I wrote a post about one of the most famous ghosts of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud. Stroud is not the only ghost that has been seen at Alcatraz over the years. Alcatraz first housed prisoners in the late 1850s. These first inmates were military prisoners who were put to work building a new prison. The U.S. Army used the island until 1933 at which point the U.S. Government decided to use Alcatraz or “The Rock” as a maximum-security prison that could house the most incorrigible inmates.
When a prisoner was bought to The Rock they knew that life was not going to be easy. Alcatraz was structured to only provide food, clothing, shelter and medical care. All other basic needs had to be earned. Some of the incorrigibles that were sent to Alcatraz included famous criminals such as Al Capone, George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, Alvin Karpis and Arthur “Doc” Barker. Unlike other prisons the prisoners could not manipulate special privileges from the guards.
Alcatraz was known for its tough discipline. Any prisoner refusing to follow the rules risked being placed in the Strip Cell. This cell was located on the lower tier of Cell Block D. It was a steel cell, where inmates were stripped naked and given only water and bread. A mattress was placed on the floor at night and then removed every morning. The cell’s toilet was a hole in the cell floor also there was no sink in this cell. When prisoners where placed in the Strip Cell they had no contact with other inmates and their time was spent in pitch-darkness.
Other punishment cells located on D Block were known as “holes” they were also located on the lower tier. In these cells prisoners were kept in isolation for nineteen days. They had a sink, toilet, one light bulb, and a mattress that was removed in the morning.
Alcatraz was closed in 1963 because it was found that it would cost too much to repair the crumbling prison. In later years the Parks Service reopened parts of the island and prison for daily public tours. At this point rumors of torture began to emerge. It was felt that since Alcatraz was on an isolated island away from public view that the inmates were probably tortured and that “their tortured and bitter spirits were now haunting the halls of the prison.”
One area that is known to be haunted is the Utility Corridor. It is here that inmates Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard were plummeted with bullets during their attempt to escape. In 1976 a security guard making his nightly rounds reported hearing unexplained eerie clanging sounds coming from this corridor.
Another active area is Cell 14D this is one of the original “hole” cells. Both visitors and employees have reported feeling cold chills along with an intense presence in this cell. It was in this cell in the 1940s that a prisoner who was locked in-- screamed the whole night-- claiming there was a creature with glowing eyes trying to kill him. The next day the guards found this prisoner dead, he had apparently been strangled. Later that day several guards reported seeing this same inmate in line with others and then he just vanished.
There are many more areas that are haunted at Alcatraz. In a future post I will describe these areas and their ghostly presences.