By Craig Mitton and Darkling Ghost

444 York Street, Winnipeg, MB

Status: Former Jail; No Public Access except for 2 Days a Year


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Photo Courtesy of Darkling Ghost


When Winnipeg purchased Fort Garry and demolished it in the late 19th century Main Street could finally be extended. This also resulted in the city’s first courts and jail at Main and William Ave – which had become a dismal dungeon and all around hell hole – to be sold and the profits to be used to build a new jail.

The new Provincial jail was to be built on what was then the edge of the city behind the new courthouse.

The ground floor held 7 cells with the east wing being used to house the light criminals; the mess was also on this floor. The second floor housed the 7 female wards as well as the workroom and the hospital. The attic served as the dormitory for the prison staff.

The west wing was the maximum security wing. Only male prisoners and only those charged with robbery, rape and murder.

The basement was solitary confinement: no windows, no natural light and you were hung by chains attached to your wrists and ankles.

The north (front) wing was housing for the jailer (warden) and his family.

In the beginning the jail was dirty and gave little attention to prisoner comfort. The Province, however, actually made an effort to clean it up. By 1890 the jail was listed as being in good condition and having electric lighting installed throughout.

Renovations were in the 1909-10 period which included adding the cupola on the roof and extending the south wing.

The mentally and physically disabled were “stored” here and treated the same, if not worse, as the prisoners before they were transferred to the Selkirk Asylum.

The prisoners basically only did 2 things while they were awake: worked and tended to spiritual matters.

Before 1909 and new laws children were tried as adults and locked up in the same cell as adults. Children as young as 5 years old were incarnated in the jail.

In the beginning the public were sometimes allowed into the jail and treated it as a zoo.

There is a gallows in the courtyard. Executions by hangings first started on May 27, 1899 of 2 murderers. Actually, the contractor of the legislative building, Earl Leonard Nelson was hanged here, too. Thirteen people were hanged and buried in unmarked graves in Brookside Cemetery, 3001 Notre Dame Ave.

All executions were held at the new jail from 1930.

It's not open to the public most of the time, but once a year there's an event called "Open Doors Winnipeg”, where some locations make it public for a day for people to explore and there's historical tours. The Vaughan Street Jail being one of them.

The jail's use has been changed since 1930 and the top floors are deemed structural safety hazards.

Most of the cells have been removed but the solitary confinement cells in the basement are still there.


Paranormal Activity

Per our Winnipeg Representative Darkling Ghost

When I was on the Muddy Waters Ghost Tour I took this photo and felt drawn to the 3rd window to the left, on the 2nd floor. After I took the picture the guide then told the group she once saw the silhouette of a lady with her hair up in a bun, like a prison warden would have, walking by that very window I was drawn to but not walk past the other windows.

Most of the reports of that old jail are feelings of being watched, run up on followed by phantom footsteps and blasts of air and phantom voices, feelings of being touched