Who: Lori and Melissa

What: 3-state, 3-day extravaganza

Where: Mansfield, OH, Trenton, MI, Newport, KY

When: July 3-6, 2014

Why: Shawshank
Sites Visited:
The Shawshank Redemption
Ghost Adventures

My brother and I between us have probably seen the movie about 100 times all the way through. For half of our lives, we debated on whether or not we would get busy living or get busy dying if we ever ended up in federal prison for a crime we didn't commit (for the record, he'd get busy living; I'd be too busy panicking to die), and we watched the movie over and over and over again. 

So when I found out the town where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed had basically become a shrine to all things Shawshank and that you could actually go inside the prison for a tour, I was all like, BROTHER, WE NEED TO DO THIS. Eight hours away from Mansfield, OH, we could do that drive over a weekend and be back at work by Monday. I had already done that drive for another insane reason: Gutenberg! The Musical, and so I knew it could be done. Then whenever we would catch the movie on Encore or Oxygen or Bravo, we could call each other up, and scream, "Sibling! WE WERE THERE!" It would be fantastic!  We would have so much fun!

My brother disagreed. Driving 8 hours to go hang out in a prison was "stupid" and a "waste of time" and he was "too cool" for such lame-assery. 

I begged him for 3 years. He denied me every time. Because he is a douche. 

Enter Melissa.

Melissa, my friend since grammar school was always up for a vacation and a rockin' good time. The year before, we had flown to Atlanta just to see the place where they invented Cabbage Patch dolls and made Coca Cola, and drove three hours just to see a Walmart in Alabama. When trying to decide where to go to this year, Melissa mentioned that she'd rather not go anywhere where we'd have to fly.

Well, Melissa, NO PROBLEM.


Melissa was a fan of The Shawshank Redemption. She'd seen it on A&E and the Movie Channel and on ABC that one time back in the 90s. She thought it would be fun to see the prison and hang out in the Buckeye state.

Melissa is way cooler than that loser I'm related to. Suck it, James.

Before the trip, I researched like only a crazed-person would, collecting screenshots featuring every location I knew we'd get to see in person. Even though we'd been friends for a very long time, Melissa had never before gotten to experience a TV/movie site with me and I wanted to make sure she was amply equipped for my photo ops. 

There was a strong possibility she wouldn't be friends with me after this trip. It was a risk I was willing to take.

We were going to Shawshank!

We left for our road trip at about 11am and drove a solid 8 hours with just a food stop in between, before arriving safely at our hotel across the street from a Walmart, by 9pm.

Some beauty sleep later and we were off to go walk in the footsteps of fictional prisoners, some falsely accused and some totally guilty but reformed enough to not pose a threat to society. 

Because Mansfield is a giving city, a map offering all the outdoor locations from the film was provided, along with a Shawshank Trail treasure hunt game we could play. I opted against the treasure hunt because I had enough neuroses to work with, but I appreciated the option. Thank you, Mansfield!

First up, the cabin where poor Andy Dufresne's wife was murdered while he sat outside in the car debating whether or not to off himself. He ended up getting convicted of the crime and spending 20 years in a federal prison, so maybe he would've been better off going through with his original plan. 

I kid. I kid. Suicide is wrong. Just say no.

The cabin was located in the middle of Farm State Park, with a sign that led up to it saying, "No Trespassing." Since I didn't come all this way to be a pussy, I ignored the sign and went right on through.

4050 Bromfield Road, Lucas, OH
(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

There was a family who had apparently stayed at the cabin loading up their car with luggage when we arrived, so as not to disturb them, we took this photo as quickly as could be and we ran.

After that, we kept with the park theme and went to Malabar State Park, to a section where we could stop the car and look out yonder to the oak tree where Andy left Red a note after he'd gotten out of prison. The oak tree which was on private property, was damaged in 2011 and only half of it remained. But here I am many yards away from it anyway:

Pleasant Valley Road b/w Malabar Farm & Malabar Farm Restaurant
(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

Directly across from my tree spot was a home where Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married in 1945. When saying their vows, I bet they secretly wished their location of love would someday look out onto an oak tree Morgan Freeman sat under. Dreams really do come true...

Continuing down the trail we stopped at the road Morgan Freeman's bus drove down for a total of 10 seconds in the film.

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

And then the road that the back of Morgan Freeman's head walked down.

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

I'm not proud of the amount of times I made Melissa retake these photos because they didn't look like the same angles from the movie, but she would have up learn how to do this at some point. I certainly couldn't have her messing up at the prison. Good heavens!

We then went into downtown Mansfield which is very different than downtown NY in so much as there's nothing going on and most places where stuff would go on were closed. But there was still...

The street old-timey Brooks walked down after being released from prison!

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

And the hotel where he stayed!

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

And the park where he fed some pigeons!

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

With that I had finished my outdoor Shawshank Redemption tour and Melissa and I got in the car to drive to Trenton, Michigan.

Yes, Michigan.

Since Ohio had already been on my list of visited states, I thought it would be cool for us to drive 2 1/2 hours to the closest Michigan city to see Fourth of July fireworks, get credit for being in Michigan, and then drive all the way back to Ohio to see the prison the following morning.

Two things I didn't anticipate with this plan: 1. getting pulled over for going 90 on the freeway (thank you Ohio officer for the warning!) and 2. the sun in Michigan not setting until almost 10 PM. 

But for the rest of our lives if someone ever asks us, "hey, have you ever been to Michigan?" we could nod our heads and say yes without lying. So...pretty much worth it for me.

The next morning, it was prison time! Unoccupied for over 20 years, the Mansfield Reformatory was as rundown as one would imagine an unoccupied-for-the-past-20-years prison would be. But as long as you ignored the lead paint warnings posted all over the place, the prison was AWESOME. 

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

The great thing about the Mansfield Reformatory is that it's self-guided. So if we...or just me...wanted to hang out in each room for 20 minutes taking photos, we could.

Melissa had no idea what she was in for...

Tim Robbins stood here!

And sat here!
(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

And crawled through here!

The warden sat here!

And stood here!

And used this safe!

Also, Brooks died here!
(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

In the film the scene is supposed to take place at the hotel we had visited the previous morning, but in reality it's right inside the prison in a completely open space. Brooks, don't kill yourself!! All your friends are right upstairs!!

Outside of the movie magic we also got to enjoy just hanging out in a good old dirty prison. Despite my reckless driving I liked to avoid activities that would bring attention to law enforcement so therefore I would probably never get to experience prison the traditional way.  Shame though. I've always wanted to meet Morgan Freeman...

(The Shawshank Redemption film location)

We spent about two blessed hours inside the walls of Shawshank and once I had made peace with the fact that there were no great souvenirs for me to purchase in the gift shop, we got back in the car and drove two hours to Newport Kentucky.

Yes, Kentucky.

Why? 1. Because it was close enough and we'd never been to that state either (a 3-fer!) and 2. It's Kentucky.

The day we were there there was a motor bike rally (because of course there was) and we got to walk amongst bikers and leather-clad groupies and consider buying some "kiss your daddy and slap your mama" cornbread. (Kentucky, I might want to live inside you just a little bit).

                                                                             (Ghost Adventures film location)

...to see where they filmed an episode of Ghost Adventures.

Thanks for the mem'ries, Ohio Michigan and Kentucky!