Ghosts of Alcatraz Island - Page 2
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Five of the remaining six
cells in D-Block were known as Strip Cells, but were more often referred
to as the "Hole.” Reserved for the most serious offenders of prison
rules, these cells were located on the bottom tier, the coldest place in
the prison, and contained only a sink, a toilet and low wattage light bulb
that could be turned off by the guards. The prisoner’s mattresses
were taken away during the day and they were not allowed at any time in the
yard or showers, or given reading materials. Inmates could be sentenced to
as many as 19 days in the hole, completely isolated and in a state of
last Strip Cell, known as the "Oriental,” was the most severe punishment
the prison could assign. Assuring complete depravation of all peripheral
senses, the dark steel encased cell contained no sink or toilet, just a
small hole in the floor for prisoner waste.
Inmates were placed naked
in the cell, given a restricted diet, and confined in a totally
pitch-black, cold environment. Although a sleeping mattress was allowed at
night, it was removed at dawn each morning. Inmates were usually only
subject to this degree of punishment for only 1-2 days.
A cell in the "Hole," July, 2009, Kathy
A former guard who worked
at the prison in the 1940’s reported that guards often saw the ghostly
presence of a man dressed in late 1800’s prison attire
walking the hallway next to the Strip Cells. On one occasion, when
an inmate was locked in "the Hole,’ he immediately began to scream that
someone with glowing eyes was in there with him. The 19th century
spectral prisoner had become so much of a practical joke among the guards,
that the convict’s cries of being "attacked” were ignored. The inmate’s screams
continued well into the night, when they were suddenly replaced by total
silence. The following morning, when the guards inspected the cell,
the convict was found dead with a terrible expression on his face and
noticeable hand-prints around his throat. The autopsy revealed that
the strangulation was not self-inflicted.
At the time, many
believed the inmate was strangled by a guard who had finally had enough of
the inmate’s screaming. Though an investigation was made no one ever
admitted to the strangling. Most believed that the prisoner was
killed by the restless, evil spirit of the nineteenth century prisoner who
was so often seen wandering the corridors. Adding to the mystery,
when the guards line up the convicts for a daily count, one too many
convicts were in the line-up. At the end of the row, appeared the
recently strangled convict. As everyone, guards and prisoners alike,
looked on in stunned silence, the ghostly figure vanished.
Today’s visitors and
staff often report cold spots within the hallways of D-Block, as well
sudden intense feelings. Cells and 12 and 14 D are the most active.
Cell 14-D, is often reported to be almost 20 degrees colder than the rest
of the cells on the block and numerous psychics have felt emotionally
charged impressions in the corners of the cells where punished prisoners
were known to have crouched and suffered. These cells are so eerie, that
it is said that some park rangers refuse to go there alone.
When authors Richard
Winer and Nancy Osborn, authors of the book Haunted Houses, made a
Alcatraz, they also felt eerie feelings in cell 14-D. When the
pair, along with a park ranger, entered the cell, they all felt strong
vibrations and tingling sensations in their hands and arms. Convinced that something or someone was there with them, Osborn stated
that she had never felt so much psychic energy in one spot.
Overlooking the Recreation Yard, July, 2009, Kathy Weiser.
Co-author of the book
Haunted Alcatraz, Michael Kouri, also has described receiving psychic
impressions when he visited cell 14-D. Also experiencing tingling
sensations, he tells of "seeing” and small man with his head shaved
who "told” of being beaten, his legs broken by guards, and left in
On another occasion when
renowned ghost hunter Richard Senate and a psychic spent the night on
Senate locked himself in cell 12-D, where an evil spirit is said to make
his home. As the steel door was closed, the ghost hunter felt icy fingers
wrap around his neck, while the psychic experienced visions of the bodies
of twisted and dismembered men.
In Cellblock C, many
believe that the utility passageway where convicts Bernard Coy, Joseph
Cretzer, and Marvin Hubbard were killed during their escape attempt in
1946 is haunted. Loud, clanging noises are often heard, but stop
when the door is opened, only to resume again once it is closed. Others have reported seeing the apparitions of men wearing fatigues and
hearing disembodied voices at the site of the riot that left the three
The laundry room in
Cellblock C is also said to hold an unseen presence. When a CBS news
team brought in celebrity psychic Sylvia Brown, along with ex-convict Leon
Thompson, Sylvia immediately encountered the unseen presence, as well as
strong impressions of violence in the Laundry Room. As she described a tall man, with a bald head and small beady eyes, Leon
Thompson, the ex-convict moved forward, stating: "I remember Butcher. He
was a hit man with Murder Incorporated before they caught him. His name
was Abie Maldowitz but we called him Butcher. Another prisoner killed him
here in the laundry room.” Prison records confirmed that Maldowitz was
killed by another inmate in the laundry area of Cellblock C.
the old hospital ward, park personnel have often heard voices as well as
the screams of inmates who were often secured to a table until they were
calmed down. Voices are also heard in the old mess-hall.
When Al Capone was
imprisoned at Alcatraz he was assigned to a cell located on the outside west end of
Cellblock B. Though the gangster was never allowed a musical
instrument or a radio, many have reported the sound of a phantom banjo
strumming within his cell.
In 1992, Alcatraz
was featured on the popular television program Sightings, where
several of the Park Service staff confirmed the haunted history of the
prison. Among the stories told by staff were unexplainable crashing
sounds, running footsteps, unearthly screams, cell doors that mysteriously
closed of their own accord, moans, chains rattling, and the constant
feelings of being watched.
Alcatraz Administration Building, July, 2009, Kathy Weiser.