Haunted Prison Tours: Three historic places of frightful fun

Monday October 21, 2013 at 11:11 AM | 2 Comments

Inside Ohio State Reformatory Cell Block One

Inside Ohio State Reformatory Cell Block One

The Ohio State  Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio is a creepy edifice of Victorian Gothic, Richardson Romanesque and Queen Anne  loveliness– even on a sunny day. Opened in 1896, its architecture was meant to inspire Ohio’s young bad boy men to reform themselves by turning to a more spiritual life. These days, come Halloween season, the prison’s creepiness sets the stage for another type of spirit–the ghostly, ghoulish and zombie-with-a-chainsaw kind.

The Haunted Prison Experience–each Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 2, is a fright fest guarantee. Last year, I had the pleasure of gripping a friends arm and shrieking my way up and down dark stairways,  around dark corners and past the peeling paint of  shadowy rows of cells that reached four stories high, anticipating the next time a ghoulish type either chased me with a chain saw or whispered in my ear, “I’m still here.” At each turn, there was a staged surprise–coffins where the dead person wasn’t quite dead, a burning car that blared its horn when we passed, a lightening flash and thunder crash that unexpectedly went off–that sort of thing. Creepily delicious.

Chainsaw carrying creepy guy

Chainsaw carrying creepy guy

Although, The Haunted Prison Experience is a show staged by actors, The Ohio State Reformatory is thought to be haunted. Ghost hunts are possible during other times of the year. The prison, closed in 1990, is also the prison that was used for the main setting of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.”

As a note, no one under 13 is allowed in the Haunted Prison Experience. Those who are under 13 can see the prison from May 1 to Sept. 1 during the prison’s regular tour season.

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the temporary homes of bad boy Al Capone, is another Gothic-style prison that has crumbled into perfection to provide a haunted Halloween backdrop.  Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary, through Nov. 9, offers six Hollywood-like sets in various parts of the prison that scare and thrill due to actors trained to know how to up the fright factor depending upon the visitor.  Younger kids with parents get a toned down version unless they seem up for more. It’s recommended that kids 7-12 come during Family Night on Sundays. Those under 18 who tour without a parent or guardian need to have a signed waiver form.

Terror Behind Walls at the Eastern State Penitentiary

Terror Behind Walls at the Eastern State Penitentiary

Insider Tip: Buy tickets online. They are cheaper and you shouldn’t have more than a 30 minute wait once you arrive.

West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, another Gothic architectural style prison of creepy proportions, was opened in 1876 and closed in 1995. Back in the day, its active death row  sent almost 100 men to the electric chair or the gallows. The result of this activity has placed the West Virginia Penitentiary at the top of the most haunted places list.

Tours here are not Halloween specific and are April through November. For the creepiest experience, take the Twilight Tour, daily from 7-10 p.m.– or the Ghost Adventures on Saturday nights. There is an age constraint for each. Only children 12 and over can do the Twilight Tour. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Ghost Adventures has an 18 or over requirement. The younger crowd can go on a regular daily tour. The West Virginia Penitentiary is closed on Mondays and holidays.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association; Ohio State Reformatory photo courtesy of Mansfield/Richland County CVB; creepy guy photo courtesy of Jamie Rhein; and Terror Behind Walls photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary.

Disclosure: My tour of the Ohio State Reformatory was courtesy of Mansfield/Richland County CVB, but the views are my own.



Four Seasons Lanai Manele Bay, Hawaii: Luxury Hotel Review

Friday October 18, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 7 Comments

Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay pool

Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay hotel review

I can’t tell you how many times I have looked across the water from Maui and wondered about that “other island” in the distance. A few miles west of Maui, the island of Lānaʻi was once home to Hawaii’s largest pineapple plantation.

While the island no longer exports pineapple, it does support 3,000+ residents and three hotels. Two of the hotels are run by Four Seasons Resorts.

I had the pleasure of staying at both the Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele and Four Seasons Lānaʻi, Manele Bay in Hawaii as a guest of Lanai Visitors Bureau. Manele Bay, with its 236 hotel rooms is a five star resort. The hotel is divided into nine buildings. Five of the buildings are named after flowers and four buildings carry the names of fish.


Ocean front terrace room

I was staying in the Ginger wing, with lovely landscaped grounds and an ocean front terrace view on ground level. My room, #2503, rented for $759, depending on the season, and included a king bed, desk and chair, a lounge chair, with ottoman and patio furniture on the small terrace. A well manicured lawn unfurled in front of my room, which looked out to the Pacific ocean.

The bathroom featured a large combination bath and shower. One of the highlights walking into the bathroom; smelling the full-sized L’ Occitane French-milled soaps. Yes, I admit; my dirty clothes bag was filled with the scent of verbena from these natural soaps.

