Your Guide to the Haunted Walks of Ottawa

October = cooler temps, colorful leaves that crunch as you walk over them, and all things spooky. What better time to explore a haunted jail?

Exploring a haunted jail was one of the things that tipped the scales in favor of Ottawa as I searched for a city to travel to last fall. My plan was to go on two of The Haunted Walks of Ottawa, but in the end I only went on one. (One of the perks of solo travel: you can change plans on a whim. I saw a Facebook post that an author I like was speaking at the writer’s conference in Ottawa one evening, so I went to that instead.)

In October, I chose to go on The Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa, and wished I had more time to go on more, so when my mom and I decided to go back this spring, I scheduled in the other walks that were available. Here’s a recap of the three walks I went on to help you choose the right one for you.

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

A Brief History of the Carleton County Gaol

The Carleton County Gaol opened in 1862 and housed inmates that were jailed for a wide variety of crimes: some violent and some not. Inmates included men, women, and children. (Yes, even children were held at the jail for a number of reasons.) The jail was eventually shut down in 1972, due to the terrible conditions the prisoners lived in. When you hear about the conditions, it’s not a surprise that many prisoners died during their stay–the exact numbers aren’t known. Not only that, the jail also has a working gallows, and there were a few prisoners who were executed on the grounds. Most notable was Patrick Whelan, who was executed for the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, an Irish-Canadian politician who is known as the Father of the Canadian Confederation. Due to the large number of deaths that took place in the jail, this building is believed to be haunted. After the jail was shut down the future of the building was unknown for quite awhile, until it was purchased by Hostelling International and renovated into a hostel. Yes, if you’d like you can rent a cell and spend the  night in a haunted jail. Guests have reported spooky experiences and there have been claims that Patrick Whelan has visited guests in their cells at night. I didn’t stay at the Ottawa Jail Hostel, however I looked into it. I think this is a hostel you stay in for the experience of sleeping in a jail.

All three of these haunted walks end in the jail, so if you’d like to see the building, but don’t want to spend the night, you’ll definitely want to go on at least one of these tours!

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa.

Dates: April – November
Price: $19.75 – $21.75
Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Details: This walk starts at The Haunted Walk ticket office and takes you through the city. You’ll look over the Rideau Canal/Bytown Museum and walk through the ByWard Market on your way to the haunted jail. It ends close to ticket office at the Bytown Museum.
I Liked: This tour takes you through some of touristy parts of Ottawa and your tour guide shares eerie facts about the city, as well as some stories about supposed hauntings in different buildings. I thought this tour matched up really well with the Ottawa Walking Tour that I had gone on earlier in the day and provided additional information about some of the sites that I found to be both fascinating and spooky. You’ll get a chance to see the regular cells, death row cells, and the gallows while learning basic facts about the prison.

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

Ghosts and Gallows

Dates: Year-Round
Price: $19.75 – $21.75
Duration: approx. 1.5 hours
Details: This walk starts at The Haunted Walk ticket office, where you’ll learn about the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. As you walk to the prison, you’ll learn more about the investigation. This tour ends with a tour of the jail.
I Liked: This was interactive; there were skits that you were invited to participate in if you wanted. It was a lot of fun to watch some of the people on the tour who really got into acting out their parts. (Don’t worry, if you don’t want to be involved in the skits, you don’t have to be!) As with the last tour, you’ll get a chance to see the regular cells, death row cells, and the gallows while learning basic facts about the prison.

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Crime and Punishment Tour

Dates: Year-Round
Price: $19.75 – $21.75
Duration: approx. 1.5 hours
Details: If you’re looking for a jail tour sans ghosts, this is the one for you! This walk starts at The Haunted Walk ticket office and follows the same (or, at least, similar) path to the jail as the Ghost and Gallows tour, but the focus is definitely on the history of the building and of crime in Ottawa. Once you reach the prison, you again tour the regular cells, death row cells, and the gallows, but the tour goes into much more detail about what it was like to be a prisoner.
I Liked: After touring the jail a few times, I was ready to dig into the history. This tour is the one to go on if you want to learn about the history of the prison, the history of death row in Canada, and the not-so-pleasant details about what it was like to be imprisoned in the Carleton County Gaol.

