Sunday, September 25, 2011

Haunted Penitentiaries of America

The Old Idaho State Penitentiary:
The prison was constructed in 1870. From it's beginnings as a single cell house, the penitentiary grew to a complex of several distinctive buildings surrounded by a high sandstone wall.
    Over its one-hundred and one years of operation, the penitentiary received more than 13,000 convicts, with a maximum population of a little over six hundred. Two-hundred and fifteen of the inmates were women. Two famous inmates were Harry Orchard and Lyda Southard. Harry Orchard assassinated Governor Frank Steunenberg at the turn of the century and Lyda Southard was known as Idaho's Lady Bluebeard for killing several of her husbands to collect upon their life insurance. Two serious riots occurred in 1971 and 1973 over living conditions in the prison. 
    During its years of operation buildings were added and additions were made, including death row, a gallows and a solitary confinement area known as Siberia.
    It is interesting to note that only ten executions took place at the old penitentiary and these were all death by hanging. The last execution carried out at the prison was that of Idaho's own Jack The Ripper, Raymond Allen Snowden who had killed Cora Dean in such vicious manner that newspapers at the time dubbed Snowden as Idahos Jack the Ripper. And though Snowden boasted often around the prison of two more vicious murders he was only ever tried and convicted of the one murder. On October 18th 1957 Snowden had his date with the hangman. 
    The only double execution to ever be carried out at the prison was on April 13th 1951. On that Troy Powell age 21 and Ernest Walrath age 20 were executed for the murder of a Boise Grocer. They were the youngest inmates ever executed at the prison and the only double execution in its history. 
Brutal Conditions
The penitentiary held up to 600 prisoners at one time, and the inmates suffered through almost inhuman conditions. The sandstone that formed its walls was a plentiful and inexpensive building material, but it is also intensified the temperatures inside the cells. In the hot Boise summers, the sandstone retained the heat, creating a stifling oven effect; in winter, the walls held the bitter cold, chilling the prisoners for months.
Proper plumbing didn't reach the prison until the 1920s, an unpleasant condition that also spread disease. This was complicated by the prison's ill-working ventilation system. Conditions like these pushed inmates to the edge and guards answered violence with more violence.
The penitentiary closed on December 3rd 1973 shortly after the last riot. 
There have been many accounts of unusual happenings in the prison complex, but 5 house, the building where Snowden was executed, seems to be the most active. 
Its also said that if you spend the night you will be attacked by someone shoving you. People also report hearing the sound of a man whistling and then he stops because he starts cughing so bad he cant stop. People have also recorded the sound of talking and screaming for help, and loud unexplained banging others say they hear laughter that seems to come from all around you. There have also been reports of a phantom cat on the grounds, documents report that there was a cat named Dennis living in the penitentiary.      

