Haunted Legends: Alcatraz
San Francisco, CA
Written by contributor James Paradie
It was home to some of the most notorious gangsters of the prohibition era, the likes of George “Machine Gun” Kelley, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, and Al Capone have all spent time on “The Rock”, better known as Alcatraz. Everyone, from kidnappers, to murderers, have all called Alcatraz home at one point. Even though its been closed since 1963, some of the former inmates who died within the walls still remain.
A brief history of the famous West Coast prison: It was discovered in 1775, when Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala charted San Francisco Bay and named this tiny speck of land, La Isla de los Alcatraces, or translated in English, “Island of the Pelicans.” At this stage of age, it had little to offer, but that would soon change. The U.S. Army saw this island as an ideal location for a military base. By 1853, they had built the military fortress with long range cannons, four 36,000 pound, 15 inch Rodman guns with the power to sink any invading ship which posed a threat to “The Rock.” But only one cannon was shot it its history…and missed its target. Decades later, Alcatraz would soon turn into what it’s now known as…
Because of it’s isolation from the rest of civilization, the island would soon be considered for a new role-a prison. 1861, Alcatraz got its first inmates from the Civil War and then the Spanish-American War in 1898. By 1912, construction started for a three story cell house, and by the 1920’s it was already full. Harsh conditions, severe diets that included the inmates being given only bread and water, wearing a twelve pound ball and chain on their ankle, and solitary confinement were enforced on those who violated the rules. Buckingham Palace? Not here. In its twenty-nine year history, there was thirty-six escape attempts. But twenty-three were caught, six were shot and killed, two men drowned in the icy cold waters of San Francisco Bay, and two of the other men caught were executed by gas chamber in San Quentin in California State Prison.
No wonder with all the blood, sweat, tears, broken bones, shattered minds, and twisted souls that were locked within the confines of one of America’s most famous prisons would be such a great home for some of the spirits of the damned that still lay condemned to this island. This prison does have a history of activity and we’re going to explore just some of these spirits who still call Alcatraz their domain.
Clanging sounds, cold spots, glowing eyes of fright, and terror in the night of been reported within the concrete walls. Uncontrollable sobbing, moaning, and banjo music (yes, you read correctly) have been also been reported. Here’s some interesting ghost stories that I’ve read over the years:
Al Capone’s Ghost:
Perhaps one (if not THE) most famous gangster of the 1920’s make or break, kill or be killed, prohibition era. Al Capone (1899-1947) served almost seven years in Alcatraz, but his memory lives on and strangely it’s through song. The sound of a banjo playing no less, and the reason some speculate it’s the ghost of Capone is because back when he was in the prison, he, along with other inmates, started a prison band that he played the banjo in. Now, decades later, the sound of a banjo can be heard playing within the prison walls.
Haunted Utility Room:
Inmates Bernard Coy, Marvin Hubbard, and Joseph Cretzer were killed in this room when guards opened fire on them with machine guns, killing them in this very room in 1946. Their presence, however, has been felt 60 plus years later. This is where an eerie clanging noise can be heard coming from inside the room. Once a guard would go in there, to see what the noises were, and would find no noises. He would then close the door and almost immediately the clanging noises would resume. Again he opened it, and was baffled that he could not find the sources for the sounds.
One of three of the solitary confinement cells in Alcatraz, but it could be better known as the layer of the beast. This is where some of the roughest, toughest, men of fear, would go in there…just to cry for help. Guards would laugh it off, not take in account that the prisoner’s plead for help were legit as this block was notorious for claims of ghost activities. On one such occasion, the guards would wish that they had listened to the pleads of help.
In the mid-1940’s, a former guard of Alcatraz recalls locking an inmate in the hole, but seconds later he heard screaming coming from inside the cell. Again, taking it as just a prank to get out, they ignored him. The next day, after the screams finally withered to nothing, they opened the cell to find the inmate dead with a look of terror frozen in his face. The convict was yelling about a beast with yellow eyes that was locked in the cell with him.
“Island of the Pelicans” or “Island of Lost Souls”? You decide. , but Alcatraz will forever be haunted, both in the blood that was spilt and the ghosts who are still incarcerated within it. Until next time, this has been another Scared Sheetless. Happy Hauntings Graveyard Disciples.