Fall is synonymous with Halloween and adrenaline-inducing haunted attractions, whether historical or more for a laugh with friends. Those who dabble in the paranormal world or enjoy the jolt of being frightened by a themed “haunted” house will find plenty of options in Ohio. From former prisons to graveyards to mortuary museums, we’ve truly got it all.
Situated roughly halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, Mansfield is packed with history and home to the state’s most notorious former prison: the Ohio State Reformatory, which can be seen in many “Shawshank Redemption” scenes. Visitors can tour the site daily throughout September (new this year) and then catch the haunted/Halloween experience, Escape From Blood Prison, on select dates starting in late September and running through early November. Other must-see spots from the Haunted Mansfield trail include the Haunted Bissman Building and Malabar Farm State Park, which both offer ghost walks and other themed events this fall. The Safe House, a nearby bed and breakfast with a distinct “Shawshank” feel, is the perfect spot to overnight.
Trail of Terror
You know the feeling. It’s dark out, it’s quiet, and you feel like someone is watching you – a chill runs down your spine. You look around but don’t see anyone. Then suddenly, without warning, your greatest fears come to life as a roaming zombie or monster jumps out in front of you scaring you out of your soul. If that sounds like fun to you, then the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Trail of Terror is just for you including seven stops like Lake Eerie Fear Fest in Sandusky and DarkenWood Haunt in Vermilion.
The best way to explore this sleepy Ohio River town in the fall is to check out Hidden Marietta’s haunted bus tour, which includes a ghost hunting workshop and stops at a few of the city’s most haunted spots. Those staying overnight will love the notoriously haunted Lafayette Hotel’s Ghost Hunting Package (starting at $145/person) through October, which includes a two-night stay, a walking tour with a certified ghost hunter from Hidden Marietta, dinner in the hotel’s infamous Gun Room one night, and the Grand Sunday Brunch Buffet. Another must-do: Peoples Mortuary Museum, which showcases this obscure profession and has various antique hearses on display.
The capital city is no stranger to ghosts, with visitors to one of its most well-known landmarks, the Ohio Statehouse, claiming to have seen apparitions of Abraham Lincoln (who laid in state in the site’s rotunda in 1865), Confederate soldiers, and even former senators roaming the halls. Take a free tour of the Statehouse during the day, or opt for the family-friendly Haunted Statehouse Tour (October 19&20 26&27). If you prefer independent exploration, head just outside of downtown to check out Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery and catch a glimpse of the infamous Lady in Gray – said to be a sympathizer that roams the grounds of this final resting place for more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers. Stay overnight at Granville’s The Buxton Inn, a former stagecoach stop located east of Columbus, whose rooms 7 and 9 are notoriously haunted.
True crime enthusiasts won’t want to miss Haunted Cleveland Tours, run by a local psychic who offers both walking tours (Thursdays in September & October) and bus tours (October 28 and November 3) – both covering the infamous 1930s “torso murders” that rocked the city. Stop at Don’s Pomeroy House for a drink or bite to eat, as this 1840s mansion was a stop on the Underground Railroad and is said to still “house” some slave spirits. Stay overnight at The Tudor Arms Hotel Cleveland, a stunning 1930s-era building in University Circle packed with history and whispers of ghost sightings.
If you prefer to get some fresh, fall air while looking for ghosts, Hocking Hills is the place to go. Several of the area’s trails are known paranormal hot spots, including Conkle’s Hollow, where the spirits of Native Americans who robbed settlers (and were later hanged for their crimes) allegedly still roam, and Ash Cave, where a lady wearing 1920s garb has been spotted. Just south of Hocking Hills, check out the Halloween-themed Midnight at Moonville (October 13) complete with ghost storytelling, wagon rides and local vendors – all set inside the haunted Moonville Tunnel. Spend the night at the Logan/Hocking Hills KOA, open through the end of October and said to be haunted by the ghosts of children buried at nearby Blackjack Cemetery. Tip: the Hocking Hills area is very popular in the fall, so avoid the crowds with a weekday trip if possible.
For more fall travel inspiration, Find It Here on Ohio.org.