West Virginia State Penitentiary:
It operated from 1876 to 1995. Currently the site is maintained as a tourist attraction and training facility.
    In the early 1900s some industries within the prison walls included a carpentry shop, a paint shop, a wagon shop, a stone yard, a brickyard, a blacksmith, a tailor, a bakery, and a hospital. At the same time, revenue from the prison farm and inmate labor helped the prison financially. It was virtually self-sufficient. A prison coal mine was located a mile away opened in 1921. This mine helped serve some of the prison's energt needs and saved the state an estimated 14,000 a year. Some inmates were allowed to stay at the mine's camp under the supervision of a mine foreman, who was not a prison employee.
    Conditions at the prison during the turn of the 20th century were good, according to a wardens report, which stated that, "both the quantity and the quality of all the purchases of material, food and clothing have been very gradually, but steadily, improved, while the discipline has become more nearly perfect and the exaction of labor less stringent." Education was a priority for the inmates during this time.
However, the conditions at the prison worsened through the years, as the facility would be ranked on the united states department of justice's top ten most violent correctional facilities list. One of the more infamous locations in the prison, with instances of gambling, fighting, and raping, was known as "The Sugar Shack."
    A notable inmate in the early 20th century was Eugene V. Debs, who served time here from April 13 to June 14, 1919 (at which time he was transferred to an Atlanta prison) for violating the Espionage Act of 1917.
    In 1929, the state decided to double the size of the penitentiary because overcrowding was a problem.
    In total, thirty-six homicides took place in the prison. One of the more notable ones is the butchering of R.D. Wall, inmate number 44670. On October 8,1929, after "snitching" on his fellow inmates, he was attacked by three prisoners with dull shivs while heading to the boiler room.
    In 1983, Charles Manson requested to be transferred to this prison to be nearer to his family. His request was denied.
1979 Prison Break
On Wednesday, November 7, 1979, fifteen prisoners escaped from the prison. One of the escapees was Ronald Turney Williams, serving time for murdering Sergeant David Lilly of the Beckley  Police Department on May 12, 1975. He managed to steal a prison guard's service weapon in the escape, and upon reaching the streets of Moundsville, encountered twenty-three-year-old off-duty West Virginia State Trooper Philip S. Kesner, who was driving past the prison with his wife.
Trooper Kesner saw the escapees and attempted to take action against them. The prisoners pulled him from his car and Williams shot him. Trooper Kesner returned fire at the fleeing suspects despite being mortally wounded. Williams remained at large for eighteen months, sending taunting notes to authorities and making the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. During that time, he murdered John Bunchek in Scottsdale, Arizona during a robbery and was connected to crimes in Colorado and Pennsylvania. After a shootout with federal agents at the George Washington Hotel in New York City in 1981, he was apprehended and returned to West Virginia to complete several life sentences. Arizona had sought his extradition for his execution, but as of 17 September 2011 he remains in West Virginia custody.At the time, Marshall County Sheriff Robert Lightner was very critical over the poor police communications during the break. The sheriff's office and local police did not learn about the escape from the state police. They first heard of it over the police scanner. "It was a good twenty minutes before we knew about the escape. If somebody had notified us, there's a good chance that the sheriff's department and the Moundsville police could have been on the scene while all the prisoners were still on the block." He was also critical of the four-state manhunt that followed, when convicted murderers David Morgan and Ronald T. Williams, along with convicted rapist Harold Gowers Jr., remained at large. "Communications have been very poor. I think they should keep the local law enforcement officers more informed I have no idea what they're doing, what they've found." 
                                                     1986 Riot
January 1, 1986 was not only the beginning of a new year, but also the date of one of the most infamous riots in recent history. The West Virginia Penitentiary was then undergoing many changes and problems. Security had become extremely loose in all areas. Since it was a "cons" prison, most of the locks on the cells had been picked and inmates roamed the halls freely. Bad plumbing and insects caused rapid spreading of various diseases. The prison was now holding more than 2,000 men and crowding became an issue once again. Another major contribution to the riot's cause was the fact that it was a holiday. Many of the guards had called off work, which fueled the prisoners to conduct their plan on this specific day.
    At around 5:30 pm, twenty inmates, known as a group called the Avengers, stormed the mess hall as Captain Glassock was on duty. "Within seconds, he (Captain Glassock), five other guards, and a food service worker were tackled and slammed to the floor. Inmates put knives to their throats and handcuffed them with their own handcuffs." Even though several hostages were taken throughout the day, none of them were seriously injured. However, over the course of the two-day upheaval, three inmates were slaughtered for an assortment of reasons. "The inmates who initiated the riot were not prepared to take charge of it. Danny Lehman, the Avengers' president, was quickly agreed upon as best suited for the task of negotiating with authorities and presenting the demands to the media." Yet, Lehman was not a part of the twenty men who began the riot. Governor Arch A.Moore Jr. Was sent to the penitentiary to converse with the inmates. This meeting set up a new list of rules and standards on which the prison would build. National and local news covered the story, as well as the inmates meeting with Governor Moore.
From 1899 to 1959, ninety-four men were executed. Hanging was the method of execution until 1949 with eighty-five ment meeting that fate. The public could attend hangings until june 19, 1931. On that date, Frank Hyer was executed for murdering his wife. However, when the trap door beneath him was opened and hi full weight was put onto the noose, he was instantly decapitated. Folowing this event, attendance at hangings was by invitation only. The last man to face execution by hanging, Bud Peterson from Logan county, lies in the prison's cemetery, as his family refused to claim his body. Beginning in 1951, electrocution became the means of execution. Ironically, the electric chair, nicknamed "Old Sparky", used by the prison was originally built by an inmate there, Paul Glenn. Nine men died in the chair until until the state outlawed execution entirely in 1965. The original chair is on display in the facility and is a part of the official tour.
According to records nearly one thousand people are believed to have died in the prison and the prison is said to be haunted by all those people.
    The "Sugar Shack" is said to be haunted as well when your in there its said that you can hear people arguing and talking while others claim to hear distant whispers. Many unexplained noises and cold spots can be felt.

There have been reports of ghosts in the prison one of the most frightening that occurs within the walls is commonly referred to as the "Shadow Man" with him comes the feeling of being very unsafe and threatened.

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia:
It was operational from 1829 to 1971.
    Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held here.
    Originally, inmates were housed in cells that could only be accessed by entering through a small exercise yard attached to the back of the prison; only a small portal, just large enough to pass meals, opened onto the cell blocks. This design proved impractical, and in the middle of construction, cells were constructed that allowed prisoners to enter and leave the cell blocks through metal doors that were covered by a heavy wooden door to filter out noise. The halls were designed to have the feel of a church. Some believe that the doors were small so prisoners would have a harder time getting out, minimizing an attack on a security guard. Others have explained the small doors forced the prisoners to bow while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the "Eye of God", hinting to the prisoners that God was always watching them. Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn't communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners would be out at the same time. Prisoners were allowed to garden and even keep pets in their exercise yards. When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap them in a hood.
     Proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent. In reality, the guards and councilors of the facility designed a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens for various infractions, including dousing prisoners in freezing water outside during winter months, chaining their tongues to their wrists in a fashion such that struggling against the chains could cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with tight leather restraints for days on end, and putting them into a pit called "The Hole" dug under cellblock 14 where they would have no light, no human contact, and little food for as long as two weeks.

