Sunday, 29 April 2012


Alcatraz Island

Sitting like a beacon in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, between San Francisco and Oakland, California, is Alcatraz Island. Though most prominently known for the years it served as a maximum security prison, the "Rock’s” history stretches far beyond those infamous days, and its legends and stories continue to find their way into American lore, complete with a number of ghosts who are said to remain upon the island.

In 1848, after the end of the Mexican-American War, California, along with the island, came under the control of the United States. It wasn’t long before the U.S. Army realized the strategic position of the island as a defensive position for the San Francisco Bay and began the work of building a fortress atop the sandstone outcropping in 1853. Construction began with a temporary wharf, shops, barracks and offices. Incorporating the ruggedness of the land into the defense plan, the labourers blasted the rock and laid brick and stone to create steep walls around the island. By 1854, the lighthouse was completed and eleven cannons were mounted.

The first deaths of the island occurred in 1857, when the crew was excavating a roadway between the wharf and the guardhouse. Suddenly, a 7,000 cubic-yard landslide buried several of the laborers and two men were killed.

A few years later, a military fort was erected on the island and in 1859, Alcatraz saw its first prisoners, a contingent of court-martialled military convicts. Then in 1861, Alcatraz started to receive Confederate prisoners, thanks to its natural isolation created by the surrounding waters. Until the end of the Civil War, the number of prisoners here numbered from 15 to 50. They consisted of soldiers, Confederate privateers, and southern sympathizers. They were confined in the dark basement of the guardhouse and conditions were fairly grim. The men slept side-by-side, head to toe, lying on the stone floor of the basement. There was no running water, no heat and no latrines. Disease and infestations of lice spread from man to man and not surprisingly, overcrowding was a serious problem. They were often bound by six-foot chains attached to iron balls, fed bread and water and confined in "sweatboxes" as punishment.

 In the 1870’s and 1880’s, rebellious Indian chiefs and tribal leaders were incarcerated on Alcatraz. They shared quarters with the worst of the military prisoners. The island became a shipping point for incorrigible deserters, thieves, rapists and repeated escapees.

In 1911, Alcatraz was officially named the United States Disciplinary Barracks, an official Army Prison which included both U.S. Army prisoners as well as later interned German seamen who became prisoners during WW1.

In 1933, the prison facility was formally turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During 1934, Alcatraz became an escape proof, maximum security prison, where only the most hardened convicts were brought.

The first residents of the newly created Alcatraz received numbers 1-32, with Frank Bolt having the distinction of being Federal Prisoner #1 while serving a five-year sentence for Sodomy. He was followed by Charles Copp (Robbery and attempted Assault); Leon Gregory (Robbery, Assault and AWOL); Joseph Harrison (Sodomy); Forrest Henry (Robbery and Assault); Clyde Hicks (Sodomy); Ralph Hills (Robbery and Assault); Albert Hoke (Robbery); Alan Hood (Sodomy); and Frederick Holme (Sodomy and False Enlistment) to round out the first ten inmates. Al Capone was the first celebrity on the first train to Alcatraz, arriving in August 1934. He was given number 85.

Guards armed with machine guns, insured there were no escapes. Many convicts found Alcatraz the end of their career in crime, as well as the end of their lives.

For 29 years, the fog enshrouded island, with its damp, cold winds and isolation, made Alcatraz one of America's safest prisons.

There were a number of escape attempts from Alcatraz, but the bloodiest occurred on May 2, 1946 involving, Bernard Coy,  Joseph Cretzer,  Sam Shockley, Clarence Carnes, Marvin Hubbard, and Miran Thompson. It cost the lives of three inmates and two guards, with 17 guards and one prisoner wounded. The trial afterward, resulted in the execution of two more convicts who took part in the aborted escape.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy officially closed the doors of Alcatraz on March 21, 1963. From 1963 to 1969, the prison was unoccupied. Today, it is maintained by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

 Haunted History

The most haunted area of Alcatraz is the ‘D’ cell block, or solitary, as it was often called. To most of those who go there, a feeling of sudden intensity pervades the cells and corridor. Some rangers refuse to go there alone. It is intensely sold in certain cells, far colder than normal -especially in cell 14-D. This cell is often so cold, that wearing a jacket barely helps -even the surrounding area is twenty degrees warmer. It is no wonder the area is called ‘the Hole’.

Ghostly ecto captured by a visitor.

The haunting activities of the hole cell began in the 1940s, when a prisoner locked in the cell through the night made screaming claims that something was trying to kill him – what could it be that was trying to kill him? His screaming claimed the monster to be dark with glowing eyes. The strange part is, there were guards that viewed this man in the line-up with the other inmate’s only moments before he was strangled to death in the cell. Another interesting aspect to this haunting is the next day, after the man had been pronounced dead and removed from the roll calls, there had been one extra prisoner that had not been accounted for – could this be our mysterious ghostly killer with the glowing eyes?

Shadow ghost captured on staircase
 Crying, moaning and other sounds of hardship have been heard through cell blocks A, C and D throughout the time that the prison has been open. There are apparently countless spirits stuck in Alcatraz which have been documented hundreds of times through the use of paranormal investigations and visits to the island from renowned psychics and paranormal investigators.

Originally published in Haunted Earth Ghost Tales - now transferred.

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