48 Hours In Jail

Would you spend the night in the world’s most haunted hostel? We spent two…

A few weeks ago we booked an insanely cheap VIA rail train from Toronto – Montreal – Quebec City – Ottawa and back to Toronto for $220. We managed to get it so cheap, because it was an escape fare. The seats were the same as any other in economy class, but because we were in the first batch of escape fare tickets, we got it cheapest.

Anyway, back to Ottawa. You should already know it’s the capital city of Canada (not Toronto, you’d be surprised how many people think this), and Ottawa’s Parliament Hill is the location of the terrorist shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in 2014. Parliament Hill is an interesting place to visit, with an awesome view of the city when you walk behind the Centre Block.

We booked this trip a few weeks before we left for Canada, and booked all of our hostels in advance using Hostelworld.com. When we looked up hostels in Ottawa, one in particular caught my eye and sparked up curiosity.

HI OTTAWA JAIL HOSTEL. 

It was the top recommended for us, so without a second glance at the other options, I clicked on the Jail and perused through the various reviews. It cost a bit more than your average hostel, but we got our own ‘cell’ and were paying more for the experience. I mean, how many people can say they’ve paid to sleep in a jail cell, which also happened to be one of the most haunted places to stay in North America.

We arrived at the hostel early afternoon, and our room was ready for check in. From the outside, the hostel didn’t look too spooky, but the inside, however, was a different story. It had been kept as close to jail conditions as possible, while also being able to pass the health and safety checks, and keep a good level of cleanliness. We paid $101 a night for a private room which was a surprisingly good size for a jail cell (roughly 2x3m), and snuggly fit the double bed. There were 9 floors in total, with death row on the 8th floor. No one was staying on that floor while we were there, so it was deathly silent, with just the sound of wind against the window panes, and the creaking of floorboards beneath your feet. Truly spooky.

The hostel is in a great location, just a short walk from the Rideau Centre, ByWard Market, and Parliament Hill. They offer a pretty standard continental breakfast in the morning, followed by a daily tour of the hostel which was very interesting and informative. We learnt that the jail was built in 1862, and was run as a jail until 1972, when it was closed due to the inhumane conditions the prisoners were forced to live in. It was then bought by HI (Hostelling International) and converted into a hostel. They still have the fully functional gallows at the back, with the trapdoor leading out into the courtyard, which is now a bar area. One of the prisoners executed there, Patrick J. Whelan still haunts the prison today, and is said to appear at the end of you bed in the middle of the night.

Definitely recommend staying here, even for just one night, so that you can tick if off your bucket list. But only if you’re brave enough!

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