In this work we demonstrate for the first time directly detected manganese-55 (55Mn) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using a clinical 3T MRI scanner designed for human hyperpolarized 13C clinical studies with no additional hardware modifications. Due to the similar frequency of the 55Mn and 13C resonances, the use of aqueous permanganate for large, signal-dense, and cost-effective "13C" MRI phantoms was investigated, addressing the clear need for new phantoms for these studies. Due to 100% natural abundance, higher intrinsic sensitivity, and favorable relaxation properties, 55Mn MRI of aqueous permanganate demonstrates dramatically increased sensitivity over typical 13C phantom MRI, at greatly reduced cost as compared with large 13C-enriched phantoms. A large sensitivity advantage (22-fold) was demonstrated. A cylindrical phantom (d=8cm) containing concentrated aqueous sodium permanganate (2.7 M) was scanned rapidly by 55Mn MRI in a human head coil tuned for 13C, using a balanced steady state free precession acquisition. The requisite penetration of radiofrequency magnetic fields into concentrated permanganate was investigated by experiments and high frequency electromagnetic simulations, and found to be sufficient for 55Mn MRI with reasonably sized phantoms. A sub-second slice-selective acquisition yielded mean image signal-to-noise ratio of ~60 at 0.5cm3 spatial resolution, distributed with minimum central signal ~40% of the maximum edge signal. We anticipate that permanganate phantoms will be very useful for testing HP 13C coils and methods designed for human studies.