'Haunted' Ohio Prison a Hot Spot for Weddings

PHOTO: Glamour in the Slammer bridal show

The 100-year-old Ohio state prison featured in "Shawshank Redemption" has taken on a new, significantly less creepy role in recent years: wedding venue.

The penitentiary even hosted its fifth annual Glamour in the Slammer bridal show this month, drawing more than 500 potential brides and grooms to view the venue's space and outfit their weddings.

The jail was famously the setting of "Shawshank Redemption," the 1994 film about an escape from prison. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society now runs historic tours, hosts paranormal events including ghost hunts, and rents the space out for weddings and banquets.

"The room is beautiful," said Susan Nirode, operations manager of the Preservation Society. "It's seated right between both of our cell blocks, in the very center of the building, with large granite columns, black and white marble floors, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls."

Weddings start at $1,000 for venue rental, according the Preservation Society, and the prison's Central Guardroom is booked through the end of 2012. They've already hosted more than 50 weddings in the space, she said.

The prison has also been home to film crews for the movie "Air Force One," a rap video for Lil Wayne, an advertisement for World Wrestling Entertainment, and the reality show Ghost Adventures.

It was an operational jail which held prisoners from the late 1890s to about 1990, Nirode said, when the inmates were transferred to a newer facility nearby. A group of interested citizens organized the preservation society, eventually securing the deed to the prison. It's now run as a non-profit.

After a few years of haunted tours and film fans visiting the prison, a couple suggested a "spooky" wedding in the Central Guardroom. Nirode and others from the board decided that a renovation, completed in 2006, would help draw more events and, eventually, an additional revenue source for the prison.

Nirode, who runs the bridal show for the Preservation Society, said that many brides can shake off the prison feeling when they see how beautiful the building is.

"When you walk up, it looks like a castle from the outside. For the weddings most couples even leave the curtains in the guard room open so people can look down the halls at the cells. And it's not couples you would think would want to have weddings in prison. Very simple, very elegant," she said. "You wouldn't even know you're in prison."

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