Ohio Penitentiary

Columbus, Ohio

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Postcards and photos from my personal collection.

The old Ohio Penitentiary was located on Spring Street in Columbus from 1834-1998. In 1998 the old pen was demolished to make room for Nationwide Arena.

The Ohio Penitentiary housed prisoners until 1985. At its peak in 1955, it was home to 5,235 prisoners. Conditions in the pen weren't terrible at first, but over time the conditions deteriorated. A few famous prisoners did time at the Ohio Pen: William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, wrote several short stories while doing time there, including "The Gift of the Magi". Charles Makley and Harry Pierpont, who were associated with John Dillinger, were also sentenced to the pen. They tried to escape on September 22, 1934 by using fake guns carved from soap. They made it to the death house doors, but then the guards caught up and fired at them with rifles. Charles Makley was killed by gunshots, but Harry Pierpont survived...just barely. He had been hit several times. His death sentence was upheld on October 17, 1934. He was still weak from the gunshot wounds, so the guards had to carry him to the electric chair. Another famous inmate was Sam Shephard, a doctor from Cleveland who was accused of murdering his wife. He served ten years before he was found innocent and was released. A TV show, "The Fugitive", was based on his story.

Supposedly, the old Ohio Penitentiary was haunted. The ghosts of all the prisoners who were executed there were said to roam the cellblocks and death house. In addition to the executed prisoners, 322 inmates who died during the fire of 1930 were also said to haunt the old pen. Even though the penitentiary is gone, people have claimed to witness ghostly activity in and around Nationwide Arena. Many believe this means the prisoners' ghosts still roam the property.

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