Manele Bay, waterfall

The grounds at Four Seasons Lanai, Manele Bay in Hawaii

Family-friendly Manele Bay

Having not yet adjusted to the California time change, I got up early one morning and caught a tender moment between a father and his new baby, watching the sun come up. While our children are now young adults, this precious scene immediately brought back fond memories of one of our kids staggering across the grass as she learned to walk in Hawaii.

Will Lānaʻi is certainly a popular island for celebrating weddings, babymoons and anniversaries, Lānaʻi at Manele Bay is very family-friendly with kid’s programs, kid’s menus and family-friendly hotel rooms.

Nine junior suites, with prime ocean front views, are family-friendly with king bed and sofa in room. For more value-oriented hotel rooms, ask for a garden terrace.

Hulopo'e Bay beach chairs

Hulopo’e Bay beach in Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopo’e beach at Manele Bay

Beach lovers will appreciate that Hulopo’e beach is only a five minute walk from the resort. Hotel guests can expect clean restrooms, ice water, snorkel equipment, beach chairs and towels available for their use at the beach.  You’ll want to wear sandals for the walk down the paved path -it can get hot on the feet!

Manele Bay pool valet

When you are ready to go into “pool mode” slather on some sunscreen – you remember those sun safety tips – and don’t forget to grab your sunglasses.  Then sit back in a lounge chair and order the Lychee Rose Sangria from the bar. Feel good knowing that your Hawaiian island cocktail is 100% sustainable, with all ingredients found within 100 miles of Lānaʻi. (I know it’s a stretch, but I’m doing my part to keep Lānaʻi eco-friendly.

Manele Bay Lana'i

Four Seasons Manele Bay resort, Lana’i, Hawaii

If a friend is headed down from the Challenge Clubhouse restaurant, ask them to bring you a ginger ice cream sandwich. Afterall, you are on vacation, aren’t you?

Eventually, Dr. Shades and Dr. Lotion  will stop by to wipe your sunglasses, tighten the screws, and offer a sunscreen refresh. Those of you who like to stay connected while on vacation, or make your friends jealous with Hawaiian holiday pictures, will appreciate the charging stations at the pool.

Spa at Four Seasons Manele Bay

If you love being outdoors and hearing the sound of the ocean, you’ll want to line up a massage in an ocean hale with the Spa at Manele Bay. This tented cabana offers individual and couples massages overlooking Hulopo’e Bay. Need I say more?

hotel room, Manele Bay

Ocean Front Terrace Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, Manele Bay

Manele Bay dining options

If you are a sushi lover, make a reservation for Nobu Lanai. Personally, I’m not a fan of raw fish, but I did love their tempura battered shrimp with mushrooms and the Wagyu beef was fantastic. Make your dinner reservation for sunset, but if you are a baby boomer, bring your mini flashlight with you…the dim overhead lighting makes menu reading difficult at night.

One Forty Steak House offered one of my favorite meals and the service was attentive without being over-whelming.  My sunset supper started off with an Asian Pear Salad ($18) with macadamia nuts, blue cheese, papaya, mango and whole grain mustard-honey dressing. If the Kahuku corn soup is on the menu, give it a go, with its subtle butter poached lobster, hint of lemon cream and baby basil. My main course was the American Wagyu Snake River Farms 7 oz. flat iron steak ($45.) I also ordered the green bean casserole with Hamakua mushrooms as a side dish. My eyes were bigger than my stomach when I ordered the chocolate souffle ($8) but the few bites that I managed were warm, rich and creamy.

Lychee sangria Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana'i

Lychee sangria Four Seasons Manele Bay, Lana’i

Insider tip

I’m not a golfer, but I do enjoy good food and a scenic, ocean front dining experience. That’s exactly what I got when I ate lunch at the Challenge  at Manele Clubhouse. Order the drink of the day (strawberry lemonade on my visit) and if you are a seafood lover, you can’t go wrong with the Makai Salad or fish tacos.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @FSLanai on Twitter.

Check the website for package deals such as fourth night free.

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

If You Go

Four Seasons Lanai Manele Bay (808) 565-2000

One Manele Bay Road

Lānaʻi, Hawaii 96763

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of  Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau.

Related Post:

Lanai, Hawaii: Things to See and Do

The Lodge at Koele, Lānaʻi, Hawaii

Friday October 11, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 5 Comments

Four Seasons Lanai The Lodge at Ko'ele

Four Seasons Lana’i, The Lodge at Ko’ele review

As the shuttle turned into The Lodge at Ko’ele driveway, I couldn’t help notice the graceful Cook Island Pines flanking the path to the hotel, as well as the stately Norfolk Island Pine anchored to the right of the lodge; its roots dating back to 1875. The casual, yet elegant, upcountry setting of the lodge, with the signature pineapple gracing the front facade, gives a gentle nod to the Hawaiian island’s agricultural history.

