New Brunswick

Sleeping on death row? Dorchester jail-turned-lodgings promises good rest

For $34 a night, guests will get a private room, a comfortable bed, a guided tour and an experience of a lifetime, one New Brunswick Airbnb ad says.

Owner to take bookings soon for old jail in eastern New Brunswick, site of last double hanging in province

Bill Steele says he will offer overnight visitors an experience close to what prisoners might have had. (Submitted/Bill Steele)

For $34 a night, guests will get a private room, a comfortable bed, a guided tour and an experience of a lifetime, one New Brunswick Airbnb ad says.

Except, the night won't be spent in a hotel, but at the notorious Dorchester jail.

"You'll be able to enjoy the village, spend the night find the history behind the actual building and the area and you'll have a great time," retiree Bill Steele said, who bought the unique piece of property in March.

"I don't think there's anywhere else in the world to sleep in a death row cell."

Guests won't be getting a luxurious hotel stay but a 'bare bones" experience of what it was like for former Dorchester inmates to sleep in jail.

"It's just like you're camping," he said. "Bring something to sleep in."

Steele said the experience could be a family affair.

"You can bring your parents, you can bring your kids, you can bring anybody you want and spend a night in there and experience something you just can't go around and experience."

Appeal of history

According to a local historical group, the jail was built in 1800. (CBC)

Steele said the biggest appeal for people to stay overnight at the jail is learning about the building's history, which includes New Brunswick's last double hanging, in 1936.

The Bannister brothers of Berry Mills, 17-year-old Arthur and 20-year-old Daniel, were convicted of murder during a botched kidnapping attempt that left three members of a family dead. The brothers were hanged at 1 a.m. and buried together in a pine box behind the jail.

The grave was not marked, but Steele said he plans to find it and mark it.

"I think everybody kind of deserves that."

The jail building was built in 1800 and closed 20 years ago. The last execution in the province was in 1957.

Much like it was in old days

Bill Steele becomes the official owner of the old jail in Dorchester on June 1. (Submitted/Bill Steele)

"It's all original," Steele said. 

"It's rustic and it's just the way it was when people were there even in the '30s."

But no guest need worry about being locked in a cell, Steele said.

With a beautiful view from every cell, the building has its original fixtures, including the stone blocks separating the cells, steel doors, and windows that allows the natural light to shine through.

Inquiries already

Bill Steele says he is ready to leave city life behind to live in Dorchester. (Submitted/Bill Steele)

Steele said he is looking for memorabilia and historical photos related to the jail to showcase.

Since buying the property, Steele has been nicknamed the "Jail guy," and people are already calling in hopes of experiencing what he's offering.

This is an opportunity to maybe take some quiet time for yourself and have a good sleep and think about things.- Bill Steele, owner of former jail

"I think we're going to be extremely busy," he said.

But Steele promised his guests will have a very good night's sleep in the cells, which offer a great opportunity to slow down and relax.

"I think a lot of people did a lot of thinking in those cells, so I think this is an opportunity to maybe take some quiet time for yourself and have a good sleep and think about things."

The jail has 10 bedrooms, which will have lighting, eight bathroom facilities, a gym and Wi-Fi.

Steele gets the jail keys June 1 and will be booking guests soon thereafter.

With files from Maritime Noon

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