A former New Brunswick jail has re-opened to Airbnb customers willing to pay a small fee for a one-night sentence in one of its cells.
Current owner Bill Steele welcomed his first visitors to the jail in Dorchester, N.B. on Friday, after transforming it from a decommissioned prison into a macabre motel. The Big House now lists six rooms for rent on Airbnb, at the criminal rate of just $34 a night.
“I want people to stay,” he told CTV Atlantic on Sunday. “It”s a real death row. It”s a provincial death row.”
Steele bought the jail earlier this year after it was listed for $159,000 – a price he called a “steal.” He has since moved in, with plans to convert 16 cells into guest rooms.
The jail was built in 1800, and was indeed a death-row facility for decades. Its claim to infamy is that it was the site of the last double-execution in the province in 1936, when the Bannister brothers were executed for three murders.
“They hung the two boys out front, and they buried them in the back,” Steele said.
Steele has embraced the jail”s sordid history. The doors no longer lock on the cells, but he”s left the old graffiti in place, and added a few props to make it look more authentic. There are iron manacles in the cells, prisoner-striped curtains on the doors, and a lifelike dummy strapped to a gurney at the end of one hallway. And during the day, he likes to play Johnny Cash”s “Folsom Prison Blues” for visitors wandering the facility.
“Stay in this notorious jail for the experience you”ll never forget,” Steele writes on his Airbnb listing.
He says staying in each cell is like “camping,” with single cots available for each visitor, shared washrooms and “lots of security. It”s a JAIL.”
Oh, and free WiFi. Because you”ll want to share those cellfies immediately, right?