by Rob and Anne Wlodarski (

Welcome to HAUNTED ALCATRAZ!---or Hellcatraz as it was called by some
inmates. The history does not begin or end with the use of Alcatraz as a
prison and penitentiary, for it was known to Native Americans, and
avoided as a place that contained evil sprits. The energy of those who
came to "The Rock" and never left, still remains for visitors from
around the world to see, feel, and even hear. Alcatraz is a portal to
another dimension, where unexplainable events continue to occur.
Whoever, or whatever lurks in the shadows can be heard, seen, and felt.
As parapsychologists suggest, where so much trauma and negative emotion
have occurred, there is bound to be residual energy---and Alcatraz has
the feel of an immense haunted house, complete with fog, and restless
spirits. Although the candle may have burned out for Alcatraz long ago,
its legend never did.

Prior to its discovery by Europeans, Alcatraz was viewed as a barren
white rock---white because it was covered with pelican droppings--thus
receiving the name of La Isla de los Alcatraces or "The Island of the
Pelicans," by the Spanish. However, it wasn't until the 1850s, that the
importance of this tiny island as a defensive position was realized.
Finally, the military decided to build a fortress in case an unfriendly
ship might decide to enter the Golden Gate. The Army Corps of Engineers
began to construct an impenetrable and imposing structure in 1854. The
original construction estimates of $300,000 did not take into account
the wind, rain, fog, strong ocean currents, lack of water, lack of
vegetation, and the fact that there was only one possible spot to land
equipment and supplies.

Construction began with the erection of a temporary wharf for supplies.
This was followed by wooden shops, storehouses, barracks and offices.
Those who couldn't make it in the gold fields, became reluctant laborers
on Alcatraz. The labor force carved out roadways and other features as
the fortress slowly took shape. It was only a matter of time before
Alcatraz began taking human life. During 1857, while a crew was
excavating along the roadway between the wharf and the guard-house, a
7,000 cubic-yard rock landslide buried a team of laborers: Daniel
Pewter, age 50, of Ireland and Jacob Unger, 25, of Germany were the
first known deaths on Alcatraz. On a cold December day in 1859, the
Third Artillery arrived on Alcatraz with a group of eleven anonymous
soldiers of Company H---the first prisoners to be incarcerated in irons
in the basement cellroom of the guardhouse for crimes not recorded in
the army files. Alcatraz was now a fully operational fortress and
prison. By Aug. 27, 1861, Alcatraz was designated as the official
military prison for the entire Department of the Pacific. Living
conditions were grim. Men slept side-by-side, head-to-toe, lying on the
stone floors. There was no running water or heat in the cells,  sanitary
facilities were almost non-existent, and disease was rampant.

After  the Civil War, confederate sympathizers caught celebrating the
death of President Lincoln were sent to Alcatraz.  In 1868, the Army
designated Alcatraz Island as a prison for military convicts and
malcontents of society. By the late 1800s-early 1900s, Indian chiefs and
tribal leaders of Arizona and Alaska were incarcerated along with some
of the worst thieves, deserters, rapists, and repeated escapees from the
Army. Alcatraz again became a disciplinary barracks for U.S. Army
military incorrigibles, as well as a health resort when soldiers
returning from the Spanish American war convalesced there.

On the morning of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Alcatraz shook, but
sustained little damage. That same year, four prisoners tried to paddle
to the mainland on a butter vat, only to have strong currents bring them
back. Driftwood was used during escape attempts in 1912, 1916, 1927 and
a ladder was used during a escape attempt in 1929. All of the men were
captured or surrendered, victims of the cruel currents, and cold water.
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 German seamen who became prisoners of war.

The social upheaval of the 1920's and 30s, and rampant crime sweeping
American provided Alcatraz with new life. Daring escapes, gang-related
murders and mass rioting were a menace to an orderly prison. Attorney
General Homer Cummings supported J. Edgar Hoover in creating a facility
which would instill fear in would-be criminals by creating a place where
prisoners could be safely controlled and could not escape. In 1933, the
prison facility was formally turned over to the Federal Bureau of
Prisons. During 1934, Alcatraz became a an escape-proof, maximum
security prison, where only the most hardened convicts were brought.

The first residents of newly created Alcatraz, received numbers 1- 32,
with Frank Bolt having the distinction of being Federal Prisoner #l
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 the number 85.

   Guards armed with machine guns, ensured that there were no  escapes.
Many convicts found Alcatraz the end of their career in crime, as well
as the end of their lives. For  twenty- nine years, the fog-enshrouded
island, with its damp, cold winds, and isolation made Alcatraz one of
America's safest prisons. The shell of steel and reinforced concrete
confined ruthless men to a life of deprivation, rules, and routines that
proved almost intolerable. When one adds the fact that the convicts
could hear party boats pass by, and see the San Francisco city lights,
it is little wonder  that some preferred death to this kind of
isolation. Failure to acquiesce to prison rules resulted in confinement
in "D" Block, the treatment unit. Here, men could leave their four-
by-eight-foot cells only once in seven days for a brief ten-minute
shower. Life was hard on Alcatraz, just the way Warden Johnston
envisioned it. His motto was, "Take each day of your sentence, one day
at a time. Don't think how far you have to go, but how far you've come."
For many prisoners, Alcatraz became synonymous with hell.

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 until 1969, the prison was unoccupied.
Today it is maintained by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where
almost a million visitors per year pay to see "The Rock". To get there,
take a seat aboard the Red & White Fleet ferry service. Reservations can
be obtained by contacting (800) 229-2784.

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

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

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. When you visit
and journey down the now deserted corridors of this world famous
penitentiary, keep your wits about you, and all your five senses in
tuned, and perhaps your sixth sense will help you encounter some of the
many spirits who inhabit Alcatraz. The next story you read in an updated
version of this book, maybe yours... Happy haunting!

>From Haunted Alcatraz: A History of La Isla de Los Alcatraces and Guide
to Paranormal Activity, by  Robert Wlodarski, Anne Wlodarski, and
Michael Kouri<

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