Southern Ohio: “O” is for “Ohio” … But Also For “Odd”

Heading southward through Ohio, we encountered a series of things that could only be described as “ODD”!  A seven-story building that ants would love, the old prison where a popular 1994 movie was filmed, a museum devoted to a common office supply item, and a mysterious flying creature wreaking havok in a small town  …. all so very odd!

ODD: the World’s Largest Picnic Basket!

This Newark, Ohio office building, that formerly housed the Longaberger Basket Company, is Yogi Bear’s finest dream come true.

This basket-building is 200 feet wide and 7 stories tall, made at a cost of $32 million, but now abandoned.  Like a mirage in the desert, this picnic basket in a field is best envisioned as filled with lots of fried chicken and macaroni salad.  

Read a 2016 Smithsonian Magazine article about the history and outlook for this “kitschy spectacle” by clicking this link. 

ODD:  being in an abandoned, possibly haunted prison and on a movie set … at the same time!

Mansfield, Ohio, is the location of the Ohio State Reformatory, an 1886-era facility to rehabilitate teens and young adults through “hard work and education.”  Read this:  juvenile prison.  

It is also one of 12 or so locations around Mansfield where the terrific movie The Shawshank Redemption was filmed.  Shawshank contains one of the most memorable (and true) movie quotes of all time, “GET BUSY LIVIN’, OR GET BUSY DYIN‘.”

They’re all like family to me!!!

The movie is based on a Stephen King short story called “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”  It was a total bomb in the box office (a paltry $16 million), but developed a cult following when released to video, where it did an additional $80 million.

The prison had an excellent display of memorabilia and sets from the filming.  Of course, it is most exciting to you if you’ve actually seen the film before you go.  Assuming you have, you can’t help but be fascinated by things like the bedroom where Brooks hanged himself rather than have to live outside the prison walls.  

Or, the actual letter and the actual tin, that Andy buried for Red to find upon his release.

Parts of the prison featured in the movie, including “the hole” and “the yard,” are unavailable in September and October, as they make preparations for a Halloween haunted house event.  But most of the areas such as the warden’s office, Andy’s library, and so forth were all open and a lot of fun.

More than just a movie set, this is also an excellent prison museum.  They offer a series of fun tours and events in an effort to raise funds to restore the decaying buildings.  Audio wands give the history of the cell blocks, warden station, chapel, and more while you wander about at your leisure.

ODD …. the otherworldly greens and oranges of Hocking Hills!

This beautiful southern Ohio state park revealed colors not normally seen … at least by desert-dwellers like ourselves!

ODD:  that an old guy lived in this cave throughout the 1800’s! 

Not so odd: it is therefore named The Old Man’s Cave!

In Hocking Hills State Park, the most popular hike to Old Man’s Cave is a steep downward descent, but oh-so-worth-it to experience a fairyland of hobbit-like bridges, moss-covered rocks and trickling waterfalls.

ODD …. that the aforementioned old-man cave-dweller picked that one, instead of this one!

The Rock House is the only “true cave” in Hocking Hills State Park.  200 feet long and 25 feet tall, it has been hideout to many throughout history, including bandits which led this to be called “Robbers Roost” for many years.  Perhaps that’s why the Old Man didn’t want to live here, after all.

Carvings of names in the rocks and mortars of the Rock House date back nearly 200 years.

ODD … that above-ground the Hocking Hills area is flat and seemingly not that exciting.  

But down below, gorges and canyons and cliffs  …. and lots of thigh-burning stairsteppers!

ODD … that these trees are still standing.  

Despite huge root clusters, they are very shallow due to the ongoing moisture content in the Hocking Hills.  In fact, a woman was killed here the week prior, when a tree fell on her! Was it this one? Maybe!

NOT SO ODD …. crowds on a Saturday at noon!  Ugh!

Which is why we always try to get out early, on weekdays, and avoid midday and weekends entirely, everywhere we go.  That’s when you have the place to yourself, like this. Ahhh …. better!

ODD …. watching the Cardinals season-opener game by ourselves in an empty sports bar! 

This is the first season in decades we’ve missed opening season tailgating with other beleaguered Cardinals fans back home.  Fans gotta do what fans gotta do though!  

ODD … gorgeous Ohio roadside “rest stops” that are like the finest, nicest shopping malls!

The rest stops in the West are certainly nothing like this.

ODD: A Pencil Sharpener Museum!

Never seen one of these, huh?  The Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum contains over 3,000 sharpeners.

Johnson started collecting in 1989, and after his death in 2010, left his collection to the Hocking Hills Tourism Association.  Hence, this tiny museum, because what else ya gonna do with an inheritance like this?

The most important item in a pencil-sharpener museum … a pencil-sharpening guide book!

Written by “the number one #2 pencil sharpener,” no less.

And the final, most earth-shaking, terrifying, ODDEST thing of all …. drumroll please ….

ODD IN EVERY WAY: Mothman!!!!

OK, we’re not technically in Ohio for this, but just a mile or two over the state border in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where the #1 local dignitary is not a politician or a war hero, but a flying thing with red eyes.

So important, that his history can be seen at “The World’s Only Mothman Museum.”

In November, 1966, strange occurences started happening here, and a number of people reported encounters with a creature that has since sparked people’s curiosity in the same way as the Roswell Incident.



Indeed, a Hollywood movie was made about him!  And not some B-level actors … with ACTUAL stars like Richard Gere, Laura Linney, and Debra Messing!  

Mothman is so incredibly important to the local economy, that he has his own festival … The Mothman Festival.  Darn, we are just missing it! 

 So super-duper world renowned, that Mothman is displayed as holding the American flag on the sides of buildings.  

 We love making new friends, but alas, it is time to move on.

 This part of West Virginia was lacking in charm (evidence: the town’s best restaurant is the Hillbilly Hotdog, and the gas station has a tattoo parlor inside of it … talk about ODD!), but to be fair we weren’t here long, so we’ll have to give WV another chance some day.  For now, the Lucky Charm is going to spend the upcoming week in the bluegrass state of Kentucky! 

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