BC FEDERAL PENITENTIARY site

(BC Penn)

319 Governor’s Court, New Westminster

Status: Former Federal Maximum Security Penitentiary, Formerly Abandoned, Demolished, Residential Housing

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History

In 1874 construction began on this penitentiary. With the number of people coming to British Columbia once it joined Canada shipping federal prisoners back east was costly and no longer made sense. The first prisoners were admitted in 1878. The prison consisted of the Gate House – which still stands – and some wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden fence.

Between 1904 and 1914 the large concrete cell blocks were constructed by inmate labour. The wooden fence was replaced by a 30 foot rock wall – later a 40 foot concrete wall – and guard towers were built in all 4 corners of the wall.

Although the penitentiary was overcrowded in the 1950’s, the population had dropped considerably by the 1960’s. In 1979 a new facility was opened in Agassiz and it announced that this prison would be closed.

In May 1980 the prison was opened to the public for the first time ever – the prisoners had already been transferred - for a 2 week period. The prison was then closed permanently.

Today, most of the prison buildings have been demolished and replaced with residential houses with the following exceptions: the Prison Cemetery (overgrown but still in Glenbrook Ravine), the Centre Block (converted into offices) and the Gatehouse (now a Sports Bar).

Originally, prisoners were flogged for breaking the rules but gradually punishments lessened in severity and became solitary confinement, bread and water diets or removal of privileges.

Only 1 execution took place at the prison. Two prisoners killed a guard while attempting an escape; one died from injuries sustained during the escape and the other – Joseph Smith – was hung in the courtyard of the prison.

The reason there was only 1 execution here is that before Canada abolished the Death Penalty all executions took place in Provincial rather than Federal prisons. The official reason for having this execution here was; it was easier.

There were numerous riots and related hostage taking incidents throughout the prison’s history.

The last 10 years the prison was open were the most violent.

 

Paranormal Activity

When the empty prison buildings were still standing

Apparitions of former prisoners were seen wandering the grounds. Pale ghostly faces were seen staring out of the barred windows. Shadow figures; cold spots; electrical disturbances; unexplained mists and feelings of extreme unease, not being alone, being watched and not being wanted.

In the residential neighbourhood after buildings were demolished

Apparitions dressed in prison uniforms in the streets (very few reports); unexplained mists; light anomalies (numerous reports); shadow figures and feelings of being watched and not alone.

In the prison graveyard in Glenbrook Ravine

The apparition of a glowing man on a hilltop and the phantom sound of gun shots – this activity is thought to be related to a man shot in the park in the late 1980’s

In the old cemetery itself people have seen light anomalies; had electrical issues and had feelings of being watched.