Alcatraz was known as a hotbed of negative energy and despair long before this small island just off the coast of San Francisco, California, became the site of the infamous prison nicknamed The Rock. Native American Indians who lived in the region hundreds of years before the prison's actual construction began considered it to be the dwelling place of evil spirits and avoided it entirely out of respect for its inherent "bad medicine."
Dubbed La Isla de los Alcatraces -- The Island of the Pelicans -- by the spaniards who first set foot on it, Alcatraz's potential as a military stronghold became significant to the US Army Corps of Engineers midway through the 19th century, and in 1854 construction began in earnest to erect the foreboding structure which was to eventually destroy the lives of untold scores of men.
In August of 1861, Alcatraz became a fully operational military fortress and prison. Over the next hundred-odd years, it would be the final dwelling place of confederate soldiers, Indian chiefs, German prisoners of war, and a host of notorious "criminals" from all walks of American life. Many died brutally under the harshest conditions imaginable.
After Attorney General Robert Kennedy closed the doors of Alcatraz on March 21, 1963, the prison remained unoccupied for six years. It is now overseen and maintained by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many employees of this national park service have some interesting stories to tell about this gloomy and disturbing place.
The Ghost Stories of Alcatraz
Park service rangers, and people who have taken the Alcatraz tour, have remarked on the overwhelming sensation of being watched while passing through the prison. Horrific screams, loud crashing and banging sounds, the metallic clang of iron cell doors have all been reported during tours of the supposedly empty prison.
The Utility Corridor
During an attempted prison break a violent and bloody standoff between guards and inmates Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard took place here in the utility corridor. After 2 days of fighting the inmates were killed in the shootout that became known as "The Battle of Alcatraz". It is there that in 1976 a night security guard reported hearing unexplained eerie clanging sounds coming from inside.
Other stories have circulated that Warden Johnston, nicknamed "The Golden Rule Warden," also faced a bizarre event while showing some of his guests around the prison. According to the story, Johnston and his group heard someone sobbing from inside the prison walls, and then a cold wind whisked past the group. Johnston could never explain any reason for the occurrences.
The Ghost of Al Capone
Al Capone, who spent his last years at Alcatraz with his health in decline from untreated syphilis, took up playing the banjo with a prison band. Fearing he would be killed if he spent his recreational time in the "yard," Capone received permission to spend recreation time practicing his banjo in the shower room.
Cell blocks A, B, and C
Visitors to cellblocks A and B. claim they have heard crying and moaning. A psychic visiting wrote that while in Block C he came upon a disruptive spirit name Butcher. Prison records show that another inmate in block C murdered Abie Maldowitz, a mob hitman known as Butcher.
The individual cell blocks inside the prison seem to possess their own unique brand of residual paranormal energy. The consensus among psychics is that the D block of cells contains the most malevolent energy inside Alcatraz, and it may not be coincidental that this was the area of the institution where prisoners were kept in solitary confinement.
D block is a dark, cold, subterranean nightmare of hallways and four-by-eight-foot cells, fourteen cells in all. The segment of D block which contains cells 9 to 14 was nicknamed "The Hole," because this area of the block contains no windows or lights, except for a single dim light in the exterior hallway which the guards usually left off day and night. Prisoners who were forced to experience the misery of this hellish section of D block were routinely stripped naked, beaten, and tortured prior to being shoved into the blackness of their cells, where they were often left to die of starvation or exposure. The lone consideration given to the men in D block who weren't left for dead was to allow them to leave their cells once a week to take a ten-minute shower.
Cell 14D 'The Hole'
Cell 14D is almost unanimously considered to be the most unnerving. Many renowned psychics have spent time in or near this eerie cell, and one of the first sensations they report is the overwhelming coldness that seems to permeate it. Even to the non-psychically gifted, cell 14D is demonstrably colder than any of the cells in the remainder of D block, oftentimes measuring as much as twenty to thirty degrees cooler than the other cells in the surrounding area when its air temperature has been measured with a thermometer. Other commonly reported sensations among people who dare to enter cell 14D are a peculiar tingling sensation on the arms and legs, and an overwhelmingly powerful feeling of despair.
Many men perished in cell 14D during the bleak history of the prison, but perhaps the most bizarre story surrounding this cell was related by a former prison guard who worked at Alcatraz in the 1940s. At the time, this particular guard and his cronies took a sort of perverse delight in telling the resident prisoners the story of a ghostly entity who roamed the corridors of D block in search of inmates, whom the entity would then allegedly possess, torture and murder in the middle of the night.
The entity in question was believed to be the spirit of a former inmate who had died in D block. According to the guard who related the following tale, on one occasion an inmate was locked into cell 14D. Almost at once he began screaming that something with glowing red eyes was inside the cell with him. The convict continued screaming uncontrollably for several hours, despite the guards' and inmates' insistence that he quiet down. Sometime later the inmate abruptly fell silent.
The following morning the guards inspected his cell and found the man dead; the ensuing autopsy revealed noticeable hand prints on his throat, and the official cause of death was listed as "non-self-inflicted strangulation."
To add a more surreal footnote to this tale, told by the former prison guard who spent many a lonely shift at Alcatraz in the 1940s, the next day when the guards did the head count, they had to re-count the inmates in the lineup several times, because each time they counted the men they came up with one extra prisoner.
After several attempts to figure out where they were making their error, the guards finally looked at each of the men's faces standing in line and realized their mistake. There at the end of the lineup stood the extra convict who had been responsible for all the confusion: It was the unfortunate soul who had been strangled in cell 14D the night before.
And swearing on his mother's grave, the guard who related this tale insisted that this ghostly presence then vanished right before everyone's eyes as they stood there with their mouths and eyes wide open in disbelief.
Other odd events experienced over the years include guards smelling smoke, but finding no fire; sounds of unexplained crying and moaning; unexplained cold spots in areas of the prison and claims of seeing ghosts of prisoners or military personnel.
If you have visited Alcatraz recently and have a spooky story to tell please let us know and we can add it to the report.