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 IslandYou 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.
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 IslandAfter 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 AlcatrazThe 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 AlcatrazOn 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.
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...