Alcatraz (Spanish for Island of Pelicans) is an island near San Fransisco bay, San Fransisco, California, United States. It is well known as the site of the most well-known prison in the world. Alcatraz prison was a high-security prison that was built on the island so that it would be near impossible for people to escape. The prison was under fully blown security at all times. Only one person has ever escaped from the prison, and that was Jens.
The prison's execution punishment was also brutal and bloody. They carried out executions in the prison via electric chairs and hanging. One of the prisons 'Forms of Punishment' was a very dark cell. This cell was completely pitch black and there was absolutely no light in it. Prisoners who misbehaved were put into this cell for as much as a fortnight. The true horror of this punishment is that it often drove the prisoners mad, causing them to hallucinate. Many prisoners used to scream that there was something in the room with them, although the guards simply laughed it off. One person was found dead after this practice. Many people have blamed this on one of the ghosts in Alcatraz.
Alcatraz prison was first built during the American civil war. The prison built at this point was called 'The Citadel'. It was a war camp. Many torture methods were carried out here. The Citadel collapsed but years later, The prison that stands today was build on top of the remains. The underground structures of The Citadel are still there and are accessible through the current building. The prison was shut down some time after the World War Two. During it's time of activity, it held some of the most infamous criminals in the United States history.
History[edit | edit source]
The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963). No inmate ever successfully escaped The Rock, as the prison was nicknamed, although more than a dozen known attempts were made over the years. After the prison was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied for almost two years, starting in 1969, by a group of Native-American activists. Today, historic Alcatraz Island, which was also the site of a U.S. military prison from the late 1850s to 1933, is a popular tourist destination.
EARLY YEARS AS A MILITARY PRISON Alcatraz [edit | edit source]
In 1775, Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala (1745-97) mapped and named rugged Alcatraz Island, christening it La Isla de los Alcatraces, or Island of the Pelicans, due to its large population of sea birds. Seventy-five years later, in 1850, President Millard Fillmore (1800-74) signed an order reserving the island for military use. During the 1850s, a fortress was constructed on Alcatraz and some 100 cannons were installed around the island to protect San Francisco Bay. Also during this time, Alcatraz became home to the West Coast’s first operational lighthouse.
By the late 1850s, the U.S. Army had begun holding military prisoners at Alcatraz. Isolated from the mainland by the cold, strong waters of San Francisco Bay, the island was deemed an ideal location for a prison. It was assumed no Alcatraz inmate could attempt to escape by swimming and survive.
During its years as a military prison, the inmates at Alcatraz included Confederate sympathizers and citizens accused of treason during the American Civil War (1861-65). Alcatraz also housed a number of “rebellious” American Indians, including 19 Hopis from the Arizona Territory who were sent to the prison in 1895 following land disagreements with the federal government. The inmate population at Alcatraz continued to rise during the Spanish-American War (1898).
During the early 20th century, inmate labor fueled the construction of a new cellhouse (the 600-cell structure still stands today) on Alcatraz, along with a hospital, mess hall and other prison buildings. According to the National Park Service, when this new complex was finished in 1912 it was the world’s largest reinforced concrete building.
A FEDERAL PRISON: 1934-63[edit | edit source]
In 1933, the Army relinquished Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department, which wanted a federal prison that could house a criminal population too difficult or dangerous to be handled by other U.S. penitentiaries. Following construction to make the existing complex at Alcatraz more secure, the maximum-security facility officially opened on July 1, 1934. The first warden, James A. Johnston (1874-1954), hired approximately one guard for every three prisoners. Each prisoner had his own cell.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) viewed Alcatraz as “the prison system’s prison,” a place where the most disruptive inmates could be sent to live under sparse conditions with few privileges in order to learn how to follow rules (at which point, they could be transferred to other federal prisons to complete their sentences). According to the BOP, Alcatraz typically held some 260 to 275 prisoners, which represented less than 1 percent of the entire federal inmate population.
ESCAPE ATTEMPTS FROM[edit | edit source]
Over the years, there were 14 known attempts to escape from Alcatraz, involving 36 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that of these would-be escapees, 23 were captured, six were shot and killed during their attempted getaways, two drowned and five went missing and were presumed drowned.