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

[Tweet “Tour a haunted jail and learn the history with @hauntedwalk tours of Ottawa! #ottawa “]

My favorite tours were definitely the Ghost and Gallows and the Crime and Punishment Tour. If you’re not into the ghostly stuff, I’d highly recommend you go on the Crime and Punishment Tour just to learn the history of this historic structure. If you are into the ghostly stuff, I’d definitely recommend going on at least one haunted tour and the Crime and Punishment Tour. The haunted tours are a fun way to learn some of the history, especially with the way the Ghost and Gallows tour is set up. However, if you really love the idea of haunted walks like I do and you’re able to go on all three, I’d definitely recommend it. I loved each one and each tour had enough new information that I thought it was worth going on all of them.

Also, if you’ll be there in October and November I definitely recommend looking at the website for The Haunted Walk of Ottawa because they have some fun haunted adventures (including a Stranger Things adventure and a Zombie walk). Also, this year they have a special tour that takes you into the ByTown Museum in honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary. I suppose it would be crazy to go to Ottawa for the THIRD time in a year just to go on more Haunted Walks? 😉 (Not going to lie, it’s really tempting!)

Keep in mind that these are walking tours, so you will be walking for an extended period of time. You’ll also be walking up and down stairs when you’re in the jail, so keep that in mind if this is something that might be too demanding physically.

The tours end at the jail. The tour guides always go back to the ticket office, so they’ll walk with you if you’d like to return to where you started. You can also leave from the jail on your own if you’d like. It was a five minute walk from the jail to my hostel, so after my tour last fall I walked back. My mom and I opted to take an Uber back to our Airbnb both nights since the walk from both the ticket office and the jail was long enough that we didn’t want to do that.

There are also Haunted Walks in Kingston and Toronto, so definitely check out the tours if you’re visiting either of those cities. I know I will if/when I make it to them.

[Tweet “See the sights, learn the history, and explore a haunted jail with @hauntedwalk of Ottawa! #ottawa”]

Have you ever been The Haunted Walk of Ottawa? (Or Kingston? Or Toronto?) Would you be interested in checking them out? And have you been on haunted walks in other cities? Tell me all about them! I’d love to go on haunted walks in other cities that I travel to!

Note – I have no connection with The Haunted Walk of Ottawa and paid for all of the tours I went on. They don’t know that I’m writing this post. I just enjoyed the experience, but also had questions when I was choosing tours, and wrote the guide I would have been interested in reading when trying to decide which walks to go on and if it was worth it to go on all three.

PS – First Impressions // Ottawa  |  Parliament Hill  |  What to See & Do In Ottawa  |  The Perfect Itinerary for Your Two Day Visit to Ottawa

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The Haunted Walk of Ottawa has multiple options to tour the city & learn with the history, some with a spooky twist! Here's a guide to three of the tours! // dreams-etc.com

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Beth Kondrick
    September 6, 2017 at 9:36 am

    These look spooky and fun! I did a haunted walk when I visited Maine a few years ago. I wonder if we have anything like that around here! I should look into it!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Cummings
    September 6, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Ottowa looks beautiful! Haunted walks are my favorite!

  • Reply
    Kyla Matton Osborne
    September 6, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I spent a bit of time visiting Ottawa back in the late 80s and always loved the atmosphere there. The Byward Market was a big favourite of mine. I don’t remember ever hearing of any of these tours back then, but I wish I’d had the chance to check them out! If I ever get back that way, I’ll look for them.

  • Reply
    Rachel Ritlop
    September 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

    OMG this looks like so much fun! I seriously need to do this some day!

  • Reply
    Melanie Lifessweetwords
    September 6, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I love haunted walks! I think the Ghosts and Gallows would be the one I would want to try the most, though if I could do both I totally would. So much fun!

  • Reply
    Shevii McFarlane
    September 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    This looked so fun and exciting! I would definitely include this on my bucket list. My hubby and I are huge fans of haunted houses and horror movies and I think this would be great for us.

  • Reply
    TheEmiTimes
    September 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    This sounds like so much fun! There is a haunted walking tour where I live and I plan to actually go on the tour this year. I’m so excited. I love that your city has three different tours.

