Whitehouse Prison Workhouse
When it was still standing, the Whitehouse Prison Workhouse was known throughout the area as being the crumbling home to a wide variety of paranormal phenomena. It was not uncommon to hear phantom screams piercing the night from this abandoned prison workhouse sitting in the middle of field. As creepy as the place looked during the day, it became even more ominous at night.
Officially it was known as the Toledo House of Corrections. The farmland it sat on was purchased by the City of Toledo in 1917. A year later, it was fully operational and, at first, only housed a little under two dozen inmates.
For most of its history, the facility took in primarily non-violent offenders and attempted to rehabilitate them by putting them to work and teaching them a variety of trade skills. In keeping with the original use of the land, inmates were taught to grow crops, raise livestock, and even to work the old limestone quarry that had been on the site since the late 1800s.
Over the years, the Toledo House of Corrections saw rapid expansion and, of course, that always brings with it a whole host of problems a facility may not always be prepared for. As with any jailhouse story, conditions weren’t always the best.
On September 21, 1966, roughly 80 prisoners rioted over substandard conditions at the prison. Unresolved complaints kept piling up until the inmates had reached their breaking point. Wormy vegetables, rusty kitchen utensils, and no clean bedding had topped their list of grievances.
After the chaos died down, an official investigation found there was some merit to the inmates’ complaints, including a lack of proper medical care and a good deal of the bathroom facilities which were not in working order. It was not too long thereafter that the presiding prison superintendent was officially relieved of his duties.
But, riots, alone, do not a haunted prison make. As can be expected, there was some loss of life inside these prison walls.
One story that seems to get told and re-told has it that an inmate was electrocuted over some unknown grievance by a group of other prisoners while mopping a floor. Official records of deaths, natural and otherwise, haven’t been uncovered yet, but one would have to assume that more than one prisoner lost their life while incarcerated here.
The Toledo House of Corrections officially closed its doors in 1991 over budgetary concerns. Regional officials decided it would be cheaper to build a newer jail facility near Stryker than to update and expand the one in Whitehouse.
For ten years, the prison workhouse, including the land it sat on, sat empty and unused until it was purchased by the Metroparks in 2001. Renamed the Blue Creek Conservation Area, the land was slowly transformed into a place for hiking and fishing. The three-story, vacant prison building, however, was left to crumble in upon itself.
Obviously, this made it a tempting target for underage parties, thrill-seekers, and vandals. Shortly, thereafter, came the tales of supernatural encounters with what people believed were the prison’s former inhabitants.
People who were able to sneak past the park rangers and gain access to the devastated prison building would often report seeing, hearing, and even feeling strange things they couldn’t explain.
The feeling of being watched and followed as they moved from room to room was a quite common experience, as well as the distinct feeling that you were never alone no matter where in the building you went.
Many have reported hearing muffled sounds and banging noises echoing from the basement area, which over the years had filled with water and was too dangerous to enter.
People have felt unseen fingers tap their shoulders. They’ve heard voices whisper their name. They’ve heard moaning and screaming that seems to come from all directions at once. And, many have even reported witnessing strange, shadowy figures moving around in the empty jail cells.
A common complaint shared by most of the visitors to the prison workhouse is the sudden and seemingly mysterious onset of headaches and/or back pain while inside the building. Some have reported having such a severe headache that it brought on nausea. And, each time, these symptoms seemed to disappear completely as soon as they left the building.
Some would like to assign a paranormal explanation to these symptoms, but the true reason may be more natural. The headaches experienced by many while inside the prison may have been due to the existence in the air of lead paint dust, asbestos, and even the presence of a variety of molds. With the basement being full of water, one can only imagine how thickly mold was growing inside the building’s walls and flooring.
The old Toledo House of Corrections is no longer standing. It was demolished in October of 2014. But, just because you can get rid of a building, it doesn’t always mean you can get rid of its former residents. There are still tales of people hearing those phantom screams ringing out from the darkness where the old workhouse once stood.
Cover photo credit: Toledo Blade/Andy Morrison
The Blue Creek Conservation Area is located on the edge of Oak Openings on Waterville-Neapolis Road at Schadel Road in Whitehouse, Ohio.
“House Of Correction Vacated In 1991,” by Janet Romaker, The Toledo Blade, 03 April 2014
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