                                                    (Al Capone's cell)

 In 1924, Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced Pep "The cat-murdering Dog" (an actual dog) to a life sentence at Eastern State. Pep allegedly murdered the governor's wife's cherished cat. Prison records reflect that Pep was assigned an inmate number (no. C2559), which is seen in his mug shot. However, the reason for Pep's incarceration remains a subject of some debate. A newspaper article reported that the governor donated his own dog to the prison to increase inmate morale.
    On April 3, 1945, a major prison escape was carried out by twelve inmates (including the infamous Willie Sutton) who over the course of a year managed to dig an undiscovered 97-foot tunnel under the prison wall to freedom.
    The prison was closed and abandoned in 1971. Many prisoners and guards were transferred to Graterford Prison.

The haunting of Eastern State Penitentiary started well before it was even closed. One of its most famous prisoners was Al Capone in 1929. Capone swore that he was haunted by a victim of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre James Clark. It has been reported that Capone would yell nightly for Jimmy to let him be.
A locksmith named Gary Johnson is one of the most widely told ghost story coming out of the prison. It was during the restoration and Mr. Johnson was working on a cell door trying to remove an old lock in Cell Block #4. According to Johnson, when the lock was removed a force came over him so strong he could not move. Tormented faces appeared in the cell, ghostly swirls spun around and one form seemed to draw the locksmith to it.
According to those that are currently working at the prison, there is almost always evidence of paranormal activity. Both tourist and employees alike report they hear whispering, laughing and even weeping from inside the prison cells.

The Yuma Territorial Prison, Arizona:
The prison accepted its first inmate on July 1, 1876. For the next 33 years 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women, served sentences there for crimes ranging from murder to polygamy. The prison was under continuous construction with labor provided by the prisoners. 
    Only 26 prisoners were successful to escape which is (less then 1 each year), out of those 26 who escaped 8 died from gunshot wounds. 111 prisoners died during the time they served their sentences, most of them from tuberculosis, which was passing through the territory. There were no excutions in the prison. The only punishments was the dark cell for inmates who broke prison regulations (they were chained to the stone floor) and the ball and chain for those who tried to escape. Prisoners had access to regular medical attention, they also had access to schooling, and many of them learned to read and write in prison.
    In 1907 the prison became overcrowded and there was no more room on Prison Hill for expansion.
    And on September 15, 1909 the last prisoner left.
 Across from the prison is a cemetery where the buried the prisoners bodies if they werent claimed by family members.
The most haunted area in the prison is the dark cell, however there are no records of any body dying in the cell, many investigators think its because it held so much torment and sadness.
    There is another cell that is said to be haunted its the cell of John Ryan, who hung himself and is said to be seen pacing back and forth, as well as being heard and felt. 

The Andersonville prison, georgia:
The prison opened in February 1864, it originally covered about 16.5 acres of land enclosed by a 15 foot high stockade. In June of 1864 it was enlarged to 26.5 acres.
    A Union soldier described his entry into the prison camp:
"As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. "Can this be hell?" "God protect us!" and all thought that He alone could bring them out alive from so terrible a place. In the center of the whole was a swamp, occupying about three or four acres of the narrowed limits, and a part of this marshy place had been used by the prisoners as a sink, and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating. The ground allotted to our ninety was near the edge of this plague-spot, and how we were to live through the warm summer weather in the midst of such fearful surroundings, was more than we cared to think of just then."
    At Andersonville, a light fence known as "the dead line" was erected approximately 19 feet inside the stockade wall. It demarcated a no mans land that kept prisoners away from the stockade wall, which was made of rough-hewn logs about 16 feet high. Anyone crossing this line was shot by sentries located in the pigeon roosts.
    Andersonville prison was frequently undersupplied with food. Even when sufficient quantities were available, the supplies were of poor quality and poorly prepared. During the summer of 1864 Union prisoners suffered greatly from hunger, exposure and disease. Within seven months, about a third of them died from what was diagnosed as dysentery and scurvy and were buried in mass graves, the standard practice by Confederate prison authorities at Andersonville.
    The water supply from Stockade Creek even became polluted when too many Union prisoners were housed by the Confederate authorities within the prison walls. Part of the creek was used as a sink and the men were forced to wash themselves in the creek.
    The guards, disease, starvation and exposure were not all that prisoners had to deal with. A group of prisoners, calling themselves the Andersonville Raiders, attacked their fellow inmates to steal food, jewelry, money and clothing. They were armed mostly with clubs and killed to get what they wanted. Another group rose up to stop the larceny, calling themselves "Regulators". They caught nearly all of the Raiders, who were then tried by a judge (Peter "Big Pete" McCullough) and jury selected from a group of new prisoners. This jury, upon finding the Raiders guilty, set punishment that included running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks, ball and chain and, in six cases hanging.
     (<- This Union soldier actually survived)
    (I'm not sure if the same can be said about this one ->)

During the war, 45,000 prisoners were received at Andersonville prison, and of these 12,913 died. The nature of the deaths and the reasons for them are a continuing source of controversy among historians.
     Andersonville National Cemetery
The cemetery is the final resting place for the Union prisoners who perished while being held as POW here. The prisoners' burial ground has been made a National Cemetery. It contains 13,714 graves, of which 921 are marked "unknown."
    The cemetery is currently active as an honored burial place for present day veterans and their dependents.
 Many claim to hear echoes of gun fire and experience feelings of immense fear and devastation. It is not at all unusual for visitors to experience faint whispers, loud cries, and even yelling while exploring the grounds. Many reflect experiencing a smell that is foul and breathtaking. In addition to this, distinct figures have been noted walking in the fog.

