Investigation Report

Location: Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA.
Date: 03 January 2002
Weather Conditions: Clear
Humidity: 36%
Geomagnetic Storm Activity: Quiet
Temperature: 65
Number of Photos taken: 65
Number with possible targets: N/A
Average EM Readings: N/A
Average M fields Readings: N/A
Average E Field Readings: N/A
Cold Spots detected: N/A
Hot Spots Detected: N/A
Olfactory Phenomena: N/A
Visual Phenomena: N/A
Type of Investigation: Documentary

Photos Copyright 2002 by Cody Polston, Bob Carter and SGHA. All Rights Reserved.

Location Description and History

The Island received its name in 1775 when Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala charted the San Francisco Bay and named it La Isla de los Alcatraces, which translated to "Island of the Pelicans." The small-uninhabited island had little going for it with its swift currents, minimal vegetation, and barren ground.

Seventy-two years later in 1847, the US Army took notice of "the Rock" and its strategic value as a military fortress. Topographical engineers began conducting geological surveys and by 1853, U.S. Army Engineers started constructing a military fortress along with the Pacific Coast's first operating lighthouse.

The discovery of gold along the American River and California in 1848, brought shiploads of miners from around the world into California seeking the precious metal. As word spread around the globe of abundant wealth in California, the United States government would evoke security measures to protect its land and mineral resources from seizure by other countries.

After several years of laborious construction and several armament expansions, Alcatraz was set as the United States Western symbol of military strength. The new military fortress featured long-range iron cannons and four massive 36,000-pound, 15 inch Rodman guns capable of sinking mammoth hostile ships three miles away. Alcatraz's guns could fire 6,949 pounds of iron shot in one barrage. Though the fortress fired only one 400 pound canon round at an unidentified ship and missed, the Island had lived up to its self-given proclamation as an icon of U.S. military power.

Within a few decades the Island's role as a military fortress would start to fade away and its defenses would become obsolete by more modern weaponry standards. In 1861, Alcatraz started to receive Civil War prisoners because of its natural isolation created by the surrounding waters. In 1898, the Spanish-American war took the prisoner population from a mere twenty-six, to over four hundred and fifty. In 1906 following the catastrophic San Francisco earthquake, hundreds of civilian prisoners were transferred to the island for safe confinement. By 1912, a large cell house was constructed on the island's central crest and by the late 1920's, the three-story structure was nearly at capacity.

After the Civil War, Confederate sympathizers caught celebrating the death of President Lincoln were sent to Alcatraz. In 1868, the Army designated Alcatraz as a prison for military convicts and malcontents of society. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Indian chiefs and tribal leaders of Arizona and Alaska were incarcerated along with some of the worst thieves, deserters, rapists and repeated escapees from the Army. Alcatraz again became a disciplinary barracks for U.S. Army military incorrigibles, as well as a health resort when soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War convalesced there.

On the morning of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Alcatraz shook, but sustained little damage. That same year, four prisoners tried to paddle to the mainland on a butter vat, only to have strong currents bring them back. Driftwood was used for escape attempts in 1912, 1916, 1927 and a ladder was used during an escape attempt in 1929. All of the men were captured or surrendered, victims of the cruel currents and cold water. In 1911, Alcatraz was officially named the United States Disciplinary Barracks - an official Army prison which included both U.S. Army prisoners as well as German seamen who became prisoners of war.

The social upheaval of the 1920’s and 1930’s, and rampant crime sweeping America, provided Alcatraz with new life. Daring escapes, gang-related murders and mass rioting were a menace to an orderly prison. Attorney General Homer Cummings supported J. Edgar Hoover in creating a facility which would instill fear in would-be criminals by creating a place where prisoners could be safely controlled and could not escape. In 1933, the prison facility was formally turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During 1934, Alcatraz became an escape-proof, maximum security prison, where only the most hardened convicts were brought.

"Al Capone"

The first residents of the newly created Alcatraz received numbers 1-32, with Frank Bolt having the distinction of being Federal Prisoner #1 while serving a five-year sentence for Sodomy. He was followed by Charles Copp (Robbery and attempted Assault); Leon Gregory (Robbery, Assault and AWOL); Joseph Harrison (Sodomy); Forrest Henry (Robbery and Assault); Clyde Hicks (Sodomy); Ralph Hills (Robbery and Assault); Albert Hoke (Robbery); Alan Hood (Sodomy); and Frederick Holme (Sodomy and False Enlistment) to round out the first ten inmates.

Al Capone was the first celebrity on the first train to Alcatraz, arriving in August 1934. He was given number 85.

Guards armed with machine guns, insured there were no escapes.

Many convicts found Alcatraz the end of their career in crime, as well as the end of their lives. For 29 years, the fog-enshrouded island, with its damp, cold winds and isolation, made Alcatraz one of America's safest prisons. The shell of steel and reinforced concrete confined ruthless men to a life of deprivation, rules and routines that proved almost intolerable. When one adds the fact that the convicts could hear the party boats pass by, and see some of the San Francisco city lights, it is little wonder that some preferred death to this kind of isolation. Failure to acquiesce to prison rules resulted in confinement in ‘D’ block, the treatment unit. Here, men could leave their four-by-eight cells only once in seven days for a brief, ten-minute shower.

Life was hard on Alcatraz, just the way that Warden Johnson envisioned it. His motto was "Take each day of your sentence, one day at a time. Don’t think how far you have to go, but how far you’ve come." For many prisoners, Alcatraz became synonymous with hell.

There were a number of escape attempts from Alcatraz, but the bloodiest occurred on May 2, 1946, involving Bernard Coy, Joseph Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Clarence Carnes, Marvin Hubbard and Miran Thompson.

