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Haunted history: Former jail in Dorchester, N.B., provides unique experience for visitors


Living in one of Canada’s oldest provincial jails might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for Bill Steele of Dorchester, N.B., it’s a dream come true.

“I’ve always been fascinated with kind of weird and unusual stuff and when I (saw) the jail I said, ‘this will be perfect for me,’” he said.

The former jail was built in 1875 and there is a lot of history inside its four walls, including New Brunswick’s last double hanging.

“It initially starts off with the Bannister brothers,” Steele said. “They were executed here in 1936, they’re buried in the backyard. We have a number of people buried in the backyard.”

In addition to its rich history, there are current day jail stories and scenarios that Steele has personally experienced since moving in six years ago.

“I’ve never been scared, but I’ve been entertained tremendously. I’ve seen a lot of things moving and stuff like that,” he said.

“I kind of get used to it and I kind of just smile and move on. I don’t want to get too involved with it and poke the other side, sort of thing, but it’s quite entertaining.”

Just recently, he reopened “The Dark Side,” a block of cells that don’t see sunlight, and he says it feels like he’s stirred the pot ever since.

“In death row, the left cell, I keep locked because it is locking, so we don’t want to leave it open so people go in there and lock themselves in it. And we find that open many times, especially recently.”

Two cells in death row section of the former Dorchester, N.B., jail are pictured. (Alana Pickrell/CTV Atlantic)Steele says he is happy to share his interests and his home with others. He hosts daily tours for people who want to come out and explore.

The tours are about 30 to 45 minutes in length and on top of seeing the facility and learning about its history, Steele also has displays of other weird and interesting things.

For the brave of heart, there are six jail cells that have been converted into Airbnb rentals.

“I thought when I bought this place if it was haunted, as they said, nobody would come here, and it’s been completely the opposite,” he said.

“Everybody likes the idea of ghost hunting in here and being in an area where it’s known to have some paranormal activity and that’s the major attraction.”

An example of one of the Airbnb rental rooms at the former Dorchester jail. (Alana Pickrell/CTV Atlantic)Steele says it isn’t uncommon for groups of people to book rooms and search for paranormal activity during their visit.

While he didn’t want to give too much away, he did share that several guests have said they were poked by someone while staying in cell five.

Recently, the Dorchester Jail was featured on a new paranormal TV show called “Repossessed,” which aired on Hulu in the United States and is expected to come to Canada soon.

“There were some pretty big stars and talent that came here to film here. It was really exciting,” said Steele.

“It was like an antique road show for haunted items.”

After nearly six years of turning the historic building into his home, Steele says there are still areas he hasn’t fully explored.

“I am the luckiest guy in the world,” he said. “I am the luckiest guy. I got exactly what I wanted in life.”

He also says he has no plans to leave.

“I love it here,” he said.

“I’m going to be staying here forever and I’m coming back when I’m dead, by the way. You’ll be able to see me; I’ll be standing right here at some point!” Top Stories

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