The Old City Jail, South Carolina:
The first structures were erected on the site in 1738, as the property was used as a workhouse for slaves and makeshift hospital for "paupers, vagrants, and beggars." Criminals were kept separate from non-offenders, and were punished with shackles, whippings, and deprivation of food and water. As the operation expanded over the years, and numerous structures were built then demolished, or burned, tortures and executions at the site increased. These included being burned at the stake, branded, drawn and quartered, or having one's ear nailed to a post (until the ear was finally sliced off; often used for horse thieves).
    The present structure was built in 1790 as a jail and asylum. Though it was intended to hold around 128 prisoners, over 300 were frequently kept there. In some rooms, prisoners were locked in cages, barely the size of a person's body, packed in like sardines. Disease was rampant, and tortures continued. Rapes of both men and women were common. During its operation until 1939, over 10,000 people died on the property.
                                               (Lavinia Fisher)

    Notable inmates include numerous pirates, Civil War soldiers (including survivors of the 54th Mass., as seen in the movie GLORY) and serial killers John and Lavinia Fisher. The Fishers ran a boarding house and murdered many patrons, motivated by robbery. Lavinia Fisher is widely considered the first known female serial killer in America. The Fishers were kept at the jail until their hanging on February 18, 1820.
 Many individuals have claimed that they have seen the apparition of an African American male wandering aimlessly throughout the various halls that are within the building. This gentleman seems to be well worn by the appearance of the ragged clothing that he is seen wearing. He seems to walk slowly, as if he is very tired. It is believed that this is the spirit of a slave that once served on the property considering the attire that he is wearing. It is also believed that the spirit is more of a residual haunting, rather than an intelligent haunting, as he does not seem to be aware of the living, or his surroundings….
    Individuals who work here as well as people who take tours through this jail have been grabbed, pushed, and touched in a number of ways that do not seem pleasant or friendly at all.  In addition to this, many have felt as if they were being watched, and some have complained of odors that make them actually feel quite ill. Documented cases of having shortness of breath and individuals feeling as if they are being choked have also been experienced by a number of employees and tourists to the location….

