The Inspector

By NPI, Inc.

NPI Marketing Team
NPI Marketing Team


Haunted Places: The Ottawa Jail Hostel

Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Architectural Style: Italianate
Built: 1862

Ever wonder what it’s like to spend a night on death row? Now you can, though you probably won’t be getting much sleep. This jail-turned-hostel comes with enough history, intrigue and apparitions to send a permanent shudder down your spine. Read on as we explore this fascinating haunt in the heart of downtown Ottawa.

Built in 1862 and first known as the Nicholas Street Gaol, the Ottawa Jail Hostel was designed by Henry Hodge Horsey, a prominent 19th century architect who designed many civic buildings and churches in Ottawa and eastern Ontario. Constructed directly adjacent to a courthouse, the jail was the site of many executions, including the hanging of the assassin Patrick J. Whelan in February 1869, which was witnessed by a crowd of over 5,000 people.

Many inmates died at the Nicholas Street Gaol over the years, from causes ranging from malnourishment to disease to generally unclean living conditions. Cells were cramped, bathrooms These prisoners were often buried in unmarked graves on the jail’s grounds. As you can imagine, this makes the building ground zero for ghostly activity.

Jail as Hostel
In 1972, the aging building was closed. Shortly afterward, the jail was purchased by Hostelling International and converted to its current use. Most of the original structure and fixtures were saved and restored. The top floor, which served as the Nicholas Street Gaol’s death row, was restored to its original condition and opened for daily tours (and the occasional overnight stay).

As travelers started spending nights in the hostel, many reported unexplainable events that occurred all over the building and grounds.

  • The Ghost of Patrick Whelan: Arguably the hostel’s most famous spook, you’ll see Patrick Whelan walking the halls toward the gallows where he was hanged. His restless spirit is said to be caused by an undignified burial after his execution.
  • The Hole: Also known as solitary confinement, this area of the jail is filled with an ominous, negative energy. Visitors report overwhelming feelings of despair in this cramped, lightless space.
  • The Gallows: The jail’s preferred method of execution is still standing and functional, so don’t try it out. Hotel guests have heard footsteps, disembodied voices and other baffling sounds coming from the execution chamber.
  • The Lounge: The hostel’s lounge was once used to house women and children prisoners, echoes of whom can still be heard today. Visitors claim to hear sounds of children crying and screaming, as well as knocking on doors and footsteps in the empty room.

Staying at the Ottawa Jail Hostel
The Ottawa Jail Hostel offers all kinds of cell accommodations for the ghost-hunting traveler. If you’re not too claustrophobic, opt for the Authentic Jail Cell (3 feet by 9 feet) to really recreate the prison experience!

Comments are closed.
Find an Inspector
Commercial Services

Find us on social media!