Ghosts of Alcatraz Island
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With its centuries old
history from ancient
Fort Alcatraz, to a Military Barracks, and most often known service as
one of the toughest federal penitentiaries in the Nation, it is no wonder
that this place is said to be one of the most haunted in the nation.
Often described as a portal to another
Alcatraz is filled with the energy of those who came to the "Rock” and
seemingly never left.
From its first visitors, tales and legends of
the island have circulated for several centuries. In the beginning,
Native Americans believed the island to be inhabited by evil spirits.
As severe punishment for violations of tribal
were sometimes isolated for a period of time on the island or even
banished for life to live among the evil spirits.
Alcatraz Island today, Kathy Weiser, July,
This image available for
Today, these spirits that continue to lurk
in the shadows of the often fog-enshrouded island have been heard,
seen and felt by both the staff and many visitors to
Alcatraz. The sounds of men’s voices, screams, whistles, clanging metal doors
and terrifying screams are said to be heard within these historic
walls, especially near the dungeon.
While the island
served as a
federal penitentiary, a number of guards reported
extraordinary experiences including hearing the sounds of sobbing and
moaning, terrible smells, and reports of what they called "The Thing,”
an entity that was said to appear with glowing eyes. Other
reports were made of phantom prisoners and soldiers appearing before
the guards and families who lived on the island.
Warden Johnston, who did not believe in ghosts, once encountered the
unmistakable sounds of a woman sobbing while leading a number of
guests on a tour of the prison. The cries, heard by not only the
warden, but also the guests, were described as coming from inside the
walls of the dungeon. Just as the sobbing stopped, an icy cold
wind blew through the group.
Since the 1940’s,
apparitions have been seen at the site of the now burned-out shell of
the warden’s house. During a Christmas Party at Warden
Johnston’s, several guards told the story of a ghostly man who
suddenly appeared before them wearing a gray suit, brimmed cap, and
sporting mutton-chop sideburns. As the startled guards stared at the
apparition, the room suddenly turned very cold and the fire in the Ben
Franklin stove was extinguished. Less than a minute later, the
Often it has been
reported that on foggy nights, the old lighthouse will suddenly
appear, accompanied by an eerie whistling sound and a flashing green
light which makes its way slowly around the island. Appearing to
both guards and visitors alike, the spectacle vanishes just as
suddenly as it appears.
When the prison was still open, other
guards told of hearing phantom cannon and gunshots, accompanied by
screams that were so real they sent the seasoned guards to the ground,
believing that prisoners had somehow escaped and obtained weapons. After taking cover, the guards would then cautiously look about to see
absolutely nothing. These incidents could never be explained.
The old warden's home on Alcatraz Island, July, 2009,
Another often reported
experience of the guards was the smell of smoke that often came from a
deserted laundry room as if something was on fire. When they went to
investigate the black smoke was so thick it drove the guards from the
room. However, just minutes later, the room was completely smoke free.
The notorious D-Block of the prison is said to
have been, and continues to be, the most haunted block in all the prison.
While first built the same as the other cellblocks, the Bureau of Prisons
appropriated additional money for a more secure D-Block after the 1939
escape attempt, in which Arthur "Doc" Barker was killed.
D-Block, which became known as the "Treatment
Unit” comprised of 42 cells with varying degrees of restrictions. For all prisoners incarcerated in D-Block, there was absolutely no contact
with the general population. Thirty-six of the cells were virtually
like the others in the general population; however, inmates were not
allowed to work, nor go to the mess-hall for meals. They were
allowed only one visit to the recreation yard and two showers each week,
and all meals were served in the cells. Their only diversion was
reading of prison approved material. These cells all faced the
Golden Gate Bridge, from which fierce cold winds often blew. One guard who
worked D-Block was known to turn on the air conditioning to make it even
colder for those confined on the block.
Continued Next Page
Cell block at
Alcatraz today, July, 2009, Kathy Weiser
Alcatraz, July, 2009, Kathy Weiser.
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