  • Reply
    Anali Martinez
    September 6, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    HOW NEEEEAT! I love scary places and stories. I am a super paranormal nerd. I would love this!

  • Reply
    Susannah
    September 6, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    How fun! My husband and I really enjoy going on haunted walks!

  • Reply
    Akaleistar
    September 6, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    What a fun thing to do in the fall!

  • Reply
    shootingstarsmag
    September 6, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    This sounds like such fun! I went on a ghost tour in Nashville and a Jack the Ripper tour in London, England. Both were great.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  • Reply
    Leslie Nichole
    September 6, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I would LOVE to do this. Ghosts and what not scare the bejesus out of me but i love learning and seeing what parts of history took place behind those walls.

  • Reply
    Jenny
    September 6, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    These all sound like so much fun! I’m all about scary stuff.

  • Reply
    Eli J. Pacheco
    September 6, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    We did one in Savannah, Ga. There is a similar history to many southern towns, Charleston, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., included. I would so stay in a haunted hostel. Would you, if you had it to do over?

  • Reply
    Jiawun | Beauty Nerd By Night
    September 7, 2017 at 4:43 am

    This looks like so much fun!! I love visiting spooky places but I have to admit I get scared very easily lol. I would love to go on the tours, but I would never stay overnight in the cells haha. I would freak out and get a panic attack!

  • Reply
    Shybiker
    September 7, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Ooh, I love these tours! I want to visit Ottawa and this gives me a good excuse. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Hanna J Smith
    September 7, 2017 at 10:23 am

    I’ve always wanted to go on one of these!! They look so fun and I LOOOVVVVEEEE being scared!

  • Reply
    thesophiadiaries
    September 7, 2017 at 10:29 am

    unfortunately I kind of had to blow past most of this post coz anything haunted, even in photos, freaks me out xD but it’s so cool that you created a guide haha 🙂

  • Reply
    The Haunted Housewife
    September 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    That looks like so much fun! I’d definitely want to spend the night there. 🙂 We don’t have anything this cool where I live, sadly!

  • Reply
    Meagan Moore
    September 7, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I hate horror flicks, but I LOVE tours like this. I did a similar one in Seattle years ago, and it was an absolute blast. This one looks fantastic, too! Thank you for sharing!

    – Meagan
    http://www.tworestlesshomebodies.com

  • Reply
    Erica @ Coming up Roses
    September 8, 2017 at 5:54 am

    OMG this looks like it would terrify me! I’m never a fan of scary, but maybe if I had a glass of wine before doing it it’d be more manageable??? haha!

    Coming Up Roses

  • Reply
    Rosie Digout
    September 8, 2017 at 7:43 am

    I am not a history buff but I love these experiential type of tours and learn about local history. We have cemetery tours that happen twice a year and each time, I learn something new.

  • Reply
    Katelyn Brin Bossany
    September 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    I love spooky haunted tours and anything related to Halloween. This looks like an absolute blast! And such fascinating history tidbits!

  • Reply
    Aishwarya
    September 8, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Oh my God, this is SO amazing!!! I’d totally would want to go to this place! I love this concept!

  • Reply
    Courtney Connolly
    September 8, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    I would love to go on one of those tours. They have haunted tours in my city and they are so fascinating. Since Ottawa is one of my favourite cities it would be so fun to see it in another way.

  • Reply
    Shannon Paige
    September 10, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I had to look up where Ottawa was lol but i thought it was in canada! I would love to visit here as well as Montreal… these haunted tours look so amazing. I love stuff like this- I am going to Salem, Mass for the first time this year with my friend and am beyond excited! Thanks for sharing all these cool tours and introducing me to a new place! *thegoodthingscomin.wordpress.com

  • Reply
    Claire @ October Rain
    September 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    My first haunted tour was down in Seattle, and I did one in Vancouver as well shortly after. I would love to take on the jail tour since it’d be pretty cool to visit a jail with history!

  • Reply
    Mistle
    September 10, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    These sound like a lot of fun!! I bet it would be interesting to stay in a haunted jail!!! I’ve never done any haunted walks.

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