The Mansfield Reformatory, Ohio:
Built in 1886, the Ohio state Reformatory was designed to humanely rehabilitate first time offenders, and was initially applauded as a positive step toward prison reform. However, conditions rapidly deteriorated. After 94 years of operation, the prison's legacy became one of abuse, torture, and murder. The prison eventually shut down in 1990.
    There were a few famous prisoners over the years at OSR. Henry Baker went on to achieve notoriety as a member of the Brinks Gang in the 1950s. Gates Brown, who served a year from 1958 to 1959, would later play baseball for the Detroit Tigers. And in 1989 Kevin Mack, star running back for the Cleveland Browns, did a month on drug charges.
As with any prison, OSR accumulated its horror stories over the years. Two corrections officers lost their lives at OSR; one in 1926, shot to death by a former inmate who was trying to spring his buddy; the other in 1932, beaten to death with a three-foot iron rod in the Hole--slang for solitary confinement.
    In July of 1948, two inmates released from the Reformatory for "good behavior" displayed some very bad behavior when they went on a killing spree. Robert Daniels and John West, dubbed the "Mad Dog Killers" by the papers, first murdered Columbus tavern owner Earl Ambrose, then stole a car and drove to Mansfield, where they kidnapped OSR farm superintendent John Niebel, his wife, and his twenty-year-old daughter. They murdered all three in a cornfield off Fleming Falls Road. The next day they killed a farmer from Tiffin, whose new bride managed to escape, then shot a truck driver. Two days later the two ex-cons were trapped at a roadblock near Van Wert. West died in a shoot-out with police but Daniels was captured. He bragged about the possibility of dying in the electric chair. The following January he got his wish at the State Pen in Columbus.
    On November 6, 1950, the wife of the prison superintendent apparently knocked a loaded gun off a closet shelf and shot herself through the left lung. The next day she died in the Mansfield hospital. It's possible that the superintendent shot her in order to spare himself the messy legal work and political stigma of a divorce. In February 1959 the superintendent himself died from a heart attack in his office.
An inmate hung himself in his cell in 1955. One burned himself to death in his cell with turpentine and paint thinner stolen from the prison furniture shop. Two convicts were once left in a cramped single-occupancy solitary confinement cell overnight; in the morning only one walked out. The other was stuffed under the bunk. In 1957 a riot put 120 men into the 20 solitary cells for 30 day stints.
  • Administration Wing: Visitors and employees have reported experiencing strong paranormal events in the administration wing where Warden Glattke and his wife Helen resided. The story is Helen, while reaching for a box in the closet, knocked a gun off the shelf to the floor, causing a bullet to discharge into her chest. She was rushed to the Mansfield General Hospital where she died as a result of her injuries. Rumors ran rampant that Warden Glattke was responsible for Helen's death, but there was never any proof to substantiate such rumors. Ten years later Glattke suffered a heart attack and died at the same hospital where Helen died.
    Some believe that Helen and Warden Glattke haunt the administration rooms to this day. The strong smell of Helen's rose perfume reportedly floats in and out of her pink bathroom. Visitors report felling a gush of cold air pass through them as the wander through this wing. It is not uncommon to hear of a jammed camera shutter, which unexplainably worked again once the visitor left the area.
    Ted Glattke, the youngest son of Helen and Warden Glattke, has said that most of the information written about his parents haunting Mansfield Reformatory is based on sensationalism and inaccurate stories.
  • The Chapel: The Chapel is suspected of many paranormal events and some believe it is nucleus for much of the prison's haunting tales. Rumors that the Chapel was first an execution room, where inmates were tortured and died slow deaths while hanging from the rafters, may account for the many reported orbs photographed and the strange recordings some say they have captured in this area of the prison. Visitors have reported seeing spirits lingering near doorways, only to vanish once their presence is detected.
  • The Infirmary: The infirmary where many prisoners died miserable deaths is known in paranormal circles to set off EMF detectors and claims of clusters of orbs have been captured in photographs. There have also been several reports from visitors that they have felt unexplained gushes of air pass by them.
  • The Basement: The spirit of a 14-year-old who was beaten to death in the basement is said to linger in the dark crumbling hallways, which twist around the dark decaying basement. Also, the spirit of a former Reformatory employee named George is said to haunt the basement halls.
  • The Library:  The Reformatory's library and a small inmate's graveyard are believed by some to be haunted. Visitors have reported seeing objects move in the graveyard and equipment failure is not uncommon in the library. Psychics visiting the library have reported seeing the spirit of a young woman, possibly Helen or a nurse who was killed by one of the prisoners.
  • The Cellblocks: Prisoners told of feeling someone tucking them in at night and it was rumored that the ghost of Helen or the nurse would moved in and out of the cells, bringing a touch of comfort to the inmates with a simple tuck of a blanket.
  • The Hole: The hole, located in the basement of the prison, was a place where prisoners who broke the rules were kept in one of the 20 cells. Inmates would be kept in the dark, dank, roach-infested cells, with one or more inmates, with little to eat and no place of comfort to sleep. Bread and water was the common meal with a lunch provided every three days. The stronger inmates would take the food from the weaker, leaving many to suffer hunger as well as other hardships.
    Many prisoners died in the hole and some believe that their tortured spirits remain, prompting reports of negative paranormal energy in this area.
    Visitors to this area sometimes leave after being overwhelmed with nausea. Others feel chills run through their bodies. The feeling of being watched permeates in the rooms and some have even reported seeing glowing eyes peering at them from dark corners.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco:
Is an island located in the San Francisco Bay. It is often referred to as "The Rock", the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of prisons until 1963.
    The prison was opened on January 1, 1934. 
  During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, James "Whitey" Bulger, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda, member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party wh attacked the United States Capitol building in 1954., Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. "Doc" Barker and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prison staff and their families.
    The majority of the prisoners at Alcatraz had been sent there after causing problems at other prisons.
       Each of the cells in America’s "first escape-proof prison" measured 4 x 8 feet, had a single fold-up bunk, a toilet, a desk, a chair and a sink. An inmate’s day would begin at 6:30 in the morning, when he was awakened and then given 25 minutes to clean his cell and to stand and be counted. At 6:55, the individual tiers of cells would be opened and prisoners would march in a single file line to the mess hall. They were given 20 minutes to eat and then were marched out to line up for work assignments. The routine never varied and was completely methodical.
   The main corridor of the prison was given the name "Broadway" by the inmates and the cells here were considered the least desirable. The ones on the bottom tier were always cold and damp and they were also the least private, since guards, inmates and staff members were always passing through this corridor. New prisoners were generally assigned to the second tier of B Block in a quarantine status for the first three months of their sentence.
The guards at Alcatraz were almost as hardened as the prisoners themselves. They numbered the inmates one to three, which was stunning considering that most prisons were at least one guard to every twelve inmates. Gun galleries had been placed at each end of the cell blocks and as many as 12 counts each day allowed the guards to keep very close tabs on the men on their watch. Because of the small number of total inmates at Alcatraz, the guards generally knew the inmates by name.
While the cells the prisoners lived in were barren at best, they must have seemed like luxury hotel rooms compared to the punishment cells. Here, the men were stripped of all but their basic right to food and even then, what they were served barely sustained the convict’s life, let alone his health.

