The Alcatraz Ghosts

The Alcatraz Ghosts

Alcatraz, nicknamed the “Rock”, was the only place tough enough to contain the country’s most hardened, most notorious criminals.

Since its inception as a federal prison in 1934 until its closure in 1963, more than 1,000 hard-core criminals, convicts, thieves, deserters, rapists, repeated escapees from the Army, escape artists and other malcontents of society had called the foggy, damp, misty prison home.

It was a place of total punishment and minimum privilege with grim living conditions. Survivors left the prison at the cost of their sanity… and some believe their souls.

Could this be the most reasonable explanation behind the Alcatraz ghosts saga?


The Beginning

A military fort was erected on Alcatraz island, off San Francisco, and in 1859, Alcatraz saw its first detainees, a contingent of court-martialed, military convicts.

In 1886, the natural isolation created by the surrounding waters saw Alcatraz receive Confederate prisoners.

Until the end of the Civil War, the number of prisoners here ranged between 15 and 50, a population that rose steadily thanks to the Spanish-American war.

View of Alcatraz Island in 1895
View of Alcatraz Island in 1895

They comprised of soldiers, Confederate privateers, and southern sympathizers. Confinement was in the dark basement of the guardhouse that boasted dismal living conditions.

The men slept side-by-side, head to toe, lying on the stone floor of the basement with no running water, no heat and no latrines.

Overcrowding facilitated rampant spread of infestation and disease. Punishment meant being fed on water and bread and being bound by heavy, lengthy chains joined to iron balls.


Minimum-Privilege Punishment

Anyone can argue that its status as a minimum-privilege punishment facility shouldn’t have offered less, but the prisoners were still humans with human rights.

Many believe that ghosts often return to the places where they suffered traumatic experiences at one point in their lives to haunt them, thus, much of the paranormal activity on Alcatraz happens around areas connected with the facility’s worst tragedies.

Minimum-Privilege Punishment in Alcatraz

Alcatraz was the home of Death. Prisoners died mercilessly at the hands of guards or their fellow inmates. The first reported deaths were those of Jacob Unger and Daniel Pewter in 1857 under a landslide while excavating between the guard-house and the wharf.

There were deadly showdowns between fellow prisoners, guard beatings, and failed escapes off the island. Unexplained chilling occurrences in the isolation block, aka The Hole have been reported.


The Hole

Located on the bottom floor of the prison, in Cell Block D, is where they kept inmates who broke the more serious of rules at Alcatraz.

They would be stripped naked and held in a cold cell with only a sink, toilet, and a small light in it. Mattresses were only for the night and they were promptly removed in the morning to guarantee constant discomfort and punishment.

The Hole in Alcatraz

Guards reported sightings of an 1800’s-esque figure in the building. The apparition was on several occasions seen and prisoners claimed attack by a glowing-eyed man.

Since The Hole was an isolation chamber , most guards thought the on-going screams claiming attack were mental trips.

On one particular evening, one inmate screamed throughout the night that he was being attacked by the man with glowing eyes but the guards ignored him.

The door to his cell was opened in the morning and the inmate was found dead, a ghastly scowl marred his face and hand prints were visible around his throat. A later exam showed that these were not self-inflicted marks.

This victim became an Alcatraz ghost himself as he was reportedly , though dead, spotted in a line-up with other inmates but instantly disappeared leaving everyone speechless.


Odd Events

Sources say many guards who served between the 1946 and 1963 time period were witness to odd events on Alcatraz. This could be ghosts seeking retribution by instilling fear in the most hardened guards.

From the grounds of the prison to the caves under the buildings, people talked of strange wailing and groaning, unexplainable slamming sounds, cell doors mysteriously closing, unearthly screams, intense feelings of being watched, inexplicable smells, icy spots and spectral apparitions.

Even island residents claimed to see the ghostly-looking prisoners and soldiers on numerous occasions. Upon hearing phantom gunshots, even the most hardened prison guards cringed with fear, thinking that those were the sounds of illegally-obtained weapons belonging to prisoners.

Stories of smoke without fire have also been reported from the laundry room.

Naysayers can quickly trash the numerous ghost-story accounts, but any tourist of the now defunct Alcatraz prison will tell you for free that the Alcatraz ghosts are real and have a reason to seek revenge.

8 thoughts on “The Alcatraz Ghosts

  1. Hmm this is very interesting. I watched a YouTube documentary about this not too long ago and I was fascinated by it.

    Even AlCapone was a prisoner there right? And they say he still haunts it too (according to the docu).

    I’m not a big believer in ghosts but I would love to check this out someday haha 😉

  2. That’s terrifying! I’ve gone to various ghost towns around the area that I live and they always kind of give me the feeling of nostalgia with just a taste of primal fear. I can’t imagine taking a stroll through Alcatraz.

    When I was a boy, I lived on some land that had been a cemetery, in fact the land lord lived in what had been the funeral home and embalming facility.

    The whole place was spooky as heck, and what was REALLY eerie were the sunken rectangles that had accumulated over time from where the graves had been, prior to the cemetery being “moved”.

    I remember all kinds of creepy little things happening all the time around there. Strange foot steps in the night, doors opening by themselves and the occasional “sighting”.

    1. That does not sound like a house I would like to grow up in James – you must of been a braver kid than me! Sunken rectangles – that’s gotta mess with your head! 🙂

  3. I’d be one of those “naysayers” – even if dozens of tourists told me (for free) that there are revengeful ghosts.

    I’ve never been to Alcatraz – but have been to similar “haunted” places here in Europe. A good friend believes in ghosts and the ability for ghosts to manifest their emotions in out world (good and bad emotions – her ghosts are not just full of revenge).

    She took me to stay at a haunted medieval house one weekend. Of the 20+ people on that weekend only 3 of us felt nothing, saw nothing and experienced nothing out of the ordinary. Even the recordings (aural and visual) failed to prove anything to me as there were obvious explanations OR the recordings were open to wide interpretation.

    In the end I guess it comes down to belief more than proof – just as in belief of god (or not).

  4. This was a really interesting and intriguing read. I love reading stories about Alcatraz. I’m glad I’ve never been a prisoner there, but there sure is something fascinating about this place. I’ve always been drawn to movies set at Alcatraz prison as well, like “Escape From Alcatraz” and “The Rock”.

    Great read. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Two really cool films you’ve mentioned there Darren – bring back memories of my childhood (especially Escape From Alcatraz with good old Clint Eastwood!) 🙂

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