Surrounded by fog, cold mists, & the frigid San Francisco bay, sits Alcatraz Island. Spanish explorers discovered the uninhabited island in 1775 & named it "La Isla de los Alcatraces" meaning " Island Of Pelicans". The Island was taken over by the United States military in 1847 & started a military fortress in 1853. In 1854 they built a lighthouse which is the first lighthouse on the pacific coast.
In 1859 they began housing military convicts, mainly court marshaled soldiers. In 1861 confederate prisoners were kept there until the civil war ended. Inmates were kept in the basement of the guard house, slept side by side on the stone floor, with no running water or latrines. Inmates suffered from disease & infestations of lice. They were bound to 6 foot chains attached to iron balls, fed bread & water, & confined to sweat boxes as punishment.
After the civil war the fort was deemed obsolete, but more cell houses were added & it continued as a prison. In the 1870`s & 1880`s indian chiefs & tribal leaders that refused to give in to the white man were incarcerated there. In 1898 the population rose from 100 to 450 as the rock became a holding pen for spanish prisoners during the spanish-american war.
Alcatraz survived the great 1906 earthquake, but the San Francisco jail on the other side of the water didn`t, so prisoners from the San Francisco jail were housed there until the jail could be rebuilt. During World War 1 seamen that were captured from german vessels were imprisoned there & Alcatraz became the army`s first long term prison, gaining the reputation as a tough facility. Many inmates attempted to escape, but were forced to turn back or be rescued from the hard frigid waters of the San Francisco bay. Those who didn`t turn back, drowned.
In the 1920`s Alcatraz gradually fell into disuse. The lighthouse keeper, a few military personnel, & a few hardened military prisoners were the only ones that remained there.
Rampant crime & social upheaval of the 1920`s & 1930`s brought new life to Alcatraz. Attorney General Homer Cummings supported J. Edgar Hoover & the F.B.I. in creating an escape proof prison for hardened criminals & decided Alcatraz would be just the place. In 1933 the facility was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons & in 1934 James A. Johnston took over as warden & Alcatraz opened it`s doors as a federal prison. The facility was meant as a place of punishment, not rehabilitation.
Wardens around the country were polled & inmates considered to be "the worst of the worst" were transferred to the rock. Alcatraz housed some famous names like Birdman Robert Stroud, Floyd Hamilton (former gang member & driver for Bonnie & Clyde), Doc Barker (last surviving member of the Ma Barker gang), George Machine Gun Kelly, Creepy Alvin Karpis, & Al Capone. This prison had no trustees, no talking was allowed in the cells, mess hall, nor the showers, & you were not allowed to whistle or hum either. Inmates had 5 rights, food, clothing, a private cell, a shower once a week, & the right to see a doctor. No newspapers or magazines were allowed & inmates were kept ignorant to life in the outside world.
The guards were as hardened as the inmates & beat many prisoners regularly. There were also separate punishment cells usually referred to as "The Hole" in which troublesome inmates were locked up stripped of all of their rights except for food. These cells were dark steel encased, with no sink, toilet, or light. There was a hole in the middle of the floor that could only be flushed from the outside. Inmates were stripped naked, & given very little food, it was completely dark & very cold.
Time in the hole usually meant psychological & physical torture, inmates were beaten regularly & their screams echoed through the facility.
Inmates released from these cells would often end up in the hospital ward devoid of their sanity. Others would get pneumonia & arthritis, & some men never came out at all.
Even worse than the hole, was "The Dungeon". Prisoners were taken down a stairway through a corridor to the bottom of the prison in an area that once was gun ports when the facility used to be a military fort. Inmates were chained to the walls in a standing position from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. & tortured. The screams could not be heard in the rest of the prison. The toilet was a bucket that was emptied once a week. They were fed 2 cups of water & one slice of bread each day, with a full meal every third day. Many prisoners including Al Capone were driven insane by the living conditions.
During the 29 years that Alcatraz was a federal prison, 34 inmates attempted to escape in 14 different attempts, almost all were killed or recaptured. Two guards were killed by 5 inmates in cells 402 & 403 (later changed to C-102 & C-104) in an escape attempt in May of 1946. U.S. Marines, the Navy, & Coast Guard had to storm the prison with gunfire & grenades to put an end to the escape & restore the calm. The siege lasted 2 days & 5 people were killed.
The most famous escape was that of Jim Morris & brothers John & Clarence Anglin on June 11, 1962. The 3 escaped on a home made raft into the frigid waters & were never seen again. To this day it is unknown if they made it across the bay or drowned. By this time Alcatraz had began deteriorating from the salt air & budget cuts forced Alcatraz to close it`s doors for good on March 23, 1963. It became a national park in 1973 & night watchmen constantly hear moaning & screaming sounds coming from the punishment cells & the dungeon. They also report hearing the sound of feet running through the corridors. Cell 14D which was one of the "hole" punishment cells, is extremely cold all of the time, even on a warm day. In the 1940`s an inmate was placed in 14D & immediately after being locked in the cell he began screaming that there was an apparition with glowing eyes attacking him. The screams carried on into the night before finally stopping. The next morning when guards opened the cell, they found the man dead with a look of horror frozen on his face. That same day while doing head count, a guard had one head too many & noticed seeing the face of that deceased man standing there in line. When he looked back, the face was gone.
Alcatraz is very active with literally hundreds of paranormal happenings occurring every night. From screams to slamming of doors. Some say you can still hear the sound of Al Capone`s banjo at night.
A New Photo taken by a visitor at Alcatraz. If you zoom in, you`ll see a shadow image at the end of the corridor.