pilgrimage. The movie was filmed in Mansfield Ohio at the Ohio State Reformatory. The prison itself was in use until 1990, a whopping 90 years of incarcerating bad guys! Hollywood was the buildings saving grace, as it was slated to be demolished. Once the movie industry set its sights on it, a cult following ensued.

Driving up to the prison.

Arriving at Shawshank is a bit different as it was in the movie. They’re missing the trees from the drive, and the yard in the rear has been replaced by a new prison thats actually in use. Previously they had various buildings for manufacturing. Shoes, license plates, etc.

First stop inside is the administrative building. Familiar scenes including the book delivery and the spots where Andy Dufresne laundered money for the warden.

The rest of the administrative building is filled with memorabilia from the film. Set pieces that were actually used, and a sprinkling of history from the prison. During non Covid times they offer tours given by previous inmates!

My buddy Christian getting some of that window light

The top floor of the Admin building is the haunted part. Maybe I should say the start of the haunted part. There isn’t much up there, just a bunch of empty rooms with a very creepy feel to them. They had a room labeled “Most paranormal activity”. Naturally we turned the lights off in the room and gave it a shot. My skepticism of the super natural remains intact.

The “Most Paranormal Activity” room

Across the hall from the scary room, is a collection of even more sketchy looking empty rooms and one important one. Where they filmed the hotel scenes!

Keep going down the hall and you’ll find yourself in the chapel. There was a staircase that was blocked off that led to the tuberculosis ward, glad we didn’t go there!

Many religions were had here

Next up, the actual cell blocks! There are two, an east and west wing. Both stacked 5 stories high and held mostly two prisoners in each tiny closet sized space.

From there you go down halfway to actually walk along on of the cell blocks to the rear of the wing. In the back area were the showers, infirmary, and library.

The most creepy thing about this side of the prison were all the random empty chairs strewn about. Most of them sitting by windows, almost as if they were placed there on purpose by some lonely lost spirit.

Next stop, the midpoint between the two wings. This is where the scene of the inmates being welcomed to Shawshank took place. Bob Gunton’s famous line, “Put your faith in the lord, your ass belongs to me.” echoed through my head. A couple branch off hallways were also there, most importantly the “Hole”. Talk about creepy. A basement dungeon like place, super dark, low ceilings, and i’m sure some messed up history. But also a less scary part, the movie prop used for Andy Dufresne’s escape in the tunnel!

Moving on, the last part of the tour is the other wing of the prison. A few famous musicians have shot videos there. Most recently Little Wayne.

That pretty much concludes the tour of the reformatory! Theres a few other stops on the way out of town that have to do with the movie if you have time. The Food Way is actually a grocery store, but has a giant mural on the side of Morgan Freeman, and the park bench where Brooks used to feed the birds. Even the big field where Andy buried the note for Red is in Mansfield somewhere! Its definitely worth a visit if you are looking for an entertaining weekend trip.

Camera tips

Bring something wide with a fast aperture. I was butted up against my cameras limits with the Laowa 10-18mm. Using in body stabilization the whole time and shooting at 1/4 second shutter speeds often to keep the ISO down. Other times I used a 35mm @ f/1.4 with good results but theres enough tight spaces that an ultra wide really has some purpose here. I also don’t see any need for anything longer than 85mm. Enjoy!

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