Ottawa hostel in top 10 of world's spookiest buildings
Erin DeCoste, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, October 31, 2011 8:42PM EDT
Creaky footsteps around a dark corridor, disembodied knocking on cold concrete walls and iron bars worn smooth from the hands of tortured prisoners – these are just some of the experiences guests might expect when checking in for a night at an infamously haunted hostel in Ottawa.
Weary travelers looking for undisturbed sleep may be best to skip the Ottawa Jail Hostel, which sits at No. 9 on travel website Lonely Planet's list of the world's spookiest buildings. It's ranked just behind Ukraine's Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 and ahead of White Alice, Alaska.
From 1862 to 1972, the building was home to the Carleton County Jail, a maximum security institution with tiny cells, glassless windows and public executions.
Hostelling International bought the building in 1973, creating what is now a quirky and sometimes scary place for intrepid tourists to spend the night.
Guests sleep in the former cells, some of which have their original bars. Wandering the building, they might also stumble upon original gallows, stairwells, secret tunnels and even death row.
Glen Shackleton, director of Haunted Walks Inc. which hosts guided tours in the building, said the hostel has all the ingredients in a perfect recipe for haunting.
"It really was like a medieval prison, a lot of people died there and they were buried in the yard," Shackleton told CTVNews.ca on Monday, adding that many of the bodies remain in their final resting place.
The most commonly reported spectral sighting is of a man who appears at the foot of guests' beds, sometimes clutching a Bible. Shackleton said the description usually matches that of Patrick James Whelan.
Whelan was hanged at the jail in 1869 in front of 5,000 spectators for the assassination of politician Thomas D'Arcy McGee.
Shackleton said Whelan's ghost may be still roaming the halls of the hostel due to an unceremonious burial in the yard – after he was promised by a judge to be buried in his family's plot in Montreal.
"He's the No. 1 suspect as far as hauntings are concerned," he said.
Shackleton, who has been doing tours for 16 years, said that he's experienced some strange incidents while in the old jail, including loud knocking on doors and heavy footsteps around corners.
"I think everyone wants to see or experience something for themselves, it's a big mystery," he said. "Most of us are unsure whether we believe in ghosts, but that doesn't mean we're not afraid."
Shackleton said although the alleged hauntings have made the hostel famous, one of the most important aspects of the hostel is its preservation as a historical site after it was doomed to be destroyed in the 1970s.
"The dark side of our history is just as important as the rosy side," Shackleton said.
Lonely Planet's Top 10 spooky buildings:
1. Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand.
2. Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
3. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea
4. Dongyue Temple, Beijing, China
5. Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri
6. Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
7. Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo, Italy
8. Chernobyl Reactor No. 4, Ukraine
10. White Alice, Nome, Alaska
Those looking for a more sweet than scary experience on Halloween night in Ottawa can go trick-or-treating at Rideau Hall. Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife will be shelling out treats between 5 and 6 p.m.
Witches, ghosts and goblins will also be able to get treats at Stornoway from interim opposition leader Nycole Turmel. Stornoway remains vacant after the death of Jack Layton.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be handing out candy himself, but little ones can still fill their loot bags with treats at 24 Sussex Drive Monday night.