Secrets in the attic? Searching for the gallows from Halifax's hanging past
Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the House of Commons vote to abolish the death penalty in Canada.
The final execution in Halifax took place in 1935. Daniel Sampson was arrested and charged with the murder of two young brothers who had been beaten to death near what's now the Armdale Rotary.
Sampson's execution followed a lengthy legal battle, including a new trial. He was visited by his mother the day before the execution, and reportedly signed a confession on his way to the gallows, admitting that he killed the two brothers.
But he said it was because they were tormenting him. Some believe that torment continues to this day.
“As I understand it, when janitors and other staff walk through there, they just get a very odd, creepy feeling – particularly in the attic area,” said Halifax ghost tour operator Andy Smith.
The Nova Scotia Archives has a few pictures of the actual gallows, which stood in what's now the back parking lot of the Halifax Courthouse.
For decades, rumours have persisted about what happened next.
“After the hangings ended, they took the gallows down and some of the wood that was used was placed in the courthouse building,” said Smith.
Old court records are stored in the attic of the courhouse, but no sign of the gallows.
“We've had many people ask that same question,” said court administrator Tanya Pellow. “We have looked for it, and never found any wood.”
But perhaps for a place so steeped in history, such a tale is entirely appropriate – adding another layer of mystique in an impressive and imposing place.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.