When Nationwide Arena was built, they first had to demolish the Ohio State Penitentiary which stood in the way. There seems to be some debate about where exactly the main parts of the prison stood, but some of the stories of the prison's history certainly make a good case for a haunting.
The Ohio State Penitentiary was built in 1834 and continued in operation until 1983. During that time there were two notable riots, a terrible fire, and many executions here. It also held several notorious criminals, including General John H. Morgan, who escaped from the prison during the Civil War, "Bugs" Moran, O. Henry, and Sam Sheppard. At its peak in 1955 the prison housed 5,235 inmates.
The first riot occurred October 31, 1952 and was known as the "Halloween Riot." This riot began over the inmates' dislike of the food they were being served. Many of the prisoners did not participate in the riots, but rather returned to their cells on their own accord. Those who did participate began to throw trays and silverware, and escalated to setting fire to several buildings. Over the course of 4 days the Ohio Highway Patrol, National Guard and Columbus Police struggled to regain control of the prison. On November 3rd they cut off all food, water and heat to the prison. Most then surrendered, but a few started throwing items out the windows at the police. Eventually the police fired shots into the building killing 1 prisoner, and injuring 4 others before the rioters surrendered. The second riot happened on August 20, 1968. During this riot several inmates in cell blocks C and D overtook and held hostage 9 guards. During the standoff inmates demanded that several guards be fired, that the inmates be granted amnesty, and for the media to be alerted of their demands. Eventually the Ohio State Highway Patrol, National Guard, Columbus City Police and other prison guards were called in to help. Ultimately when the riot was over five inmates were killed, and five other prisoners and seven officers were injured.
On April 21, 1930 a fire broke out in the prison which became the worst fire in American prison history. The fire broke out just after the prisoners were locked in their cells for the night, which made it very difficult to get everyone out safely before the fire took over. There have been several stories that have surfaced about how the fire started. Some say it was started by 3 prisoners as a diversion so they could escape, while others say the fire was a tragic accident. In all 322 inmates died as a result of the fire.
The prison was closed in 1983 after a new facility was built in Nelsonville, Ohio. The condition of the building and the overcrowding caused officials to deem the Ohio Pen unsafe.
As for Nationwide Arena, the facility was opened on September 9, 2000, and the Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice for the first time on September 20, 2000 against the Detroit Red Wings. There is some debate about what parts of the prison were where. Some say the old electric chair used to sit exactly where center ice is now. However it appears more likely the the arena is built on land that was mostly a parking lot for the prison, and only a few buildings were in the area. The main parts of the prison were located across what is now Nationwide Blvd. There is now a parking garage, a few restaurants, and a movie theater on that land. Even before the old Ohio Pen was torn down people claimed to hear the sounds of flames, and screams from those killed in 1930. Some who work at the Arena today report hearing the same sounds, as well as hearing other noises, and seeing doors open and close mysteriously. It is also rumored that several workers died mysteriously during construction of the arena, although I haven't found anything to back that up. Blue Jackets fans also jokingly blame the hauntings on the less than stellar performance of the team. Currently they are the only team in the NHL to have never made it to the playoffs
Tragically, on March 16, 2002, 13 year old Brittanie Cecil was hit by a puck and died 2 days later. She was attending the game as a 14th birthday gift from her father. She had always been a hockey fan but had never been to a game. During the game a puck shot by Columbus center Espen Kuntsen was deflected by Calgary defense man Derek Morris. The puck went into the 100 level of seats and stuck Cecil in the head. She was quickly attended by several ushers, and she left the game under her own power. From my personal vantage point at the game, it appeared she may have just had a broken nose. Brittanie was taken to the hospital where she died on March 18. It was later determined that when she was hit by the puck her head snapped back, damaging an artery. The injury was overlooked and the artery eventually burst. Because of this accident the NHL made all arenas install netting behind each goal to help protect spectators from flying pucks.