Creep yourself out at the Ohio State Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory

It may not look like it on the surface, but Mansfield, Ohio is a hub of activity. Paranormal activity, that is.  From the Bissman Building to Malabar Farm, many buildings and places in the area claim to be haunted, but none more than the historic Ohio State Reformatory.

Built and open for business, er…prisoners in 1886, this gothic like structure built by acclaimed architect Levi Scofield was built to strike fear in the heart of the young men that were lead through its gates. Originally used as an intermediate penitentiary that housed young first-time, non-violent offenders, the architecture was intended to intimidate the prisoners and cause them to be remorseful of the path they’d taken so they would be easier to rehabilitate. Eventually the prison began to house violent offenders, morphing into a maximum security prison before closing its doors for good in 1990.

Inside the Ohio State Reformatory

The imposing façade does nothing to deter visitors from flocking to the site today which is possibly the most visited attraction in Richland County other than Mid-Ohio Raceway (which is not haunted, by the way). Tours are offered most days, with self-guided and docent led tours available. I’ve been on both and found the docent led tour less creepy than the self-guided tour. I enjoyed learning about the history of the property, how it was nearly demolished and then purchased for $1 (no, that is not a typo) and became the filming site for the famed Shawshank Redemption, based on the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by famed author, Stephen King. I guess you could say the movie saved the prison, as the filming crews showed up on the very day the wrecking ball was set to strike. The movie has also boosted tourism in Mansfield, as fans descend on the area from across the country to view the filming locations that are views along the Shawshank Trail.

The Ohio State Reformatory has been seen in music videos, Hollywood movies and the much talked about, Ghost Hunters. Those with an affinity to all things creepy may enjoy spending the night entering the dank cells, slowly making their way through the dark passageways and cells.

The east cell block in the Ohio State Reformatory

The prison boasts a small museum with the Old Sparky, the original electric chair on display for all to marvel at. Surprisingly, the contraption was made by a prisoner on death row. I’m not sure that would pass as humane punishment these days. The prison also features the East Cell Block which is the world’s largest, free standing, steel cell block and The Hole, where unruly prisoners were sent.

Cells at the Ohio State Reformatory

Today visitors can tour just about every inch of the prison and while you can step inside the prison cells, just do me a favor and don’t slide the door closed behind you. Most of the keys have been misplaced and you may have a bit of a lengthy stay as you wait for a locksmith to come to your rescue. Did I mention the prison is creepy? Oh yeah, I think I did.

Visit to plan your visit.

Visit San Jacinto Valley Twitter Party

San Jacinto Valley Twitter Party

San Jacinto Valley, conveniently located between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, is an outdoor lovers paradise. Bike trails, hiking trails, paragliding, fishing, and birding are just a few of the sports you’ll find in this hidden valley. In addition to all the outdoor fun one can have, there is a plethora of history and culture. San Jacinto Valley is home to California’s longest running outdoor play, Ramona, has SoCal’s only Victorian Bridal museum and is fortunate enough to have Max the Mastodon residing in its valley.

San Jacinto Valley Twitter Party

I have been able to experience all the San Jacinto Valley has to offer first hand and I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the area during the San Jacinto Valley Twitter Party. You won’t want to miss it! This will be a great time with incredible prizes including a 3-night stay in a cottage at Golden Village Palms RV Resort (travel not included), THE place to stay when you visit the valley! We’ll tell you why during the Twitter party.

San Jacinto Valley Twitter Party

Participating is easy. All you need is a Twitter account, RSVP and show up and tweet. This is your chance to learn more about San Jacinto Valley, ask questions and possibly win one of the prizes! So grab your favorite beverage and grab a seat behind your computer or mobile device and join the conversation.


WHEN: August 9th

TIME: 7pm-8pm EST




CO-HOSTS: @debthompson, @traverlermom, @tatanishapw, @trailmixedmom, @dangercupcake, @TravelWell4Less, @BabyToBoomer, @pure_wander


PRIZES: SJV Gift Basket, $100 Ramona Bowl Gift Certificate, $50 VISA gift card, 3-night stay at Golden Village Palms RV Resort.

Winners will be randomly selected from the RSVPs. Be sure to use the #VisitSJV hashtag and interact with us like crazy!



It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Simply put your twitter name in the name field and your twitter link in the URL field and you have a chance to WIN!

New Year, New You – Great German Spa Experiences


Hop over the pond and get your year off to a great start with a visit to a German spa. In additional to great spas there are stunning landscapes, beautiful lake shores, National parks and more awaiting your visit.


Stunning natural landscapes, iconic landmarks and luxe spa hotels make Bavaria a great choice for your next wellness escape. Choose the Bavarian Alps to recharge in beautiful mountain scenery, and with a stay at 5-star Hotel Schloss Elmau, which is welcoming its sister property, Schloss Elmau Retreat in March and will host the G7 summit in June.

While in the area, don’t miss a visit to the fairytale castle Schloss Neuschwanstein. Or, head to the nearby Berchtesgadener Land which is part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve and offers such unusual treatments as a hay or whey baths and warm mud treatments.

