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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cornwall Jail

Much like the prisons here, gaols/jails in Canada were built to last and many are still standing. However, those dated back to the 1800s are being shut down for new and improved facilities. Cornwall Jail in Ontario housed its last "official" prisoner in 2002.

During the war of 1812, the original courthouse was used as barracks and courts were held in St. John Church and local taverns. Fourteen years, it burned down and another move took place until new plans were drawn up. The new jailhouse was completed in 1834 and saw its share of well known prisoners such as Roger Caron, one of the boxing Hilton Brothers and a few Hell's Angels. Cornwall was meant to only house 50-60 prisoners at a time but known to sometimes contain more than 100. Only three guards were on duty at a time which meant activities such as exercise in the courtyard happen because the inmates could not be controlled. This may or may not have led to some of the suicides in Cornwall.

Ten inmates were hung in what use to be the gallows before executions in the courtyard ended in 1954. Many were buried in that courtyard. The jailhouse received many new additions over the years. When a new section was added in the 1960s, it uncovered three "cells" laid flat in the ground. These coffin-like holding areas were used as a form of punishment. There is no record of their existence. Cornwall Jail reopened in 2005 as Ontario's newest tourist attraction. Do visitors come to see how prisoners once lived inside its walls or do they want to experience its haunted side?

With so many deaths in its 175-year-history, some would think it stranger not to think a spirit or two roam the hallways. Some have reported hearing distinctive sounds such as a trolley going down the hallway. Cell doors that were closed the night before are found opened the next day. Orbs have been captured in photos and on film. A male voice has been heard humming by staff. Shadows have also been seen and some believe a female and child spirits still reside in the jailhouse. We will see on Wednesday if any of these claims can be validated after Jason and Grant's investigation results are aired.
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