Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Visit to the Alcatraz Prison [8/15]


Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay. On it you will find the most notorious prison in the world: the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. It operated from 1934 to 1963 and it was constructed for prisoners who continuously caused trouble in other federal prisons. Alcatraz housed some 1576 of America's most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the "Birdman of Alcatraz"), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate), and many others. As we learned (and saw on Alcatraz) the island was also home to the warden and prison staff as well as their families. So come join us for a visit to "the Rock".



How to get to Alcatraz Island

You have to order the tickets online at least two weeks before. I ordered them a month before. Use the link I have provided since this is the official tour site. You can find many others in the harbor, but they are not good at all. This is the only guided tour that actually lets you visit inside the prison. Once your purchase your tickets, print them out, it will save you a lot of time later on. You have to be in the line at Pier 33 at least 10 minutes before your departure time, but the line of open 30 minutes before the time of departure shown on your ticket. The prices wary, but for an adult ticket for a morning or day ride it will cost 31$/per person.



The ferry ride to the island lasts for 20 minutes, and you can sit on the outside and take a lot of images of San Francisco and the bay (like I did) or stay inside where you will be shielded from the cold and wind that is mostly present here.




When you arrive on the island you will be greeted by the park guides (Alcatraz is a National Park today). Listen to a brief introduction, before you head up the (very) steep path all the way to the Penitentiary. Inside you will receive a audio tour which is included in the price of admission. It is very good and you should not miss it. The tour leads you inside the prison and to all corners of it. It tells interesting stories, with sound effects and interviews of past prisoners and people who worked there. It's very captivating and interesting and held my attention the whole time. It lasts about 50 minutes.




The Origins of Alcatraz Island

After the US Army's use of the island for over 80 years, the island came under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Justice for use by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The purpose of this transfer was to punish those involved in the rampant crime which prevailed in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. On August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived via railroad to San Francisco and they were then moved to Alcatraz. They came from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Two major events shaped the history of the prison and I want to write about them next.





Battle of Alcatraz

The most violent escape attempt occurred on May 2–4, 1946, when a failed attempt by six prisoners led to the Battle of Alcatraz. It was carried out by six prisoners, who daringly took control of the cell house by overpowering correctional officers and captured the weapons room and keys to the recreation yard door. Their aim was to escape by boat from the dock, but when they failed to obtain the keys to the outside door, they decided to battle it out. In the fight that ensued they managed to hold two correctional officers hostage whom they eventually killed after two days.





Escape from Alcatraz

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. Behind the prisoners' cells in Cell Block B was an unguarded 3-foot wide utility corridor. The prisoners chiseled away the moisture-damaged concrete leading to this corridor, using tools such as a metal spoon soldered with silver from a dime and an electric drill improvised from a stolen vacuum cleaner motor. In their beds, they placed paper-mâché dummies made with human hair stolen from the barbershop. They escaped through a vent in the roof and left the island. The FBI's investigation was finally treated as closed. The official report on the escape concludes that the prisoners drowned in the cold waters of the bay while trying to reach the mainland, however, the U.S. Marshals Service still list the Anglins and Morris as wanted fugitives and have Wanted Posters for each man. Even this year I read an article that the Anglins brothers presumably fled to Brazil.

By the 1950s, the prison conditions had improved and prisoners were gradually permitted more privileges such as the playing of musical instruments, watching movies at weekends, painting, and radio use; the strict code of silence became more relaxed and prisoners were permitted to talk quietly. A 1959 report indicated that Alcatraz was more than three times more expensive to run than the average US prison. After the escape from Alcatraz in June 1962, the prison was the subject of heated investigations, and with the major structural problems and ongoing expense, the prison finally closed on 21 March 1963.

Alcatraz has been cited as one of the most haunted places in America. Mark Twain visited it, found the atmosphere of the island eerie, and described it as "being as cold as winter, even in the summer months". The Washington Post has also claimed that Alcatraz is a place "where visitors can sense the dread of past inhabitants still trapped in the atmosphere.", which definitely held true during our visit. We spent around 3 hours on the island, before departing back to Pier 33, from which we went to the more colorful Pier 39. I will leave you with some images from there.





End of Part Eight
To be continued...

35 comments:

  1. Well that post was fascinating and wonderful to see and hear all about this prison that I will never get to. I even felt a 'coolness' looking at some of the inside prison shots. Thank for sharing Mersad.

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    1. It's very chilling there, literally and figuratively. :)

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  2. Wieder ein toller Beitrag lieber Mersad. Er bringt Alcatraz und die Geschichte sehr nah und man fühlt sich durch die Fotos richtig zurückversetzt in die Zeiten von Al Capone und Co ;-) Toll auch dein Tipp für die Reservierung. Ein wertvoller Hinweis.

