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Weird Life of Phoebe Wise of Reformatory Road

Directly across the road from the Ohio State Reformatory once stood a wood farmhouse.  Locals remember the lilacs and a beautiful lily pond owned by Phoebe Wise.

It’s the late 1800’s. The townsfolk think she’s insane.

They see her having full conversations with her horse, dog and many stray cats.

She inherited the farm from her father.  A successful surveyor in Mansfield, Ohio.  After his death in 1887 the house fell into disrepair with Phoebe living inside alone.

She didn’t work and money issues caused her to sell half the land. 

For some reason people thought she was rich. Because she didn’t trust banks.  Everyone thought a fortune stuffed into walls of the house.

Mansfield Reformatory via the Cleveland Memory Project (Mansfield Library) | Phoebe Wise
Phoebe Wise

The Break-In

On Christmas Eve in 1891 3 men went to prove it.  Phoebe heard something.  She walked into the sitting room to see the men holding guns with bandannas over their faces.

One squeezed Phoebe’s throat as the other yelled for the money.  She coughed out, “I’ll show you”, but didn’t move.  They’d tied her to a chair, lit a torch and burned her feet while screaming, “Where’s the money?”

She led them to a diamond ring, gold watch, chain and some cash but no treasure.  The frustrated men sat in the kitchen and ate pie while deciding how to share the loot before leaving.

The police arrested the men.  Neither spent time in jail.

The crime brought unwanted fame to Phoebe Wise.  A stranger named Jacob started stalking her.

Mansfield Reformatory Ohio State - Pheobe Wise - Entrance to Reformatory Road
Entrance to Reformatory Road – Google Maps

He’d visit the Reformatory Road house many nights.  Tapping on the window, knocking at the door and watching her through the windows.

Jacob said Phoebe’s beautiful piano music enticed him to go into the house.  He assaulted her.  They arrested the disturbed man. He went to jail. 

Later transferred to an insane asylum. Later released.

Phoebe Killed a Man

He went right back to Phoebe’s house.  In May 1898 Jacob yelled through an open window,

“Marry me or kill me Phoebe Wise”

She chose the latter. 

Pointed a rifle through the window and fired instantly killing the disturbed man.  The Mansfield News Journal said it best the next day, “Phoebe Wise rids herself of an intolerable nuisance”.  She wasn’t arrested.

What Happened to the House?

Phoebe Wise died in 1933 of old age.

The famed house left abandoned but not for long.  Locals who believed in the treasure broke in.  They tore apart the floors and walls but nothing was never found.

The house a distant memory in that empty field.  But Phoebe is still there.  They see her walking along Reformatory Road at night.  Seen by ghost hunters staring out the windows of the Ohio State Reformatory.

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