It cost the lives of three inmates and two guards, with 17 guards and one prisoner wounded. The trial afterward, resulted in the execution of two more convicts who took part in the aborted escape.Attorney General Robert Kennedy officially closed the doors of Alcatraz on March 21, 1963. From 1963 to 1969, the prison was unoccupied.

Today, it is maintained by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where almost a million visitors per year pay to see ‘the Rock’.

Reported Phenomena

Whoever, or whatever, lurks in the shadows can be heard, seen and felt. As parapsychologists suggest, where so much trauma and negative emotion have occurred, there is bound to be residual energy … and Alcatraz has the feel of an immense haunted house, complete with fog and restless spirits.

Here are some of the stories:

During a visit to Alcatraz by the television show, Sightings, in 1992, several of the Park Service staff confirmed the haunted history of the prison. Many rangers had experienced unexplainable crashing sounds, cell doors mysteriously closing, unearthly screams and intense feelings of being watched. Sightings called on psychic investigator Peter James to walk through portions of the abandoned prison to get his impressions. James began to pick up on the voices of the tortured souls driven mad since its inception as a prison. He also sensed unusual vibrations of abuse, mistreatment, fear and pain. His overall impression of Alcatraz was that it had an energy like no other he had ever experienced, persistent and overwhelming intensity that engulfed the island.

Some of the more haunted locations on Alcatraz appear to be the Warden’s house, the hospital, the laundry room and the cell block ‘C’ utility door where convicts Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard died during their escape attempt in 1946.

Most of the paranormal activity on Alcatraz seems to occur around areas associated with the penitentiary’s worst tragedies. One of them is the block ‘C’ utility corridor, cell blocks ‘A’ and ‘B’, with the eeriest area centering around cell 14-D -where it is always cold. According to May, gifted psychic Sylvia Brown, accompanied by a CBS news team, investigated parts of Alcatraz. As Brown toured the prison hospital, she picked up cards and notes tacked up on a wall, and the letter ‘S’. A ranger confirmed that the ‘S’ probably stood for Robert Stroud who spent a ten-and-a-half years in the hospital, in the very room where they were standing.
He also had hundreds of notes and cards tacked up all around him. Brown sensed strong energy in what used to be the therapy room, and the prison laundry room, where at least one prisoner was murdered.

The most haunted area of Alcatraz is the ‘D’ cell block, or solitary, as it was often called. To most of those who go there, a feeling of sudden intensity pervades the cells and corridor. Some rangers refuse to go there alone. It is intensely sold in certain cells, far colder than normal -especially in cell 14-D. This cell is oftentimes so cold, that wearing a jacket barely helps as the surrounding area is twenty degrees colder. It is no wonder the area is called ‘the Hole’.

A former guard related his stories about cell block ‘D’ (particularly cells 12 and 14), and the frightening remnant energy lingering in the subterranean portion of the prison. During his stint in the mid-1940’s, convicts were often confined in one of the 14 cells in ‘D’ blocks. Cells 9-14 were called ‘the Hole’, because they contained no windows, and only one light which could be turned off by the guards. The darkness made it seem like a hole in the ground -hence the name. On one occasion, an inmate was locked in ‘the Hole’. Within seconds, the inmate began screaming that someone with glowing eyes was in there with him. Tales of a ghostly presence wandering the darkened corridors in clothing from the late 1800’s were a continual source of practical joking

among the guards, so the convict's pleas of being ‘attacked’ were ignored.

The man’s screaming continued well into the night, until there was silence. The following day, the guards inspected the cell -the convict was dead, a horrible expression etched on his face and noticeable hand-marks around his throat. The autopsy revealed that the strangulation was not self-inflicted.

Some say he was strangled by a guard who had enough of the man’s screaming, although no guard ever admitted it, even to the other guards.
Others believed it was the restless, evil spirit of a former inmate who exacted his vengeance on yet another helpless soul. To add to the mystery, the day after the tragedy, several guards, performing a line-up of the convicts, counted one too many people. At the end of the line, the guards saw an extra body -that of the recently deceased convict. As everyone looked on in stunned silence, the figure of the ghostly convict vanished into thin air.

A number of guards from 1946 through 1963, experienced something out of the ordinary at one time or another. From the outer rim on the grounds to the deepest caverns, there was constant talk of people sobbing and moaning, horrible smells and cold spots. Groups of phantom prisoners and soldiers have also appeared in front of startled guards, guests and the families who lived on the island.

Sometimes the old lighthouse, long since destroyed, has appeared out of a dense fog, accompanied by a ghostly whistling sound, and a green flashing light which passed slowly around the island, just as if the lighthouse was still active. It would then vanish before the startled eyes of guards and visitors. Phantom cannon shots, gun shots and screams often sent seasoned guards running for cover, thinking that prisoners had escaped and obtained weapons. Each time, there was no explanation.

A deserted laundry room would sometimes emanate a strong scent of smoke, as if something was on fire. The sensation of the choking smoke would drive guards out of the room, only to return a few minutes later, the area now completely smoke free. The phantom smoke occurred many times over the years.
Even Warden Johnston, who didn’t believe in ghosts, encountered the unmistakable sounds of a woman sobbing, as if coming from inside the walls of the dungeon while he accompanied a number of guests on a tour of the facility. As if that weren’t enough, an icy, cold wind blew through the group, chilling them to the bone, just as the sobbing stopped.

The now burned-out shell of the Warden’s house has also been a focal point for sightings since the 1940’s. During a Christmas party, several guards witnessed the chilling apparition of a man wearing a gray suit, brimmed cap, and mutton-chop sideburns.When the men saw the apparition, the room turned deathly cold, the fire in the Ben Franklin stove was extinguished and, after less than a minute, the man vanished.

The Investigation

Documentary report only. No ghost hunt or investigation conducted.


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