We’re heading to our host Sara’s home state of Ohio for this special episode for Season 2 Local Lore & Legends. Are you familiar with Ohio urban legends? How much do you know about The Monster of Minerva, or the only known witch trial to occur in Ohio? Like many other states we’ve covered, Ohio has its fair share of urban legends, spooky tales, and mysterious creatures. With some expert insight into the best Ohio legends and mysteries, the Not Your Average Bucket List hosts take us on a chilling adventure through the state.

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Ohio Urban Legends We’ll Cover

  • What are some of the best Ohio urban legends?
  • What really happens overnight in the Ohio State Reformatory?
  • Where did the Ohio Melon Heads come from?
  • The Only Known Witch Trial To Occur in Ohio


Ohio State Reformatory

The Ohio State Reformatory, also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, is a historic prison located in Mansfield, Ohio, United States. It was built between 1886 and 1910 and served as a correctional institution for nearly 100 years.

Originally designed as a facility for young offenders, over the years, it also housed more dangerous and hardened criminals. The reformatory was meant to be a model facility, incorporating modern penal philosophies and innovations of the time. However, things took a turn quickly.

The prison ceased operations as a functioning prison in 1990 due to concerns about inhumane conditions and overcrowding. Since then, it has gained fame as a popular tourist attraction, especially one with an emphasis on hauntings. Today, the Ohio State Reformatory offers guided tours that take visitors through the various sections of the prison, providing a glimpse into the harsh realities of incarceration during its operational years. Visitors can explore the cells, the guard room, the warden’s quarters, and the chapel, among other areas. Are you brave enough to tour this prison, or even spend the night?

The Hauntings of Margaret Shilling

Speaking of the Ohio State Reformatory, the story of Margaret Shilling and her alleged haunting is one of the most famous and enduring legends associated with the prison. Margaret Shilling was a young woman who was admitted to the reformatory’s psychiatric ward in the late 1950s.

According to the legend, Margaret became a patient in the psychiatric ward and eventually disappeared under mysterious circumstances. But as the legend goes, Shilling was playing hide and seek with the nurses and apparently was too good at hiding. It is said that she was never found, and her fate remains unknown to this day. The legend claims that a stain resembling a human figure was discovered on the floor of Margaret’s room after her disappearance. Despite numerous attempts to clean the stain, it reappeared repeatedly, leading some to believe that it was Margaret’s ghost leaving behind an imprint of her body.

Over the years, the story of Margaret Shilling’s haunting at the Ohio State Reformatory has captured the imaginations of visitors and paranormal enthusiasts. The stained floor of her room became a focal point for those seeking evidence of the supernatural within the prison’s walls.

The Only Known Witch Trial To Occur in Ohio


When we think of witch trials, we likely automatically think – Salem, Massachusetts. 17th century. Mass hysteria. However, there happens to have been a witch trial in Ohio in the early 19th century that has a happy-ish ending. A woman named Cindy Johnson, who is with the Clermont County Historical Society, says the story is told in an 1880 history book:

Taking place in the town of Bethel in 1805, this family known as the Hildebrands has a few older daughters who began behaving oddly around town. People thought they were actually possessed by evil spirits. The girls would scream randomly, become frantic over things that nobody else could see, and soon became “unfitted for their duties.”

The family tried an exorcism, naturally, and performed rituals to try and scare the evil spirits out of the girl’s bodies into a nearby sack. The sack was to trap the witch, close it and tie it, and then lay it on the porch to cut into a thousand pieces. No surprise here – it didn’t work. Gasp. And the demonic possession remained. But, the Hildebrand girls started pointing fingers at nearby neighbor Nancy Evans, accusing her of being a witch! Taking attention off themselves, people began to become afraid of Nancy Evans, and they didn’t want her to cast spells on them.

Since Ohio didn’t have any laws about witches or witchcraft, another idea involved a giant scale. So the justice of the peace at the time gathered the townspeople and told everyone he was going to place a huge bible on one side of the scale – and Nancy Evans on the other. If the Bible was heavier, Evans would be driven from town. No surprise, though, Nancy was heavier, and neighbors were relieved. Everybody went back to their lives. And people said that the justice of peace found a way to bring peace to the town without burning anyone at the stake.


  • (06:00:00) Ohio Has Its Own “The Watcher” Letter Writer
  • (9:45:00) A Few Haunted Spots In Ohio
  • (11:40:00) The Hauntings of Margaret Shilling
  • (20:57:00) The Ohio State Reformatory
  • (29:46:00) The Only Known Witch Trial To Occur in Ohio


In this episode, our hosts dig into some of the best Ohio urban legends and haunted tales. Plus, as always, take a look at these OnlyInYourState articles for more creepy Ohio articles:

The Ultimate Terrifying Ohio Road Trip

Ohio Urban Legends & Cryptids: An Interview With An Expert

Are you ready to tune into the episode? Listen now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Get In Touch!

If you have personal experiences with any of the local lore and legends mentioned above, call or text 805-298-1420! We’d love to hear your thoughts on these creepy, potentially haunted places and maybe even share your clip on the show! You can also reach out to us via email at podcast@onlyinyourstate.com.

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