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Is Destination America Making Up Ohio's History?

I'm certain there are too many paranormal shows being pumped out of the Discovery Communications network family. One channel of theirs which has been branded to play paranormal content is Destination America. This was a channel of DIY and fishing shows before a boardroom meeting took it in a new direction, giving us the likes of A Haunting, Ghost Asylum, Mountain Monsters, and Paranormal Witness, among others. One particular visual sewage spill is titled Terror in the Woods. This is yet another paranormal reenactment program which pulls in applicants based on their most terrifying accounts of something unexplained that happened in or around a forest setting. While it's expectedly full of Bigfoot stories, it also contains some haunting tales which include famous locations.

Much like the garbage that is Here Comes Honey BooBoo, (judge me, do your worst), these shows are generally my trash TV background noise while I'm working on the computer. One episode in particular of Terror in the Woods featured a woman who's experience clearly took place at a large, famous, and abandoned prison.

Here's the thing, I'm not taking issue with the creation of these shows, or the people who desire to be featured on them. It's the content the creators include; the documented history they haphazardly rewrite and horrifically butcher to fit the narrative of their program that the issue lies within. While the beginning of the episode titled "Hell Hound" starts out innocuously enough with a retelling of Amy Bemis' visit to a prison to experience the paranormal, it devolves almost instantly the second she begins speaking about the history of the place.

To Sum Up:

She went to an abandoned prison just north of Columbus, Ohio in 2016.

She "didn't know anyone else there" but people were roaming around the building - sounds like a typical pay-to-play public ghost hunting event, more than likely.

She mentions the place was the site of the most catastrophic fire in American prison history. 300+ people perished including staff and prisoners alike.

Her account is her own subjective experience which takes place after being in the prison, at her home in a forested area (Hey! That covers the "in the woods" part!)

In the end of the episode after her personal story is explained and dramatically (shoddily) reenacted, she mentions the word "Mansfield" twice. (Hey, I don't take issue with the actors they employ for the shows, they just want to work. But holy hell, the budgets must be pitiful for these programs. It's apparent.)

Ok, so she went to clearly went to Mansfield Reformatory: infamous, massive, empty prison and film location of The Shawshank Redemption, just one of the best movies to exist, if we're being honest, and we always are.

The Problem:

At the point where she explained there was a massive fire and how many people perished in it, the episode launched into a montage of historic photos and video of the prison fire complete with newspaper article titles.

There was no massive fire that killed 320 people at Mansfield Reformatory. That fire took place at a building that no longer exists.

The Ohio State Penitentiary was located in the city of Columbus, and it is not the Mansfield Reformatory, aka the Ohio State Reformatory. The penitentiary is the one that closed in 1984 and lay abandoned until Nationwide bought the property and demolished it in 1998 to build an arena. I hear it's a great place to watch NCAA games. Try it sometime. Enjoy the game knowing you're in the very spot 300+ men died, some trapped in their cells with no way out but fiery death. How uplifting! While the channel and network cover their gaffs with a disclaimer at the start of the show about names and places being changed to protect privacy, no one stopped her from saying "Mansfield", or edited out the word. That disclaimer failed, at least on the part of the location.

So what the hell happened here?

Perhaps the witness, "Amy", was misinformed about both prison's histories and crossed information without intending to. Heres's where DA gives zero f*cks. That prison fire is a massive part of Ohio history, and is well-documented and easily learned about through a simple Google search. Most likely though, is the network took the liberty to include that snippet of grim history within the episode in order to... bolster the creep-factor? Show tragedy to reinforce the "death = hauntings" trope? I don't have that answer; the initial why. While no one would want to tell this woman her facts are dead wrong and that part should maybe be left out of the retelling, I'm sure they had to search for the images to edit the episode and would have come across the truth themselves. Meaning, they bypassed the facts to do so. Frankly, they lied, and they seem to have done so on the premise of "it's gross and tragic and we don't care how accurate any of this is. Viewers = advertisements = $$$."

There are droves of viewers who will never think twice about what they are shown and told on these episodes, and may spread misinformation further. Reenactments based on witness testimony which may or may not be credible is not the problem, but to blatantly espouse misinformation and concoct a false narrative of our documented historical record is. This is completely lost on Discovery Communications and the creators and producers of Terror in the Woods on the Destination America channel for the sake of pure entertainment. No disclaimer explains that though, unless it's hidden for a millisecond in the very end of the credits (they've done that with the mermaid mockumentary). I'm not the first last or only person to find this rewriting of history and locations disrespectful. DA needs another rebranding to give American history it's due diligence and proceed with honesty and integrity. That shouldn't be much to ask. In fact, it shouldn't have to be asked at all.

But hey, have a good time at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, or, take a tour of the Ohio State Reformatory aka Mansfield. Now you know.

Thanks for reading,

I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my fiancé, Ryan, we've explored countless haunted locations in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
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