North Sea


Located in Northern Germany’s Wadden National Park, St. Peter-Ording has been a leading spa resort for over 150 years. Take a long walk on the beach to soak up the pure, salty air, or explore the extensive pine wood forests that were laid out over a century ago. Then, spend a relaxing and romantic evening at Restaurant and Bar “54,” which is located in the North Sea, connected to the mainland by a walkway.
To round it off with the right overnight stay, stay at the upscale Aalernhuis Hotel & Spa, which uses products with natural, local ingredients such as amber and algae for its stress relieving treatments.*

german spa


Glamorous Baden-Baden has been a favorite destination for vacations that combine wellness, culture and luxury since the Belle Époque. Stay at hotel “Der Kleine Prinz,” a cozy, romantic property dating back to 1890 or opt for a suite overlooking the park at Brenners Park-Hotel and Spa, whose restaurant Brenners-Park Restaurant was just awarded a Michelin Star.

Many hotels offer their own spa facility, alternatively you may visit one of the public thermal baths, such as the Roman-Irish Friedrichsbad, which opened in 1877 and guides visitors through its 17 stages to well-being.

baltic sea


The islands and the mainland around the Baltic Sea offer the perfect combination of seaside resorts, a healthy climate, and plenty of wellness facilities. Beautiful small cities with romantic spa hotels such as Schlossgut Schloss Schwansee (a beautiful countryside manor with a spa located in the former horse stables), or the Neptun Spa and Hotel in Rostock, featuring an expansive, 25,000 square foot spa including a pool with fresh Baltic sea water, are more reasons to visit the region.



The region in and around the Thuringian Forest in Eastern Germany welcomes R&R-seeking visitors to towns such as Bad Salzungen, where SOLE (salt) treatments have a long history due to the natural saltwater springs, making it one of Germany’s oldest saltwater spas.

Located on a peaceful fresh water reservoir, Bio-Seehotel Zeulenroda is Germany’s first organic resort offering a variety of treatments as part of the guests’ carbon-neutral stay.

To find out more about wellness vacation in Germany, visit

Haunted Alton

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One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to take a haunted tour and/or explore the supernatural of a destination. A few years ago I discovered the most haunted small town in America. It was pure luck that I met the Alton, IL PR rep at a national travel conference. After chatting for a few minutes I realized that this was a must-visit town. A short time later I was on my way to discover just how haunted Alton really was.

My stay in Alton was fantastic and I heard lots of great stories of different hauntings in the area. There are a number of ghost tours in the area. Plus, last year began haunted river cruises on the Mississippi. The evening cruise includes a 90-minute tour that highlights points of interest along the shore and shares Alton’s goulish history. Learn more at

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Haunted Alton tours are available through the following companies:

Alton Hauntings

Based on the book Haunted Alton by Troy Taylor, Alton Hauntings Tours offers an entertaining and spine-tingling trip into the unknown, taking visitors to the most authentic haunted places in Alton. Uncover the eerie folklore, ghostly tales and documented haunted spots on a three-hour walking tour of the city’s most haunted sites. Visitors will see sites that have become nationally known, like the old Alton penitentiary, First Unitarian Church, Enos Sanitarium and many others. The tours have been proven to be popular with ghost enthusiasts and history buffs alike, and nowhere else can you learn as much about the real, haunted history of Alton. Walking tours and bus tours are offered during two touring seasons – Spring & Summer and the Haunted Fall Season. Private tours are also available for groups of 20 or more. Reservations must be made in advance for all tours. For more information or reservations, go to or call (888) 446-7850.

Alton Haunted Odyssey

Alton’s Haunted Odyssey began in 1992 when Marlene Lewis and Antoinette created the area’s first haunted tour. After Antoinette retired in 2011, Marlene and long-time tour guide Gary Hawkins decided to continue their haunted journey. They now off three different trolley tours that begin at the former Piasa Masonic Temple and takes you through the most haunted parts of Alton including the McPike Mansion, the Alton City Cemetery, Noll’s Bakery and Confectionary Co. and more. Ghost hunters are encouraged to bring cameras and ghost hunting equipment. Dinner tours include a meal prepared by Spirit’s Lounge. For more information or reservations, go to or call (618) 462-3861.

Mineral Springs Haunted Tour

Interested in taking a Walk in the Dark? Mineral Springs Haunted Tours will guide the way as they take visitors on a walking tour of Downtown Alton followed by an exclusive investigation of all four floors of the Mineral Springs Hotel – a site of murder, suicide and accidental deaths. Cap the evening off beckoning the afterworld through a séance and tarot card readings. Visitors can also sign up for the Cemetery Tours, complete with a wake and procession following the Mineral Springs hearse to the Alton City Cemetery. You can also tour the Museum of Torture of Devices! Walking tours, dinner tours and haunted overnights are available. Prices vary based on tour selected. For reservations, go to or call (866) 465-3205.Even if you can’t make it to Alton, you can still explore their haunted history with their new Haunted Alton app. People share photos through social media channels that are uploaded to the app giving you a look inside and outside the haunted buildings.

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In addition to seeing haunted images you can find a list of haunted tour providers and events. Download the Haunted App for free in iTunes or Android stores by searching for Haunted Alton or by clicking here: