Tuesday, November 24, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 84 - Carleton County Gaol

Moment in Oddity - Versailles Time Slip

Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain are two women that took a tourist trip to visit the Palace of Versailles in France in the year 1901. Surprisingly, they were unimpressed with the Palace and decided to visit another spot. They walked through the gardens to the Petit Trianon, but it was closed. They decided to travel the grounds instead and as they wandered, they soon lost their way. They started to get worried and then they started noticing some peculiar things. They saw people dressed in clothes from an older time period. Mrs. Jourdain wrote: "Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees." They got directions from a man, so they could return to the Petit Trianon. As they approached it, they noticed a woman painting a picture who was wearing a sun dress from a previous era. One of the woman would later claim that she believed the woman was Marie Antoinette. They reached their destination and found other tourists who were wearing clothes like them and the weird feelings the women had been experiencing dissipated. The two women believed they had experienced a time slip in Versailles and in 1911 they wrote a book about it called, "An Adventure." If these women truly had a Versailles time slip, that would certainly be odd.

This Day in History - DB Cooper Hijacks Plane & Disappears
 by Steven Pappas

On this day, November 24th, in 1971, Dan Cooper, often called DB Cooper in the media, hijacked a Boeing 727 on its way from Portland to Seattle. Shortly after take off he handed a note to a flight attendant that stated he had a bomb and the plane was being hijacked. He demanded 200,000 dollars, 4 parachutes and a fuel truck on the ground in Seattle to refuel the plane. After releasing the hostages on the ground in Seattle, he demanded the crew take off again with the rear door open. In the end, he jumped from the aircraft with the money and a parachute strapped to him and the plane landed safely in Reno without Cooper aboard. He was never caught or positively identified. This led to 40+ years of speculation and conspiracy theories about everything from his identity to what he may have done with the money. The FBI even has a 60 volume file on the event and the manhunt. To this day, law enforcement and treasure seekers are still chasing the answers to the mystery of DB Cooper and he remains the only unidentified air pirate in American history.

Carleton County Gaol (Research Assistant: Carbon Lilies)

Ottawa in Ontario is the capital of Canada. This city has a high standard of living, low unemployment and a rich history being the historic home of the founding fathers of Canada. Within this city is located the historic jail known in previous years as the Carleton County Gaol. Like so many older jails, treatment here for prisoners was not always humane and men, women and children were housed together. The jail is now a hostel known as the Ottawa Jail Hostel, but something from the past still remains. Spirits still seem to roam the hallways and many of these entities are not happy. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Carleton County Gaol.

The Algonquin people were some of the first inhabitants in the Ottawa area. Ottawa sits at the confluence of three waterways: The Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. This made it a coveted region. It would later become a bustling center of commerce and the timber industry. One of the men that established the timber industry was Philemon Wright. He was a New Englander who had traveled here and established the first settlement on the north side of the river in 1800. In 1826, hundreds of land speculators claimed and built up the south side of the river. They named the town Bytown after British military engineer Colonel John By. Bytown was renamed Ottawa in 1855 and incorporated as a city.

In 1862, the Carleton County Gaol was built. It was designed by Henry Horsey and was the first jail built in the area. It was designed in the Italianate style and was a three story stone structure. A courthouse was built adjacent to the jail and a tunnel connected the two. The jail housed a variety of criminals ranging from minor offenses to major offenses, like murder, for 150 years. As was the case with most prisons of the time, conditions were crowded and inhumane. One hundred and fifty men, woman and yes, children, were crammed into 60 small cells measuring 3 x 9 feet and 30 larger cells measuring 6 x 9 feet. There were six cells for solitary confinement. Solitary was dubbed The Hole, as it is in most jails, and it was a horrid place where inmates were thrown naked into the darkness and then chained spread eagle to the wall.

In the general population, there was usually only one meal a day and several inmates died from the mistreatment they experienced. Death row sat on the top floor. Executions were conducted via hanging. Patrick James Whelan was the most infamous person hung at the jail and his would be the last public hanging there. One of the founding fathers of the Canadian Confederacy was Thomas D'Arcy McGee. He staunchly spoke out against American expansionist motives towards Canada. Although an Irish nationalist, McGee denounced the Fenian Brotherhood in America because they felt a forceful takeover of Canada from Britain by the United States was necessary. The Fenian Brotherhood was founded in America in 1858 as an Irish republican organization.

Many believe it was these very actions that led to the only political assassination on the federal level in Canada’s history. On April 7, 1868, after a parliamentary debate that went past the midnight hour, McGee returned to his boarding house on Sparks Street. Finding the door locked from the inside, he had to wait for his landlady to greet him at the entrance. No sooner had Mary Ann Trotter opened the door, than a brilliant flash went off. A .32 caliber bullet sliced through McGee’s neck and exploded out his jaw, sending his dentures flying by sheer force. Thomas D'Arcy McGee fell into the street dead.

