5 reasons why the Ottawa Jail hostel is haunted

Front of the Saintlo Ottawa Jail

The Saintlo Ottawa Jail hostel is one of the most terrifying destinations in the world. Before it was the hostel we know today, the building was a sinister prison. It was transformed into a youth hostel when a new prison opened its doors in Ottawa.

It’s been 45 years now that we’ve welcomed people from all over the world, and we’ve heard some terrifying anecdotes. But is the hostel truly haunted?

We believe it is. Here’s why.

1. A story that will give you the shivers

If you haven’t yet taken part in one of the free hostel visits, you surely don’t know the story of this former jail where public executions took place. It opened its doors in 1862 in the county of Carleton. And it certainly wasn’t luxurious at the time: the windows were simple holes exposed to the whims of the weather. Not so nice at -40°C in a winter snowstorm.

Now, of course, it’s quite different. You can sleep in a cell (with a window), in a cozy bed with high-speed Wi-Fi. Breakfast is even included. The no extra-fee extras are fun. And if you prefer to leave the ghosts to themselves, you can choose the guards’ section.

Lit simple dans une cellule

2. A dark past

The most famous inmate of the prison was Patrick James Whelan. He was imprisoned then hung before a crowd of 5,000 people for the death of Canadian diplomat Thomas D’Arcy McGee. The accused pleaded that he was not guilty until his last breath. His body was supposed to be transported to Montréal, but he was buried on the prison grounds (now the Saintlo Ottawa Jail hostel). We believe the vengeful ghost of Patrick James Whelan still wanders the hostel.

3. A familiar place for ghosts

To create a truly special experience and honour the building’s history, several distinct elements have been preserved, like the stone walls and iron doors. This decor and the creaky sounds that emanate from death row bring back fond memories to the ghosts of the prison. Why would a ghost want to leave? It’s much too exhausting to go and haunt a new place. And it’s well known that ghosts don’t like to pack their bags.

Noeud coulant devant de grandes portes

In the basement is still the original gallows used for public hangings. We even added a slipknot replica. Although it’s hard to estimate the number of prisoners who were executed there, it is known that several perished due to the harsh conditions. A little further on, an isolation cell can still be found. The original rings still hang on the wall, where they were used to handcuff prisoners to the ground, face down. Want to see all this for real? You can reserve your place online for the guided tour of the prison. It’s free.

4. Bodies have been found

When the hostel’s current parking lot was partially excavated to build the Mackenzie King Bridge, the remains of 140 bodies were found. Even more disturbing: only one patch of land has been dug up so far. Who knows how many other bodies rest in peace in the park around the hostel? A number of souls still wander around the hostel.

Just saying.

5. We’re not the only people to say so

People say they’ve felt shivers during the night. It’s well known that when a spirit passes by, you feel a chill. Some say they’ve seen a ghost seated at the end of their bed. Interesting fact: it’s flipping through a book. Perhaps it has suggestions for interesting things to do? The ghost of Patrick James Whelan has even been seen pacing his cell on death row.

Here are a few comments from people who’ve spent the night:

Thus, we must conclude that the Saintlo Ottawa Jail is likely haunted. But the ghosts seem to be quite nice, so it’s not that bad. If you have a tough time believing all this, book your room in the hostel and see for yourself.

Young woman walking in a corridor of the Saintlo Ottawa Jail

Would you like to see all this in real life?

Book your spot online to take the prison tour. It’s free.

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