I wasn’t too worried about spending a night on Death Row at the old Carleton County Jail in Ottawa – I don’t believe in ghosts at all, nothing to worry about. My biggest concern was missing the Thursday night football game and Game 2 of the World Series. I lost sleep over that, trying to figure out how to stream baseball on my phone thing.
The evening began with the Haunted Walk of Ottawa tour, which ends at the old jail, now a tourist hostel. The Haunted Walk is excellent, with tour guides who are more actors than guides (I used to be a tour guide on the double decker buses downtown – my tours were much less spooky). It begins with the story that many people in Ottawa know, the assassination of D’Arcy McGee and the subsequent witch hunt and (possibly rigged and unfair) trial of Patrick Whelan.
From there, it moves on to a few other locations, then to the jail where Whelan was eventually executed in front of 5,000 Ottawa residents, who apparently had nothing better to do with their time before iPads. A lot of spooky ghost stories as we moved along death row, and the tour group was fascinated but tense. Our promotions co-ordinator Jenna was there with me, taking pictures. She hung back to take a picture of the jail cell where I would be spending the night. When a chair fell over somewhere with a bang, her scream made the whole tour group jump a foot in the air. Then we looked in the cell and…there was no chair at all!
Soon, the webcam was set up, I was hammering away on Twitter and the guys from Bytown Paranormal were set up to do a very brief paranormal investigation (more to show me how their stuff works than to actually investigate the ghost of Patrick Whelan – their usual setup lasts for hours upon hours). The guys at the hostel told me that no one gets to sleep on death row any more – when tourists stayed there, none ever made it through the night, and they would wake up to see ghostly figures standing over them or sitting on their beds and whatnot. They’d run out in the middle of the night. Now, only accredited paranormal investigators, and groups of ten or more (this month only) would be allowed up there. And me.
It was 100 degrees up there in death row. I am, it seems, the first person in decades to sleep up there all by myself. I laid down to sleep, and immediately I could feel eyes upon me. It was a very unsettling experience. After a second, though, I realized it was just the webcam. Frankly, one ghost watching me sleep is a little less creepy than 300 people on the internet watching me sleep.
It was now seven hours past my bedtime. I passed right out. My phone alarm was set for 3:00, so I could sleep in. At 3, the phone went off, and I got up to go to work. On my way out, I remembered there was a creepy ghost-looking bust stuck in one of the other jail cells on death row to make tour groups jump. I figured I’d grab it out of the cell, and throw it up in front of the webcam to freak people out. But I couldn’t get the cell door open – it was locked…from the outside! Spoooooooky…
Then Doc and Woody made fun of me for leaving “early” to get into work on time. Pretending they told me I could sleep all morning. Look. When I went to bed, I told the ghosts, specifically, that I had to be up early. You’ve got three hours to creep me out, I said. This either flustered them, not being used to time constraints, or it just didn’t fit with their schedule, ’cause 3:30 is their hauntin’ time. Or, there are no ghosts.