My Paranormal Bucket List - Alcatraz

Once upon a time, as a wide-eyed teenager, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Since a young age, I had always been fascinated with the psychology of the criminal mind. I wanted to be either a behavioral profiler or a criminal psychologist in a prison. My senior class prophecy joking stated that my destiny was to psychoanalyze Charles Manson. I double-majored in psychology and criminology in college, but my dream fell by the wayside as life got in the way.

I’m still fascinated by the criminal mind. One of the places I have always wanted to visit is Alcatraz. The Rock. Prison home to some of the country’s most dangerous and disturbed criminal minds.

Alcatraz Island was first used as a military installation whose purpose was to defend the Bay Area. When the federal government began researching locations for a maximum security prison to hold the worst criminals, those so violent other prisons couldn’t handle them, remote and isolated Alcatraz seemed the perfect place.

The former military prison was overhauled to maximize the security of the facility. Alcatraz opened as a federal prison in 1934. There were 348 cells, each holding a single prisoner. Discipline was said to be extremely harsh, a last-ditch effort to control the uncontrollable.

Alcatraz is well known for some of its more infamous criminals, such as notorious gangster Al Capone and convicted murderer Robert Stroud, often referred to as the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” However, the majority of the inmates were lesser-known but equally as dangerous and disturbed. Gangsters, killers, and predators filled the cells, a total of 1,576 during the 29 years the prison was operating.

Since the prison’s closing in 1963, it has become a daytime tourist attraction, with approximately 1 million people touring the facility over the course of a year. While the guided tours would be fun, it is the night time, the time when the prison is empty and quiet, that interests me the most.

It is believed that somewhere between 25 and 30 inmates died during their time at Alcatraz. Eight murders, several suicides, and many deaths by natural causes. With all of the violence, mental illness, pain and death, it is not surprising that Alcatraz is believed to be very haunted.

Former prison guards, inmates, and visitors have told stories of paranormal activity dating back as far as the 1940’s when it was believed the first male apparition began to appear. Since then, there have been countless stories of paranormal activity within those walls. Apparitions of both prisoners and military personnel. Heavy metal doors slamming shut on their own. Clanging sounds throughout the prison.  Disembodied voices. Footsteps on levels where no one is present. Screams, moaning, and sobbing sounds that can’t be explained.

There are reports of the sounds of banjo music, particularly in the shower room. People believe the music may be related to Al Capone, who had a fondness for playing the instrument.

In the corridor in which Joseph Paul Cretzer, Bernie Coy, and Marvin Hubbard died in a blaze of gunfire trying to escape, people have seen apparitions and heard screaming and gunfire.

D Block, also known as “the hole,” is also a hotbed of activity. One particular cell, 14D, is said to be consistently and inexplicably colder than all of the surrounding cells, with significant differences in temperature that can’t be explained.  Voices and screams are frequently heard as well.

Take the country’s most horrific and dangerous criminals, and put them together in one place. Add mental illness, violence, and death, and you have the perfect formula for residual, and maybe even intelligent, hauntings. I would love to spend the night with a small group, investigating the darkened cells and corridors, discovering who may still be lurking within those fabled prison walls.  


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