The most famous escape attempt resulted in a battle, from May 2 to May 4, 1946, in which six prisoners overpowered cellhouse officers and were able to gain access to weapons, but not the keys needed to leave the prison. In the ensuing battle, the prisoners killed two correctional officers and injured 18 others. The U.S. Marines were called in, and the battle ended with the deaths of three of the rogue inmates and the trial of the three others, two of whom received the death penalty for their actions.
THE PRISON CLOSES ITS DOORS: 1963[edit | edit source]
The federal penitentiary at Alcatraz was shut down in 1963 because its operating expenses were much higher than those of other federal facilities at the time. (The prison’s island location meant all food and supplies had to be shipped in, at great expense.) Furthermore, the isolated island buildings were beginning to crumble due to exposure to the salty sea air. During nearly three decades of operation, Alcatraz housed a total of 1,576 men.
In 1969, a group of Native Americans led by Mohawk activist Richard Oakes (1942-72) arrived on Alcatraz Island and claimed the land on behalf of “Indians of All Tribes.” The activists hoped to establish a university and a museum on the island. Oakes left Alcatraz following the death there of his stepdaughter in 1970, and the remaining occupiers, whose ranks had become increasingly contentious and divided, were removed by order of President Richard M. Nixon (1913-94) in 1971. The island became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972 and was opened to the public a year later. Today, some 1 million tourists visit Alcatraz each year.
Hauntings[edit | edit source]
The reputation of Alcatraz, like the solid ground it was built on, represents a lasting reminder, that no man is above the law, and for some, it is an eternal payback for their crimes against humanity---kind of an paranormal prison. Here are some of the stories.
During a Sightings visit in 1992, several of the Park Service staff confirmed the haunted history of Alcatraz. Many rangers had experienced unexplainable crashing sounds, cell doors mysteriously closing, unearthly screams, and intense feelings of being watched. Sightings called on psychic investigator Peter James to walk through portions of the abandoned prison to get his impressions. James began to pick up on the voices of the tortured souls driven mad since it's inception as a prison. He also sensed unusual vibrations of abuse, mistreatment, fear, and pain. His overall impression of Alcatraz was, that it had an energy like no other he had ever experienced---a persistent and overwhelming intensity that engulfed the island.
Some of the more haunted locations on Alcatraz appear to be the Warden's House, the hospital, the laundry room, and Cell Block C utility door where convicts Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard died during their escape attempt in 1946. The most haunted area on Alcatraz, is the "D" cell block, or solitary, as it was often called. To most who go there, a feeling of sudden intensity pervades the cells and corridor. Some rangers refuse to go there alone. It is intensely cold in certain cells, far colder than normal---especially cell 14-D. This cell is oftentimes so cold, that wearing a jacket barely helps---even though the surrounding area is twenty degrees warmer. It is no wonder the area was called "The Hole."
When authors, Richard Winer and Nancy Osborn visited Alcatraz, they ventured down to solitary with a park ranger. As Osborn entered cell 14-D, she immediately felt strong vibrations coming from within. Winer and the ranger followed Osborn, and within seconds, each of them experienced an intense tingling sensation in their hands and arms---they were convinced that something or someone was in there with them. The far corner of the cell where they were standing, and feeling the intense energy, was the exact spot where the naked, shivering prisoners would huddle, night after night, in the unforgiving darkness. Osborn said that she had never felt so much energy before in one spot.
Renowned ghosthunter Richard Senate, and a psychic spent the night on Alcatraz as part of a KGO radio promotion. They chose Al Capone's cell as a place of temporary refuge. According to Senate, emotions seemed to drip from every corner of Alcatraz as the long night progressed. He and the psychic visited the spots where rangers said they heard marching footsteps, and clanking metal; however, nothing happened. Finally, Senate locked himself in cell 12-D, where an evil and persistent ghost is rumored to dwell. As the thick, steel door was closed, Senate immediately felt icy fingers on his neck, and his hair stood on end. He knew he was not alone. Additionally, the psychic picked up on the twisted and dismembered bodies of uniformed men. Both left the island convinced that Alcatraz had its own special energy.
