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Monday, April 19, 2010

Memory from Carleton County Gaol

A few years ago when I was in high school, my history class went on a field trip to Ottawa. The purpose of the trip was to see the sites of Canada's capital city, including the Government buildings, the art gallery, and other national treasures.

We stayed in the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel, formerly known as the Carleton County Gaol. This building is known for having a brutal past--many people were executed here--and as a result, has a reputation for being haunted with spirits.

I thought the hostel was a cool place, but also eerie. The rooms we slept in were converted cells--the bars were still in place. During daytime, our class toured the far corners of the old prison, including the upper floor where those accused of capital crimes were once located. This area also included the execution chamber, a frightening and chilly brick room.

The hostel staff told us about all the abuses that happened over a hundred years ago in the prison, especially on the upper floor. The guards were notorious for abuse, and suicides were common. They also said that visitors often complained about strange noises and other disturbances at night.

To be honest, I didn't believe any of this. I thought it was all an attempt to build the old gaol's reputation, bringing in more tourists. But as the nights went by, some of the students said weird things were happening. A couple girls, I believe, developed strange rashes--Naturally, I attributed this to poor sanitary conditions. Then the other girls started talking about hearing chattering at night, similar to metal. My sister, who also came along, said she felt the bed move at night.

I remained skeptical--as did the other males. For some reason, the ghosts only attacked the girls.

On the last day of our trip, prior to leaving for our train back to Toronto, a few of the students, including myself, took one last tour of the upper floors. The sun was brightly shining through the windows, so there was no fear for spooks. We looked at the hanging noose in the execution chamber and had a few laughs about ghosts--how silly.

Then our bus arrived. Everyone vacated the upper floor, travelling down the spiralling staircase. I stayed to take a few pictures. I didn't really believe there were ghosts, so there was nothing for me to be afraid of.

As I took pictures, I heard a sound. It was the sound of dry leaves rustling against the pavement. I didn't think much of it at first. Then I realized there were no dry leaves--or any leaves--outside the building. In fact, the outside of the hostel was covered in snow, the middle of January. The sound was clearly coming from inside!

Not only was it coming from inside, but the rustling sound was coming from a particular cell on the right side of the wall--just a couple yards ahead of my field of sight. My heart rate suddenly spiked! I was on high alert.

Feeling brave, I inched closer and closer to get a better view of the cell. The rustling sound grew louder! I curved my neck forward to see just a sliver of the notorious cell. It was definitely the source of the sound--the sound too loud and distinct to be that of a rodent.

I turned to look at the left wall. Bizarre! A barred window, the outside ledge lined with light pigeons--or were they doves? They are all staring into the cell, looking at what I'm hearing. The rustling continues to grow louder.

Suddenly, the birds fly away in a panic. As do I. In no time, I'm running for my life down the haunted staircase, trying desperately to escape whatever's lurking upstairs. I dart out of the hostel/jail's front door, into the bus. I'm breathing heavy. I want to talk, but I can't say anything. No one will believe me. Or worse, they will call me a girl!!!!


  1. Fantastic memory and quite an experience.
    I had the opportunity to visit the Carlton Jail in the past and must admit, I experienced a few strange things too - noises in the night and bed movement (beds were bolted to the floor at the time). And yep, I'm a girl. Hahahaha
    Great write, John!

  2. I definitely remember that trip and how haunted that jail was!

  3. Very Cool, John!!! Without a doubt I believe there was a spirit in that cell. A girl you are not. Thanks for sharing.
    Anne ^i^