One place of punishment was the single "Strip Cell", which was dubbed the "Oriental". This dark, steel-encased cell had no toilet and no sink. There was only a hole in the floor that could be flushed from the outside. Inmates were placed in the cell with no clothing and were given little food. The cell had a standard set of bars, with an expanded opening to pass food through, but a solid steel door enclosed the prisoner in total darkness. They were usually kept in this cell for 1-2 days. The cell was cold and completely bare, save for a straw sleeping mattress that the guards removed each morning. This cell was used a punishment for the most severe violations and was feared by the prison population.
The "Hole" was a similar type of cell. There were several of them and they were all located on the bottom tier of cells and were considered to be a severe punishment by the inmates. Mattresses were again taken away and prisoners were sustained by meals of bread and water, which was supplemented by a solid meal every third day. Steel doors also closed these cells off from the daylight, although a low wattage bulb was suspended from the ceiling. Inmates could spend up to 19 days here, completely silent and isolated from everyone. Time in the "hole" usually meant psychological and sometimes even physical torture.
Usually, convicts who were thrown into the "hole" for anything other than a minor infraction were beaten by the guards. The screams from the men being beaten in one of the four "holes" located on the bottom tier of D Block echoed throughout the block as though being amplified through a megaphone. When the inmates of D Block (which had been designated at a disciplinary unit by the warden) heard a fellow convict being worked over, they would start making noises that would be picked up in Blocks B and C and would then sound throughout the entire island.
Often when men emerged from the darkness and isolation of the "hole", they would be totally senseless and would end up in the prison’s hospital ward, devoid of their sanity. Others came out with pnuemonia and arthritis after spending days or weeks on the cold cement floor with no clothing. Some men never came out of the "hole" at all.
And there were even worse places to be sent than the "hole". Located in front of unused A Block was a staircase that led down to a large steel door. Behind the door were catacomb-like corridors and stone archways that led to the sealed off gun ports from the days when Alcatraz was a fort. Fireplaces located in several of the rooms were never used for warmth, but to heat up cannonballs so that they would start fires after reaching their targets. Two of the other rooms located in this dank, underground area were dungeons.
Prisoners who had the misfortune of being placed in the dungeons were not only locked in, but also chained to the walls. Their screams could not be heard in the main prison. The only toilet they had was a bucket, which was emptied once each week. For food, they received two cups of water and one slice of bread each day. Every third day, they would receive a regular meal. The men were stripped of their clothing and their dignity as guards chained them to the wall in a standing position from six in the morning until six at night. In the darkest hours, they were given a blanket to sleep on.
Thankfully, the dungeons were rarely used, but the dark cells of D Block, known as the "hole, were regularly filled.
Al Capone was in the "hole" three times during his 4 1/2-year stay at Alcatraz. It was reported that he once said  "it looks like Alcatraz has got me licked." The first years of Alcatraz were known as the "silent years" and during this period, the rules stated that no prisoners were allowed to speak to one another, sing, hum or whistle. Talking was forbidden in the cells, in the mess hall and even in the showers. The inmates were allowed to talk for three minutes during the morning and afternoon recreation yard periods and for two hours on weekends.
Capone, who remained arrogant for some time after his arrival, decided that the rule of silence should not apply to him. He ended up being sent to the "hole" for two, 10-day stretches for talking to other inmates. He also spent a full 19 days on the "hole" for trying to bribe a guard for information about the outside world. Prisoners were not allowed newspapers or magazines that would inform them of current events. Each time that Capone was sent to the "hole", he emerged a little worse for wear. Eventually, the Rock would break him completely.
Many of the prisoners who served time in Alcatraz ended up insane. Capone may have been one of them for time here was not easy on the ex-gangland boss. On one occasion, he got into a fight with another inmate in the recreation yard and was placed in isolation for eight days. Another time, while working in the prison basement, an inmate standing in line for a haircut exchanged words with Capone and then stabbed him with a pair of scissors. Capone was sent to the prison hospital but was released a few days later with a minor wound.
The attempts on his life, the no-talking rule, the beatings and the prison routine itself began to take their toll on Capone. After several fights in the yard, he was excused from his recreation periods and being adept with a banjo, joined a four-man prison band. The drummer in the group was "Machine-Gun" Kelly. Although gifts were not permitted for prisoners on the Rock, musical instruments were and Capone’s wife sent him a banjo shortly after he was incarcerated. After band practice, Capone always returned immediately to his cell, hoping to stay away from the other convicts.
Occasionally, guards reported that he would refuse to leave his cell to go to the mess hall and eat. They would often find him crouched down in the corner of his cell like an animal. On other occasions, he would mumble to himself or babble in baby talk or simply sit on his bed and strum little tunes on his banjo. Years later, another inmate recalled that Capone would sometimes stay in his cell and make his bunk over and over again.
After more than three years on the Rock, Capone was on the edge of total insanity. He spent the last year of his sentence in the hospital ward, undergoing treatment for an advanced case of syphilis. Most of the time he spent in the ward, he spent playing his banjo. His last day on Alcatraz was January 6, 1939. He was then transferred to the new Federal prison at Terminal Island near Los Angeles. When he was paroled, he became a recluse at his Palm Island, Florida estate. He died, broken and insane, in 1947.

