Lima Correctional Institute
I first read about the Lima Correctional Institute in Chris Woodyard’s book, Haunted Ohio IV, back in the late 90s. There wasn’t much information given about the place, just a quick blurb about a ghostly matron who seemed destined to perform her job delivering meals to inmates for the rest of eternity.
Her presence, it seems, was real enough that inmates would decline the food trays she tried to give them, telling her they’d already eaten. Even employees had reported seeing her and sometimes so clearly that they can even recite the employee number on her badge. The number matched that of a female who had worked at the facility when it was a state hospital years ago.
Woodyard only saw fit to devote a single paragraph to the location probably because, as ghost stories go, it seemed fairly tame. Interesting, certainly. But, it’s not really the kind of story that grabs you, is it?
And, then I started researching the location on my own. What I discovered was a horror story.
Construction of the facility began in 1908. Seven years later, the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane opened its doors and began taking in those inmates which could not be safely incarcerated elsewhere.
This facility was designed to hold the worst of the worst. Up until the construction of the Pentagon, the Lima State Hospital was the largest poured-concrete structure in the country. It featured 14″ thick walls and a steel-reinforced frame that ran straight through to the bedrock underneath. It was designed to be impregnable.
Unfortunately, the one thing a builder can’t always account for is a trapped person’s desire to breathe free air and the cunning it takes to achieve that goal. Despite its solid structure, the Lima State Hospital saw 300 escapes by 1978.
The Lima State Hospital was a terrible place to be, whether as an patient, inmate, or employee. As a hospital for the criminally insane, patients received the bare minimum in care, both by choice and as a matter of practice. It was common knowledge among patients to avoid the infirmary at all costs. People who went to the infirmary weren’t always guaranteed to return. It was rumored that the particular brand of medicine practiced inside the Lima State Hospital wasn’t necessarily the most ethical or humane.
Employees and patients, alike, have indicated that there was nothing rehabilitative about the hospital. People weren’t sent there to be treated, cared for, or given much of a chance at a normal life as possible despite being incarcerated. They were warehoused. That’s the most common word used, warehoused. The best patients could hope for here was the bare minimum.
When conditions are that miserable, it doesn’t take much before people begin to realize they have little else to lose by fighting back. And that’s exactly what they did.
The history of the Lima State Hospital was marked by frequent and often dramatic protests staged by patients. Between all the escapes and near-riots, things finally took a turn for the better in 1974. In response to a class-action lawsuit levied against the hospital by the patients, a judge affirmed and upheld the patients’ rights to “dignity, privacy and human care.” But, in many ways, the damage had already been done.
A former employee of the hospital, who began working there in the early 70s, insisted that, despite court orders, the environment remained a very hostile place to live and work. No one, he said, could even imagine what it was like in there. It was dangerous. It was scary. And, yes, it was haunted.
Most of the paranormal claims come from employees and inmates once a prison was added to the complex.
In 1982, the Lima Correctional Institute, a medium-security prison, was opened and began receiving inmates.
One former inmate, who was incarcerated from 1990 to 1998, saw with his own eyes the strange things that went on behind those thick, concrete walls. The assertions about sub-standard and unethical medical care continued. The stories of unexplained deaths continued. And, claims that the complex was chronically haunted certainly continued.
An employee who worked as a corrections officer beginning in 1989 kept detailed notes of all the strange things he witnessed over the course of his 13-year career at the Lima Correctional Institute. And, he wasn’t the only one who kept such a record.
The complex was haunted. It was common knowledge among staff and inmates. Some of it was so commonplace that it seemed like “just one of those things” and no one really thought twice about it. Sometimes, though, experiences were too unnerving for even the most hardened individual to cope with for long.
Just about every cellblock experienced some sort of phenomena. Cell doors would open and close, lock and unlock all by themselves. Lights would turn themselves on and off. Phantom music was often heard in the basement and mysterious footsteps were heard in empty common areas after inmates were locked down for the night. The feeling of being watched, touched, and followed was felt throughout the building. And, while some areas were plagued with mundane haunting phenomena such as these, other areas seemed prone to far more unsettling encounters.
In the maximum security section of the prison, the phantom of a figure wearing black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt was often seen passing through steel doors, moving from cell to cell.
The second floor of F Block was particularly active as people would often report hearing the phantom screams and moans of a woman. A woman was often heard shouting, “Help me! Help me!,” sending guards running to the second floor only to find nothing there. Inmates housed on F Block’s second floor said the female apparition was a woman named Mary. How they arrived at that information is unknown, but it was well-known that the ghost of a woman, either a former employee or former patient, was often seen – and heard – throughout F Block.
Other active areas included Dorm 2A, which seemed to be beleaguered by mysterious phantom voices, and Dorm 5, whose doors and lights seemed to have a life all their own.
Outside the complex, activity seemed to be just as prevalent, especially the prison cemetery which contains the remains of 502 former residents – one of which is the notorious Ceely Rose who murdered her entire family with rat poison.
The Lima Correctional Institute closed in 2004, but a smaller prison, the Allen Oakwood Correctional Facility is still in operation on the site.
The Lima Correctional Institute is no longer open, but is located at the same site as the Allen Oakwood Correctional Facility at 2238 N. West Street in Lima, Ohio.
“Haunted Ohio IV” by Chris Woodyard, (c) 1997
Lima News, 31 Oct 1990
Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Haunted North America