Alcatraz Prison

by on December 17, 2011

Alcatraz is located off the shore of San Francisco in California.  It used to be a maximum security prison that housed some famous inmates.  Now you can take tours on a boat across the bay and check it all out for yourself!  The tour begins in the processing room.  Time to give up those outside cloths for a little something in blue and white, pinstripe that is, see? (said in my best mobster voice). 

 The showers, no dropping the soap!

D Block also known as the Treatment Unit.  This is where you go if you’re bad.

Doesn’t look too bad at first….

 Then you see the solitary confinement cells.

 There are no windows no light just darkness.  Some of these men spent a total of decades in rooms like this.  If they weren’t crazy when they went in they were surely crazy when they came out!!!!

Foxy in “the hole”!

 These cells were home to some well know bad guys like:

  •  Al “Scarface” Capone – He started to show signs of syphilis while at Alcatraz and as the people say just “went crazy”, they transferred him to Terminal Island after 4 years.
  • George “Machine Gun” Kelly – He bragged about murders and robbery’s that he never committed and drove the other inmates’ nuts!  He was a good boy in Alcatraz so the sent him back to Leavenworth after about 20 years.
  • Alvin “Creepy” Karpis  – Who spent 26 years (more time than any other inmate) at Alcatraz, fought with the other inmates and always walked on his toes!  The inmates said he was called Creepy because, well, he gave people the creeps!
  •  Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz) – He apparently loved to keep birds and was a little obsessed with them.  He conducted studies and made several large contributions to avian pathology.  He most famously wrote the book Diseases of Canaries.   He was diagnosed as a psychopath with an IQ of 134.  He spend 42 of he’s 54 years of imprisonment in solitary confinement.

 

This way leads to the recreation yard.  The inmates who didn’t cause trouble were given time outside on the weekends.  They were very into softball.  The scores were kept for each player just like in the leagues and they waited all week to get out there and take down the other team!

 When the wind blows across the bay it is freezing out here!  The inmates often complained about Alcatraz because of how cold and damp it was all the time.  They claimed it made them sick and was inhumane.

 There is no smiling in Alcatraz.

 On May 2, 1946 there was an escape attempt by six inmates that led to what is known as The Battle of Alcatraz.  In Block B Bernard Coy and Marvin Hubbard over powered a guard and took his keys.  They went and released Joseph Cretzer and Clarence Carnes.  The cell was patrolled by an armed guard in the “gun galley” a walkway that runs the length of the cell at about a second story height and is cadged in.  The guard had a set routine and they had started their attack when he was away.  Coy had previously spotted a weakness in the bars of the gun gallery.  He made a bar spreading device and starved himself for weeks before to be able to slide through the small opening it made.  Here is a pic of how small it was.

 Coy over powered the guard upon his return and lowered the keys and a gun down to his accomplices.  Coy then went to Block D (where the bad boys are) and forced the guard to release about a dozen prisoners of which only Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson joined the escape, the others stayed in their cells.  The two guards were placed in a cell in Block C.  The convicts tried every key and none of them would open the door that lead to the recreational yard.  They tried so hard that by the time they searched the captive guards and found the right key they had jammed the lock and were now stuck inside with hostages.  As guards came through on their checks they were caught and thrown into cells.  Now they had 9 guards in these two cells.

The plan was falling apart and the group was getting desperate, the alarms were sounding.   Cretzer opened fire on the guards in the cell to eliminate the witnesses.  Carnes, Shockley and Thompson went back to their cells to pretend nothing had happened.  Coy, Hubbard and Cretzer continued to try and find a way out.  More guards entered the cell and were fired upon, the power was turned off, and the convicts were running the Block!  The warden called upon the marines for help and they had an outright battle with these three men for almost two days!!!!!  There were grenades and machine gun fire from the rooftops for hours.  Eventually the marines drilled holes in the rooftop and dropped grenades into the building forcing the men into one main corridor.  That night they fired on the Block for hours and in the morning moved in on the corridor the men were in.  At the end of the gun fight Coy, Hubbard and Cretzer were dead, as were two of the guards that they shot.  Thompson and Shockley were later executed together in the Gas Chamber at San Quentin and Cretzer was given an addition life sentence.  And that my friends was the great Battle of Alcatraz!

There are two men John Anglin and Clarence Anglin who actually DID escaped Alcatraz.  Now the official story says that no one has ever escaped because they have never found these men and they MUST have died in the water, but the fact remains that they never found any bodies.  John and Clarence are brothers and they were imprisoned in Block B.  They are not sure how the men did it but somehow they chiseled at the wall around the vents in their cells making the opening big enough to fit through.  They took out the fan in the air vent and “shimmed” their way up this inner 3 foot wide utility corridor to the roof. The most amazing part of all this is that it would have taken a very long time to chisel the wall away, so in the mean time they disguised their work with a false air vent made out of whittled soap and a false wall made out of toilet paper and toothpaste!  They stole rain coats to make a raft and when they made their escape they left papier-mâché dummy heads with hair from the barber in there bed.  The guards didn’t even know they were missing till the next morning.  Remands of the raft were found the next day during the search.  This case remains open and unsolved and will be open till their hundred year birthday.  Happy trails boys!!!!!!!!!

 The inmates could hear sounds of laughter and music during the holidays as the wind blew across the bay.  A reminder of the life they were missing out on.

 In the kitchen the knives are all out lined in black so that if one was missing the guards would know right away.

 There weren’t any stories of cruel or unusual punishment for any of the prisoners at Alcatraz.  The tour leaves you more with the feeling that the beautiful location of the prison was taunting for the inmates and there being very little hope for escape or contact with anyone on the outside was well…. Boring.

The prison was eventually shut down because of high operating costs. 

I leave you with the immortal words of the last prisoner to leave Alcatraz….

  “Alcatraz was never no good for nobody” – Frank Weatherman.  It’s a wonder he didn’t go further in life with that grasp on the English language….:)~

Your tour guide,

“The Golden Fox of Alcatraz”

 

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