And Al Capone was far from the only man to surrender his sanity to Alcatraz. In 1937 alone, 14 of the prisoners went rampantly insane and that does not include the men who slowly became "stir crazy" from the brutal conditions of the place. To Warden Johnston, mental illness was nothing more than an excuse to get out of work. As author Richard Winer once wrote, "it would be interesting to know what the warden thought of Rube Persful".
Persful was a former gangster and bank robber who was working in one of the shops, when he picked up a hatchet, placed his left hand on a block of wood and while laughing maniacally, began hacking off the fingers on his hand. Then, he placed his right hand on the block and pleaded with a guard to chop off those fingers as well. Persful was placed in the hospital, but was not declared insane.
An inmate named Joe Bowers slashed his own throat with a pair of broken eyeglasses. He was given first aid and then was thrown into the "hole". After his release, he ran away from his work area and scaled a chain-link fence, fully aware that the guards would shoot him. They opened fire and his body fell 75 feet down to the rocks below the fence.
Ed Wutke, a former sailor who had been sent to Alcatraz on murder charges, managed to fatally slice through his jugular vein with the blade from a pencil sharpener.
These were not the only attempts at suicide and mutilation either. It was believed that more men suffered mental breakdowns at Alcatraz, by percentage, than at any other Federal prisons.
In 1941, inmate Henry Young went on trail for the murder of a fellow prisoner and his accomplice in a failed escape attempt, Rufus McCain. Young’s attorney claimed that Alcatraz guards had frequently beaten his client and that he had endured long periods of extreme isolation. While Young was depicted as sympathetic, he was actually a difficult inmate who often provoked fights with other prisoners. He was considered a violent risk and he later murdered two guards during an escape attempt. After that, Young and his eventual victim, McCain, spent nearly 22 months in solitary confinement.
After the two men returned to the normal prison population, McCain was assigned to the tailoring shop and Young to the furniture shop, located directly upstairs. On December 3, 1940 Young waited until just after a prisoner count and then when a guard’s attention was diverted, he ran downstairs and stabbed McCain. The other man went into shock and he died five hours later. Young refused to say why he had killed the man.
                                     Escape Attempts
During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed no prisoner had successfully escaped. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught, six were shot and killed during their escape, and three were lost at sea and never found. The most violent occurred on May 2, 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners led to the Battle of 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 (where the escapees were interned) was an unguarded 3-foot (0.91 m) wide utility corridor. The prisoners chiseled away the moisture-damaged concrete from around an air vent 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. The noise was disguised by accordions played during music hour, and the progress was concealed by false walls which, in the dark recesses of the cells, fooled the guards.
The escape route led up through a fan vent; the prisoners removed the fan and motor, replacing them with a steel grille and leaving a shaft large enough for a prisoner to climb through. Stealing a carborundum abrasive cord from the prison workshop, the prisoners removed the rivets from the grille and substituted dummy rivets made of soap. The escapees also constructed an inflatable raft from several stolen raincoats for the trip to the mainland. Leaving papier-mache dummies in their cells affixed with stolen human hair from the barbershop, they escaped. The prisoners are estimated to have entered San Francisco Bay at 10 p.m. 
   The official investigation by the  FBI was aided by another prisoner, Allen West, who was part of the escapees' group but was left behind (West's false wall kept slipping so he held it into place with cement, which set; when the Anglin brothers (John and Clarence) accelerated the schedule, West desperately chipped away at the wall, but by the time he got out, his companions were gone). Articles belonging to the prisoners (including plywood paddles and parts of the raincoat raft) were discovered on nearby Angel Island. The official report on the escape says the prisoners drowned while trying to reach the mainland in the cold waters of the bay. But there were sightings of the men over the years, and friends and family of Morris and the Anglins claimed to have been receiving postcards written in the men's handwriting.      Because the prison cost much more to operate than other prisons (nearly $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 per prisoner per day at Atlanta), and half a century of salt water saturation had severely eroded the buildings, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the prison closed on March 21, 1963.

During the day, the old prison is a bustling place, filled with tour guides and visitors... but at night, the building is filled with the inexplicable. Many believe that the energy of those who came to serve time on the Rock still remains, that Alcatraz is an immense haunted house... a place where strange things can and do happen today!