The Lodge at Ko’ele gardens

Call me a California tree hugger, but I loved the nature surrounding The Lodge at Ko’ele. With acres of grounds to stroll, an orchid house, Japanese garden, pagoda, reflecting pond stocked with koi fish, an abundance of trees such as banyan, avocado, macadamia nut, mango and eucalyptus trees, to name a few, I was filled with calmness and serenity. I only wish I had more time to spend swaying in the hammocks.



lodge at Ko'ele Reflecting Pond

Lodge at Ko’ele Reflecting Pond

As is typical of my vacations, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the outdoor swimming pool or either of the two hot tubs. I could have stayed on property and kept myself occupied with croquet, lawn bowling, golf at Ko’ele or on the putting course, or taken a spin class in the fitness center. Instead, I took advantage of the many things to see and do on Lanai and explored the island by UTV,(4-wheel Utility Terrain Vehicle), SUV and on horseback with the Paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) at The Stables at Ko’ele.

Great hall premiere fireplace room

If you are splurging on a vacation at the Four Seasons Lānaʻi Lodge at Ko’ele, you might be, like me, celebrating a special occasion or wedding anniversary. I had the good fortune to land in a Great Hall Premiere Fireplace room on the second level of the two-story resort. The lodge is divided into two wings, the South Wing (rooms #200 and up) and the North Wing (rooms 300), with the great hall anchoring the hotel and ten rooms in this section. Don’t ask me to explain the math, as there are only 101 rooms at The Lodge at Ko’ele.

Great Hall Fireplace Room, Lodge at Ko'ele

Lodge at Ko’ele Great Hall Fireplace Room

My great hall room featured 560 square feet of living space, a sitting area, king bed, fireplace, work station, marble bathroom with combination bath and shower and a spacious balcony over-looking the croquet area. All rooms include twice-daily housekeeping, turndown service, safe and coffee maker. There’s also a DVD player in room and lending library downstairs, as well as an iHome alarm clock.

After a long day at the beach or getting dusty in the red clay soils, there’s nothing better than a soak in the deep bathtub with L’Occitane bath goodies. (Yes, I took my shampoo home with me!)

Lodge at Ko’ele dining

Lodge at Koele pool

Lodge at Ko’ele pool

Both mornings I dined at the 76 seat Terrace restaurant with views looking onto the swimming pool or reflecting pond. The egg breakfast with potatoes and a side of chicken mango sausage held me over until an early dinner.

My evening meal at Terrace began with Maui onion soup topped with Gruyere cheese ($14), followed with Hawaiian snapper, lobster risotto, baby fennel and crispy artichoke ($42.) Dessert lovers should save room for the Chocolate Dream Bar a layered chocolate mousse bar with marshmallow, candied peanuts, vanilla ice cream and finished with salty caramel sauce – I call this a Snickers bar on steroids (all desserts are $10).

 gardens "Four Seasons Lodge at Ko'ele"

Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele gardens

No resort fee at The Lodge at Ko’ele

I’m always floored when hotels boast of complimentary hi speed internet access or free, on-site parking and then hit guests with a daily resort fee upon checkout. I much prefer to have the costs built into the fees and not feel that I have been nickle and dimed on my vacation.

Hat tip goes to The Lodge at Ko’ele for offering complimentary internet service, daily arts and crafts exhibits, morning tea and coffee service in the lobby, valet parking, live nightly entertainment, a welcome toy for kids and 24-hour business center. It’s nice to be able to print your boarding pass without having to hand over your credit card or open your wallet.

Insider Tip

Lodge at Koele Fountain

Lodge at Ko’ele Fountain

If you happen to be staying at both Four Seasons properties on island the transition from one hotel to the other is seamless. Inter-hotel transportation is provided, your luggage is transferred on your behalf (you don’t even need to pack – they take your clothes from one closet and deliver them to the next, and you only need to check in at the initial hotel. Complimentary late checkout is possible, based on availability and early check in at Four Seasons Manele Bay is a possibility, again, based on availability. If only everything in life could be this easy.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and Four Seasons Lānaʻi on Twitter @FSLanai.

If You Go:

Four Seasons The Lodge at Koele  (808) 565-4000

One Keomoku Highway, P.O. Box 631380, Lānaʻi City, Hawaii 96763

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of  Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau.

Related Posts:

Hotel Lānaʻi

Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi Manele Bay