Alcatraz is on an island out in San Francisco Bay. Before it was discovered by Europeans it was known as La Isla de los Alcatraces Spanish for Island of the Pelicans. It was not until 1850 that it was realized it would make a great defensive position in case of attack. In 1854 The Army Corps of Engineers began the construction of an impenetrable structure. Most of the labourers were reluctant workers; they only worked there because they were unable to gain a job in the gold fields.
Because of the extensive work needed to be done, lives were lost. The first known to lose their lives here were Daniel Pewter aged 50 and Jacob Unger aged 25. 1859 saw Alcatraz become operational as a fortress and prison and received its first 11 prisoners who were kept in the basement cell. In 1861 it became the official military prison for the entire department of the pacific. Alcatraz was grim and sanitary conditions were almost nonexistent. Men slept in very close proximity to each other on stone floors and disease was rife. In 1876 Alcatraz became a prison for military convicts and malcontents of society.
There were many escape attempts, all were unsuccessful and all surrendered or were captured. In 1911 it became an official army prison, but due to the increase of crime sweeping across America in 1933 it was passed over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and in 1934 it became a maximum security prison, which was escape proof. Only the most hardened prisoners were brought here. The first prisoner was Frank Bolt who got five years for sodomy; the first famous prisoner was Al Capone in August 1934. Most of the time Alcatraz was an end to a criminal’s career, and also an end to their life. It was very isolated and full of deprivation, rules and routine. In March 1963 it was officially closed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy and up until 1969 remained empty. It is now run by the Golden Gate Recreational Area and became widely popular with many visitors.
It is no wonder with a history like that it become a place with strange goings on. Before anything was built there the Native Americans avoided the place saying it was full of evil spirits, and many ghosts roam around, some not very nice. Many people have reported being uneasy whilst there, and hearing moans, sobbing, clanking of chains and the feeling of not being alone. There have been numerous sightings of ghosts, a lot around cell block ‘D’. Other places they have been seen are in the Wardens Office and laundry room. One ghost is said to appear with glowing eyes.