    Wünsche dir noch einen tollen Sonntag und sende herzliche Grüsse

    N☼va

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    1. Danke dir. Ja, mit die Reservierung muss man unbedingt machen. Die Tickets verkaufen sich schnell.

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  3. Daughter and husband visited Alcatraz Gaol. We have a picture of him in one of the cells and another where he acted the part of presiding judge, although I'm not sure if the latter was at that particular prison. Great pictures, as always. I'm enjoying your trip!

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  4. Great post on Alcatraz.
    There's gotta be at least a few discontented souls walking those cell blocks at night.

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  5. What a trip you have had!

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  6. Gosh that was interesting Mersad, I know the general info on Alcatraz, but so many more fascinating details here.

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  7. Mersad, this is a totally fascinating post, and I absolutely love your photos! I have seen MANY documentaries about Alcatraz, and I did see the movie "Escape from Alcatraz". It was first thought that the 3 men drowned in the waters but there was even a documentary made by some people who actually re-enacted that scene of the escape and they were able to make it safely, so they said that it was entirely possible that the 3 escapees did make it and survive. Thank you so much for sharing! I would enjoy seeing Alcatraz. I am wondering if you have ever been to Auschwitz in Poland. I have seen many videos about it, and photos, too, and a friend of mine who lives in Poland said that she cried when she went, it was so hard to see.

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    1. I have not been to Auschwitz. It's not a destination you just go to, but something you go visit while somewhere else, and unfortunately I have not been to Poland yet.

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  8. It is like a haunted place and you can almost feel the anger and the violence! I have been there and your post says it all so well, Mersad!! Terrific captures as always!! I do hope you have a great new week!!

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  9. FIne photos and report on your trip to Alcatraz Island. I've been past it on boats a number of times, but never toured the prison. A number of the notorious prisoners you mentioned were from my home town of Chicago, so I've followed their stories. Looking forward to your next post.

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    1. Their stories were the most interesting to hear. A visit to the prison is really worth it. Just seeing it from the outside is not enough in this case, I think. Thanks for visiting.

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  10. Alacatraz is on my bucket list. I'd love to see it.

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  11. Like most natives, I never took the time to go there. Isn't that always the way! You captured a sense of place quite well.

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    1. It sure is. I know what you're talking about. I'm still rectifying those mistakes back home with many tourist spots.

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  12. What a horrible place. You captured the starkness and the cold. Your American trip has been most interesting to see and hear about even if I have not always commented (been sick). Look forward to seeing more. :)

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  13. Most interesting, Mersad. And beautifully photographed, as always.

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  14. I've visited Alcatraz twice, and it is a very interesting place. I took many of the same images you did! :) Enjoyed seeing it through your eyes.

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  15. You have given an excellent account of this tour, with some good advice about how to make the most of it.

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  16. Interesting post. I haven't been there... sounds a bit creepy! I was glad when you brightened the mood at the end with the beautiful young women in a cheerful place!

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  17. Definitely an interesting place with an checkered history. Thanks for the tour.

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  18. Your photos of Alcatraz are captivating (no pun intended...) What a grim place. I can see why people think of it as haunted.
    I hope you'll come link up again at this week's Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday). It opens in just a few hours!
    http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/

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  19. Fantastic post! I was so glad to see you continued with your trip! Loved seeing these images of Alcatraz. I've never been there, though I've read and seen documentaries about the prison and the escape, etc. I did see it from a distance when we visited San Francisco when I was about 13. Great info. Sounds like they do a great tour! Loved ALL the photos! Wonderful post, Mersad!

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  20. Beeindruckende Fotos von Alcatraz! Und interessante Infos noch dazu! Großartig!

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  21. Reading about this infamous prison gave me the chills. Such despair. Your commentary and photos were very interesting.

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  22. Very interesting history here and the accompanying images are just as good!

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  23. I'm very glad I will never have spend a night there! It looks so uncomfortable. Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin were so clever that I cannot imagine the incredible good they could have done if only the they concentrated on doing positive things.

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  24. great shots mersad! being from ca and having visited san fran so many times i can't believe i've never been on the tour! i'm going to have to read about your trip one of these days when i have a big chunk of time!

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  25. A great set of images and very informative. I learned a lot about Alcatraz reading this. Thank you.

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  26. Wonderful photos of one of my favorite places in the world -- San Francisco. The tour to Alcatraz is fascinating. You've captured it well and you've given us so much of the history, too. Thanks for sharing!

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  27. What a great place to get to visit, I would love to tour this place. So up my street

    mollyxxx

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  28. I knew of the famous former prison but didn't know anything about it.. Thank you for the tour Mersad,,,Michelle

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  29. Es war bestimmt aufregend, der Besuch dort, aber irgendwie gruselt es mich auch gleichzeitig.
    Mensch, wie gute Filme es schon darüber gab...
    LG

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