Ghosts of Alcatraz Island, California

A cell in Alcatraz by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

A cell in Alcatraz by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

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 19th-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 as 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 trip to 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 by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Overlooking the Recreation Yard by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

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” a small man with his head shaved who “told” of being beaten, his legs broken by guards, and left in solitary confinement.

On another occasion when renowned ghost hunter Richard Senate and a psychic spent the night on Alcatraz, 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 prisoners dead.

Alcatraz Hospital

Alcatraz Hospital

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 hitman 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.

In the old hospital ward, park personnel has 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.

Alcatraz Administration Building by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Alcatraz Administration Building by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

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.

Sightings also enlisted the help of a psychic investigator, Peter James, to get his impressions as he walked through the prison. James soon described hearing the voices of men who had been driven mad, and experiences of abuse, fear, and pain.

The tales of ghostly hauntings upon Alcatraz Island have become so frequent that the legends have become as popular as the island’s long history. Seemingly, the paranormal prison is destined to live up to its popular nickname of “Hellcatraz.”

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November 2019.

See readers story below

Also See:

Alcatraz History

A Daring Escape From Alcatraz

Ghost Stories

San Francisco History

San Francisco Photo Gallery

Was the woman real, or a spirit from another time?

Readers Story – August 2012

Myself, my daughter, and her college friend toured Alcatraz in July. The attached photo was taken with a phone camera from my daughter’s friend. She refused to keep it on her phone. If you look closely…there is a woman sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck. When this picture was taken….there was NO ONE in that truck. I know because I love classic cars/trucks and was waiting for my turn to take a photo. I was off to the rear left of the truck. There was a mother/daughter off directly to the left of the truck and my daughter had gone ahead. The truck was a display and I believe it belonged to one of the warden’s. Can you tell me, did you ever hear of there being any female ghosts on Alcatraz. This photo shook me, my daughter, and her friend pretty bad.

Any info you have would be greatly appreciated.

Kristine Castillo, RN
photo is attached…if you enlarge it you can see this woman very clearly.

1 thought on “Ghosts of Alcatraz Island, California”

  1. There is at least one female spirit on Alcatraz. During an overnight investigation of the island we recorded the voice of what we believe is a nurse who died during a TB outbreak in the original “hold”. This is below the east sally port just up from the dock. You can go to to hear the evp Planet Paranormal caught that first night we spent on Alcatraz. I hope this helps.

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