Whether you believe in spirits or not, there’s no denying that some prisoners on the former island jail near San Francisco Bay – nicknamed ‘The Rock – have had some very spooky encounters. Some even leading to the institution being branded one of America’s most haunted locations – and a portal to another dimension...
Whispering, slamming doors, moaning, unexplained footsteps, screams, a woman crying, strange music, floating lights, clanking chains, ghostly figures – and glowing red eyes in a pitch-black cell in the nortorious D-block. These are all par for the course for those who were incarcerated or worked at Alcatraz and were unlucky enough to experience the paranormal phenomena.
The prison has more than enough history to warrant reports of hauntings – and visitors can now take a boat trip out there and go on ghost hunts at the prison, which operated between 1933 until 1963 – if they’re brave enough.
Once housing the likes of Al Capone and ‘public enemy number one’ – gangster Alvin Karpis – only the most dangerous criminals were sent to Alcatraz… And it seems that some have stuck around…
One of the most famous claims of haunting involves a prisoner in solitary confinement who screamed from his cell for hours upon hours, claiming he was seeing a pair of red, glowing eyes staring at him within his pitch-black cell. He was later found dead, with mysterious strangle marks around his neck and purple skin.
At first, guards laughed off the claims from inmates that there was something paranormal going on in the prison – until, that was, they began to experience the strange goings-on themselves. Disembodied crying at night and ghostly fingers stroking people’s necks were two events the guards couldn’t explain away. One warden heard a woman sobbing (in an all-male prison) while others in A-block witnessed supposed remnants of America’s Civil War, with cannon and gunshot being heard.
One tour guide, Leon Thompson, knew an inmate named Johnny Haus. Years after he’d seen Haus last alive, Leon claimed he saw his ghost – a dark figure that walked around a corner when Thompson was alone, waiting for visitors to arrive. He later says, “I don’t care what anybody says, that was Johnny Haus.”
Paranormal investigators and visitors claim that D-block – the location of the glowing red eyes – is the most haunted area of Alcatraz, due to the amount of unexplained activity recorded there. Creepy voices have been reported in a number of cells, and ‘The Hole’ – the solitary confinement area, particularly cell 14-D – is thought to be the most haunted in the entire prison, and is also unnaturally colder than anywhere else on the island. This was where the prisoner who screamed about seeing red eyes was later found dead.
Gangster Al Capone used to play the banjo while inside, and the twanging noise of the instrument being strung has been heard from the room he used to practice in, and in the shower room – where he used to play, away from other inmates who wanted to murder him…
Read about former inmate Jim Quillen’s experience of 19 days in ‘The Hole’ – Alcatraz’s infamous solitary confinement cell, where the steel walls and concrete floor made keeping warm very difficult – and, mentally, the isolation and lack of sensory experience could drive you mad.