I walk gently down the creaking skinny corridors, grazing the smooth black iron bars of the jail cells that once housed the guilty, the innocent, the crazy, the murderous, and the drunk. Some of these cellars would have been the final form of accommodations as several of the detainees in these cells were put to their death in Canada’s still functional gallows. With each step on the old jail floors, you can imagine men yelling from their cellars “Dead man walking!” – a creepy welcome to The Ottawa Jail Hostel.
Located in the downtown core of Ottawa, Ontario is one of the most unique hostels you can rest your head for the night. On 75 Nicholas Street is the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel – known for it’s intriguing history, and it’s unique ability to freak visitors out. The building that houses the hostel holds some incredible secrets, both completely true stories, and for those who believe in the paranormal, some serious hauntings.
The History of the Ottawa Jail Hostel
Built in 1862, The Carleton County Gaol was a working jail up until 1972 when it was finally closed, then eventually converted into one of Hostelling Internationals most unique hostels in its massive network. The hostel currently sleeps 110 visitors in a variety of rooms, including dorms, privates and shared. While there isn’t anything that sinister going on in the hostel besides the occasional drunk backpacker home from a night out, in its heyday, criminals were not only locked up here, many were put to their death.
Hangings in Canada
During it’s long history as a jail, the Carleton County Gaol was the location of many criminals final breaths as up to 5 official hangings took place in the still functional gallows of the jail. That number is refuted by many as there have been upwards of 150 unmarked graves found on the property – some believe that unsanctioned hangings took place at the jail. One famous hanging that took place at the Carleton County Gaol is that of Patrick J. Whelan for the suspected assisination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Whelan maintained his innocence the entire time, and it’s said to be his ghost that is occasionally spotted at the foot of visitors beds or walking the halls of the top floor, where his final days were spent.
Tour the Haunted Jail Hostel
If the thought of waking up to the ghost of a dead man freaks you out a little too much, you can bite of a little piece of the hostel by reserving a spot on one of Ottawa’s Haunted Walking Tours. The Ottawa Haunted Walk’s take place rain or shine all year round through the streets of old Ottawa and through the hostel. Spots fill up fast so be sure to call ahead to book your reservation. A free tour of the hostel is typically given by hostel staff as well, so be sure to enquire if you’re staying the night at the hostel.
While I am a pretty large non-believer in ghosts, ghouls, or anything paranormal for that matter – I will admit that walking through the halls of the old jail does have a creepy vibe to it. Perhaps it’s the thought of young men my own age, waiting to be put to their death. Maybe it’s the insane conditions that prisoners of this jail endured. Regardless, the entire building seeps tales of murder, violence, and cruelty – making it the perfect place to rest your head for a few days while taking in the beautiful city of Ottawa.