11 February 1869 – Patrick J. Whelan

Patrick J. Whelan ImageThere’s a hostel in Canada that’s said to be haunted by the last man to be hanged publicly in Canada. That is a man who might have been fitted up for a crime.

The ghost of Irishman Patrick James Whelan is said to roam his cell in the former prison on Nicholas Street in Ottawa.


Sewn up

A tailor by trade, the Irishman had emigrated to Canada in the 1860s and may have been a Fenian sympathiser. That gave him credentials enough to take the blame for an assassination that took place in 1868 and to make him prime fodder as a scapegoat.

He was hauled in and convicted of shooting Canadian journalist and politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee. But the bullet casings found at the scene apparently didn’t match the gun found in his possession. Despite continued protestations that he was innocent throughout his arrest, trial and incarceration, Whelan was hanged anyway in response to the public outcry.

A hanger

His was the last public hanging ever to take place in Canada and it took place at Carleton County Gaol. When the lever was pulled, the trapdoor of the gallows opened so the victim dropped down in an outside courtyard, so the hanging was in full view of any spectactors. In the main, death is quick, but there are accounts that Whelan’s execution bucked the trend.

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