By the next night, over 40 Fenian supporters were being held for questioning (including Patrick Buckley, stable hand to Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, who named Patrick James Whelan as the assassin. Sir John A. MacDonald was a close personal friend of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and the validity of Buckley’s accusation has been questioned). Whelan maintained his innocence the entire time and even though the evidence was circumstantial, he was found guilty and sentenced to what would be the very last public hanging at the Carleton County Gaol. In front of 5,000 onlookers on February 11, 1869, Patrick Whelan told the crowd one last time that he was innocent and that he knew who had killed McGee, before being hung by the neck until he was dead. The final official execution at the jail occurred on March 27,1946 when Eugene Larment was hanged for killing a police detective. It is suspected that the guards were apt to take the law into their own hands at times.

At its height, the jail was the pride of Ottawa. It even was considered the most effective prison in Canada. In 1972, reality set in and the jail was closed. Far from being a place to take pride in, the jail was found to be unsanitary and conditions within were deplorable. A man named John Wylie suggested that the historic structure be renovated and opened as a hostel. That same year, it opened as an international hostel under Hostelling International, but parts of the structure were kept as they had been during its jail years to preserve the history. Death Row is still as it was on the top floor and the eighth floor is relatively unchanged. Stocks still stand outside.

It is believed that some of the inmates who were executed here were actually innocent. And many other prisoners died from sickness and the conditions. Excavations revealed several unmarked graves. Lonely Planet claims the hostel to be the ninth most haunted building on the planet. And based on people's experiences, that might be true. The cries of women and children are heard in the basement. Now the jail only had three official hangings. Official. Meaning many illegal hangings took place. Prisoners had a noose tightened on their necks that was hung from a beam and then they were thrown over the eighth floor balcony. Another reason for spirits to be at unrest here. Patrick Whelan's spirit is reportedly the most at unrest and he is seen on Death Row. The reason could be either because he claimed he was innocent or the fact that his body was not given to his family for burial in their family plot and rather was placed in an unmarked grave.

One anecdotal story tells of travelers staying at the hostel specifically due to its reputation of being haunted and after a few hours of no activity began to cause a scene by demanding their money back unless they could have proof of the paranormal which they had been expecting. The clerk was very apologetic in trying to explain that they paid for the lodging and not the activity seemed to be getting nowhere. However, during the argument, the travelers got their wish. A coin which had been slammed down on the counter rose up into the air and remained suspended for nearly a minute. The guests upon seeing this ran from the lobby no longer worried about having paid for the night.

Also, there’s the “Vampire”. A cryptic 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.”

Our research assistants and friends, Carbon Lilies, enjoyed a ghost tour with Haunted Walk of Ottawa and they visited the Carleton County Gaol. And they had a few experiences. We share some of these highlights from their blog:
"The eighth floor is the one with the claustrophobic single cells. So much unexplained activity occurred on this level (footsteps in the hall, cell doors slamming closed and disembodied voices), that no one could spend the entire night and would always leave, demanding their money back. It got to the point that the hostel even offered the rooms free to anyone who managed to remain the entire night. They’ve never had to give a complementary stay. No sooner had Élise finished telling us these details when a door slammed somewhere down the hall in the unused section of the floor. She genuinely looked startled. I wanted to explore down the walkway but wasn’t sure if we were allowed and hesitant to leave while needing to stay with the tour, we moved on to death row. A number of us jumped when that door slammed, including Élise. My own heart was racing and I grabbed onto Lana’s sleeve (remember in this partnership I am the girl and Lana is actually the guy… and I had a very typical girl moment of burying my head in Lana’s shoulder and then gripping her hand tightly) and then my brain immediately wandered to thinking that either a staff member had been in that hallway, or that the tour guides had set up the experience just for us. After the tour, I did ask Élise about the use of the hallway and she said that the door is never used. Élise also confirmed that they hadn’t set anything up to falsely surprise us. The skeptic in me is still unsure it was a true paranormal experience but I will not deny the thrill of the moment with such impeccable timing. I also proved to myself that I am indeed a typical girl who almost cried when a door was slammed in a creepy environment. Le sigh."
As the group entered Death Row, both Lana and John could feel a heavy oppressive feeling. Not surprising when considering the emotions a prisoner must experience as they face certain death. At the opposite end of the death row hall is a door. The executioner would come through this door. Lana lightly touched the door and it shook and vibrated. Did Lana cause that to happen? She claims her touch was light, so had she angered someone or something on the other side?

Photo courtesy of carbonlilies.tumblr.com
Are the inmates of the jail still here? Is the hostel housing more than guests? Are there restless spirits here? Is the Carleton County Gaol haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes
Carbon Lilies personal experiences at the gaol:  http://carbonlilies.tumblr.com/post/104630942784/41-ottawa-46-12
Haunted Walk: Ghosts and Gallows tour if ever in Ottawa. http://hauntedwalk.com

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