There’s something unnerving about spending the night in a building where people have died. In real estate they’re called ‘stigmatized houses’. For adventurers, I call it creepy travel. And I think I just had a ghostly encounter.

The Ottawa Jailhouse hostel has experienced its share of creepiness, once being a prison and the sight of Canada’s last public execution. The gallows where murderer Patrick Whelan met his maker for the murder of Thomas D’arcy McGee are still visible at the rear of the building. And though the building housed its last prisoner in 1972 before reverting to the hostel it is today, some say that not all the hostel’s previous guests have moved on…

This is the only known picture of Patrick J Whelan, who was killed in the Ottawa Jail Hostel, and is rumoured to appear at the foot of guest beds in some rooms within the building.

I wasn’t really thinking about that last week, on a hot July evening at about 8:30PM, with the air conditioning cranked (Ottawa gets HOT in summer!) as a drifted to slumber. I was alone, in the cell called ‘Solitary’ on the fifth floor, which as the name implies, was obviously the sight where a few unhappy souls spent a wakeful night…or several of them.

Anyway, I’d been in bed for about an hour, and had my feet on the metal end of the bed. The metal was warm, from my body heat. Then something weird happened: it went from warm to ice cold, for about five seconds, and something tapped on the bar – by my feet – before reverting back to its warmer temperature.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, it could’ve been the air conditioner, right? Well, not really. Something made that metal bar cold – real cold – just long enough to make a point. The tapping was a nice touch too, and I vaguely made the connection before finally dozing off that the hostel marketed itself as being haunted and maybe, just maybe, Patrick Whelan, or someone long since physically departed didn’t like my feet protruding off the bed.

I mentioned the encounter to the front desk worker the next morning. He asked what room I’d stayed in and I told him. Then he gave me a half-knowing smile and said, with the conviction of someone made a believer, “I’m not surprised. You should try working the night shift.”

So to conclude, it’s a very interesting hostel. If you’re ever in the Ottawa area, be sure to check it out. Stock up on cojones though, if you’re of the jumpy variety. And, believe me, remember that adventure doesn’t have to be physical to get your heart racing!