According to Antoinette May, much of the paranormal activity on Alcatraz occurs around areas associated with the penitentiary's worst tragedies. One of them is the Block C utility corridor, Cell Blocks A and B, with the eeriest area centering around cell 14-D---where it is always cold. According to May, gifted psychic Sylvia Brown accompanied by a CBS news team, investigated parts of Alcatraz. As Brown toured the prison hospital she picked up cards and notes tacked up on a wall, and the letter "S." A ranger confirmed that the "S" probably stood for Robert Stroud who spent ten-and-a-half years in the hospital, in the very room they were standing. He also had hundreds of notes and cards tacked up all around him. Brown sensed strong energy in what used to be the therapy room, and the prison laundry room, where at least one prisoner was murdered.
Co-author, Michael Kouri, visited Alcatraz Island in July of 1984 with his uncle. After several preliminary psychic impressions, Kouri reached cell 14-D, and entered. He first felt a "tingling sensation", which began at his fingertips; then, a very intense feeling of cold engulfed him. In a slight trance, he began to communicate with the spirit of a man of small stature; who had his head shaved and was left in "The Hole." The spirit, in obvious pain, "told" a horrifying tale of being beaten, his leg broken by guards, and left in solitary confinement---he had squealed on a fellow inmate---the year was 1939. Kouri then tried to lead the poor soul to the light. [Note: Kouri's other unique experience with a visitor, is truly remarkable, as well as an interview with the wife of an ex-warden---but you'll have wait until the book comes out].
A former guard related his stories about Cell Block D (particularly cells 12 and 14), and the frightening remnant energy lingering in the subterranean portion of the prison. During his stint during the mid-1940, convicts were often confined in one of the 14 cells in "D" Block (cells 9-14 were called "The Hole," because they contained no windows, and only one light which could be turned off by the guards. The darkness made it seem like a hole in the ground---hence the name. On one occasion, an inmate was locked in "The Hole". Within seconds, the inmate began screaming that someone with glowing eyes was in there with him. Tales of a ghostly presence wandering the darkened corridors in clothing from the late 1800,s were a continual source of practical joking among the guards, so the convict's pleas of being "attacked," were ignored.
The man's screaming continued well into the night, until there was silence. The following day, the guards inspected the cell---the convict was dead, a horrible expression etched on his face, and noticeable hand marks around his throat. The autopsy revealed that the strangulation was not self-inflicted. Some say he was strangled by a guard who had enough of the man's screaming---although no guard ever admitted it, even to the other guards. Others believed it was the restless, evil spirit of a former inmate who exacted his vengeance on yet another helpless soul. To add to the mystery, the day after the tragedy, several guards, performing a routine lineup of the convicts, counted one too many people. At the end of the line, the guards witnessed an extra body---that of the recently deceased convict. As everyone looked on in stunned silence, the figure of the ghostly convict vanished into thin air!
A number of guards from 1946 through 1963, experienced something out of the ordinary at one time or another. From the outer rim on the grounds to the deepest caverns, there was constant talk of people sobbing and moaning, horrible smells, cold spots, and seeing the "thing" with glowing eyes. Even groups of phantom prisoners and soldiers have appeared in front of startled guards, guests, and the families who lived on the island.
Sometimes the old lighthouse (long since demolished) appeared out of a dense fog, accompanied by a ghostly whistling sound, and a great flashing light which passed slowly around the entire island, just as if the Lighthouse was still active. The spectacle would then vanish before the startled eyes of guards and visitors. Phantom cannon shots, gun shots, and screams oftentimes sent seasoned guards falling flat on their stomachs thinking that prisoners had escaped and obtained weapons. Each time, there was no explanation. A deserted laundry room would sometimes emanate a strong scent of smoke, as if something was on fire. The sensation of the choking smoke would drive guards out of the room, only to return a few minutes later, the area now completely smoke free---the phantom smoke occurred many times over the years.
Even Warden Johnston, who didn't believe in ghosts, encountered the unmistakable sounds of woman sobbing, as if coming from inside the walls of the dungeon while he accompanied a number of guests on a tour of the facility. As if that weren't enough, an icy, cold gust of wind blew through the group, chilling them to the bone, just as the sobbing stopped.
The now burned-out shell of the Warden's House, has also been a focal point for sightings since the 1940s. During a Christmas Party, several guards witnessed the chilling apparition of a man wearing a gray suit, brimmed cap, and mutton chop side burns. When the men saw the apparition, the room turned deathly cold, the fire in the Ben Franklin stove was extinguished, and after less than a minute, the man vanished.
These are but a few of the "Haunted Alcatraz" stories.