Ottawa Jail (Carleton) | Ontario | Canada

Ottawa Jail – – 75 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – MAP

History of Ottawa Jail

The Ottawa Jail (once called Carleton) was opened in 1862.

At the time our most “modern” facility in Canada.  Modern didn’t mean luxury but suffering.

Prisoners included men, woman and children.  The worst offenders treated poorly with starvation as food was served once a day.  Most women and children from poor families who couldn’t pay their debts.  Some entire families called the Ottawa Jail home.

Ottawa Jail (Carleton), Ottawa, Ontario
Historic image from Nicholas Street, Ottawa

Life in the Ottawa Jail – –

Inmates were rarely given tasks.  Life in the prison a test of patience as all day and night you lived in a tiny cell and allowed to walk the confined halls of each cell block.

No heat, lighting, ventilation or toilets.  Surprisingly remained in operation as a prison until 1972.

“The Hole” – –

Solitary Confinement, or “The Hole”, a place to avoid.  The punished men were stripped naked and chained face-down on a cold stone floor.  Left alone for 23 hours and 45 minutes every day, allowed only 15 minutes to stretch.

Also in the basement was Quarantine, used to house immigrants to Canada suspected of being “diseased”.  Energy left from entire families succumbing to sickness in this confined space.

Patrick J. Whelan – –

He led a solitary life from as young as 14 years old, travelling all over until ending in Canada.  It’s 1865 and Whelan would serve in the military fighting the Fenian’s who went against British rule.  But many believed him to be sympathetic to the enemy.

He’d live in Buffalo, Hamilton and Montreal before the 27 year old Whelan settled down with 57 year old woman Bridget Boyle.  They lived in Ottawa and Patrick worked as a merchant tailor.

Patrick J. Whelan - - Only known image
Patrick J. Whelan – – Only known image

Then in April of 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee returned to his residence.  The once advisory of British politics, after being defeated McGee changed his mind.  This didn’t sit well with the Fenian’s who still sought Irish rule, which included Whelan.

At his boarding house, McGee fumbled to find his keys as owner Mary Ann Trotter opened the door and a .32 pistol went off in the darkness.  It hit McGee hard, across his neck, knocking the dentures from his mouth.  He died there on Sparks Street.

A view of the Ottawa Jail gallows - - same view 5,000 people had at Whelan's execution
A view of the Ottawa Jail gallows – – same view 5,000 people had at Whelan’s execution

Whelan was a top suspect, eventually found with a .32 pistol in his pocket.  A trial, a verdict and sentenced to hang.

As he walked out of the courthouse, Whelan said to his jury,

“I am held to be a murderer. I am here standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and to my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed”

On February 11, 1869 in front of 5,000 eager witnesses, Patrick Whelan was publicly displayed and hanged in the gallows of the Ottawa Jail.


The guilt of Patrick Whelan has been questioned ever since, including his descendants still believing he’s innocent to this day.  If it were true, imagine the pain and anger Whelan felt inside that cell of the Ottawa Jail’s death row.

Considered a haunted hot-spot today, many believe the condemned man still occupies it.

Daniel’s Experience in Whelan’s Cell – –

“It happened during a bus tour of Ottawa over 10 years ago.  We were staying in the Ottawa Jail, and close to midnight were wandering death row with a few others.  Inside Whelan’s cell we setup the dreaded divination tool, The Ouija Board, for clear communication with his energy.

“The board was very active, clearing telling everyone we were talking with Patrick Whelan himself.  The questions started out light, ‘how was it like to live in the jail?’, and asking about his experiences.  Then getting on the subject of McGee’s death, and that’s when the room shifted.  The air got heavy and everyone felt discomfort.

“It was so palpable we left and ended our unofficial investigation.”

Whelan’s cell on death row remains one of the most haunted spaces in Canada.  Noises are heard at all hours, and Whelan himself seen walking the cell and hallways around death row.

Outside the cells in the Ottawa Jail (Carleton), Ottawa, Ontario
Standing outside the larger cells of Ottawa Jail

“The Hole” is an area of focus for many psychics drawn to the basement cell near the Laundry Room.  It’s the only example left of where men were chained naked to the floor.  The rings used for the chains still embedded into the stone ground.

You don’t have to be psychic to feel that energy.

The “Vampire” – –

Also, there’s the “Vampire”.  Sort of.

Derived from a mysterious note left in a secret staircase reading,

“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the 9th floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”

And below the text is a circle with an inverted code, “S3a”.  A mystery needing to be solved, but most likely just a deep thinking, living person attempting poetry.

**Stay inside this building with Hi-Hostels

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