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A Quick History of the Ottawa Jail

The Ottawa Jail (or Carleton) was opened in 1862. Served as the Capital’s local jail for over a century.

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

What Prison was Like Back Then

In the late-1800’s, when this jail opened, punishment was different. Today’s prisons are beautifully comfortable in comparison.

With overcrowding, disease, and widespread abuse.

Unlike today, abuse at the hands of other inmates was rare. Instead at the hands of guards. Overall violence and death high.

A perfect counterpart with more explanation comes from Toronto’s Don Jail. An expose from the Toronto Star of the similarly built old building in 2003.  She wrote about the experience as…

“Like walking into a madhouse…”

No doubt Ottawa’s facility was similar. I found no personal accounts of those days in Ottawa.

Life in this Prison

Prisoners in Ottawa included men, woman and children. 

The worst offenders treated poorly with starvation. Food served only once a day. 

Most of the women and children were from poor families. Those forced to take on much debt. When not paid, the prison became their home.

Some entire families called the jail home.

Inmates mostly left alone.  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.

Strapped Down in “The Hole”

Solitary Confinement, or “The Hole”, was a place to avoid. 

The punished men stripped naked. 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.

“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.

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

Mysterious Note in a Hidden Stairwell

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? Maybe. But most likely just a deep thinking, living person attempting poetry.

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