Every visitor who arrives by boat on Alcatraz follows the same path once walked by the criminals who came to do time on the Rock. The tourists who come here pass through the warden’s office and the visiting room and eventually enter the cell house. After passing the double steel doors, a visitor can see that just past C Block. If they look opposite the visiting room, they will find a metal door that looks as though it was once welded shut. Although the tour guides don’t usually mention it, behind that door if the utility corridor where Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard were killed by grenades and bullets in 1946.
It was also behind this door where a night watchman heard strange, clanging sounds in 1976. He opened the door and peered down the dark corridor, shining his flashlight on the maze of pipes and conduits. He could see nothing and there were no sounds. When he closed the door, the noises started again. Again, the door was opened up but there was still nothing that could be causing the sounds. The night watchman did not believe in ghosts, so he shut the door again and continued on his way. Some have wondered if the eerie noises may have been the reason why the door was once welded shut? Since that time, this utility corridor has come to be recognized as one of the most haunted spots in the prison.
Other night watchmen who have patrolled this cell house, after the last of the tourist boats have left for the day, say that they have heard the sounds of what appear to be men running coming the from the upper tiers. Thinking that an intruder is inside the prison, the watchmen have investigated the sounds, but always find nothing.
One Park Service employee stated that she had been working one rainy afternoon when the sparse number of tourists were not enough to keep all of the guides busy. She went for a walk in front of A Block and was just past the door that led down to the dungeons when she heard a loud scream from the bottom of the stairs. She ran away without looking to see if anyone was down there. When asked why she didn’t report the incident, she replied "I didn’t dare mention it because the day before, everyone was ridiculing another worker who reported hearing men’s voices coming from the hospital ward and when he checked the ward, it was empty."
Several of the guides and rangers have also expressed a strangeness about one of the "hole" cells, number 14D. "There’s a feeling of sudden intensity that comes from spending more than a few minutes around that cell," one of them said. Another guide also spoke up about that particular cell. "That cell, 14D, is always cold. It’s even colder than the other three dark cells. Sometimes it gets warm out here - so hot that you have to take your jacket off. The temperature inside the cell house can be in the 70’s, yet 14D is still cold... so cold that you need a jacket if you spend any time in it."
Oddly, the tour guides were not the only ones to have strange experiences in that particular cell. A number of former guards from the prisons also spoke of some pretty terrifying incidents that took place near the "holes" and in particular, Cell 14D.
During the guard’s stint in the middle 1940’s, an inmate was locked in the cell for some forgotten infraction. According to the officer, the inmate began screaming within seconds of being locked in. He claimed that some creature with "glowing eyes" was locked in with him. As tales of a ghostly presence wandering the nearby corridor were a continual source of practical jokes among the guards, no one took the convict’s cries of being "attacked" very seriously.
The man’s screaming continued on into the night until finally, there was silence. The following day, guards inspected the cell and they found the convict dead. A horrible expression had been frozen onto the man’s face and there were clear marks of hands around his throat! The autopsy revealed that the strangulation could not have been self-inflicted. Some believed that he might have been choked by one of the guards, who had been fed up with the man’s screaming, but no one ever admitted it.
A few of the officers blamed something else for the man’s death. They believed that the killer had been the spirit of a former inmate. To add to the mystery, on the day following the tragedy, several guards who were performing a head count noticed that there were too many men in the lineup. Then, at the end of the line, they saw the face of the convict who had recently been strangled in the "hole"! As they all looked on in stunned silence, the figure abruptly vanished.

If, as many believe, ghosts return to haunt the places where they suffered traumatic experiences when they were alive, then Alcatraz must be loaded with spirits.
According to sources, a number of guards who served between 1946 and 1963 experienced strange happenings on Alcatraz. From the grounds of the prison to the caverns beneath the buildings, there was often talk of people sobbing and moaning, inexplicable smells, cold spots and spectral apparitions. Even guests and families who lived on the island claimed to occasionally see the ghostly forms of prisoners and even phantom soldiers. Phantom gunshots were known to send seasoned guards cringing on the ground in the belief that the prisoners had escaped and had obtained weapons. There was never an explanation. A deserted laundry room would sometimes fill with the smell of smoke, even though nothing was burning. The guards would be sent running from the room, only to return later and find that the air was clear.
Even Warden Johnston, who did not believe in ghosts, once encountered the unmistakable sound of a person sobbing while he accompanied some guests on a tour of the prison. He swore that the sounds came from inside of the dungeon walls. The strange sounds were followed by an ice-cold wind that swirled through the entire group. He could offer no explanation for the weird events.
As the years have passed, ghost hunters, authors, crime buffs and curiosity-seekers have visited the island and many of them have left with feelings of strangeness. Perhaps those who experience the "ghostly side" of Alcatraz most often are the national park service employees who sometimes spend many hours here alone. For the most part, the rangers claim to not believe in the supernatural but occasionally, one of them will admit that weird things happen here that they cannot explain.
According to one park ranger, he was in one of the cell houses one morning, near the shower room, and heard the distinctive sound of banjo music coming from the room. He could not explain it --- but many who know some of the hidden history of Alcatraz can. In his last days at the prison, Al Capone often hid in the shower room with his banjo. Rather than risk going out into the prison yard, where he feared for his life thanks to his deteriorating mental state, Capone received permission to stay inside and practice with his instrument.
And perhaps he sits there still, this lonesome and broken spirit, still plucking at the strings of a spectral banjo that vanished decades ago. For on occasion, tour guides and rangers, who walk the corridors of the prison alone, still claim to hear and an occasional tune echoing through the abandoned building. Is it Al Capone?

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