Thursday, July 14, 2011

Escape From Alcatraz

Okay, so the name of this post is rather misleading. A more appropriate title would have been "A Visit to Alcatraz" but that just sounds boring. Plus, leaving Alcatraz at the end of the tour really was like escaping from a place shrouded with an eerie history. It's been 3 years since I first visited Alcatraz but once you go, you never forget it. It has a way of sticking in your mind. I thought it appropriate to post about this place since I will be going up to SF in a few weeks. I don't believe I will be visiting this place on my upcoming trip but who knows. This place both fascinates and frightens me. I will explain why soon enough.

I had a rare opportunity to visit Alcatraz a few years ago. For a rare nighttime tour. Booooooooo! If you ever get a chance to do this, I highly recommend it. It is scary as heck but what an experience. Okay, here are my photos. Oddly enough, I was not blogging back in '08 but I still managed to take way too many photos. 

All aboard!!

Bay Bridge

There it is...Alcatraz Island!

This was at dusk.

We have arrived!

Creepy nighttime tour! Bwahahaha!

This looks scary but is actually just where the kitchen staff stored their cooking utensils. Each piece is outlined in case an inmate decided to smuggle it out of the kitchen for other purposes...if you know what I mean. Sometimes they allowed well-behaved inmates to volunteer in the kitchen helping to make meals for the others.

Isolation in "the Hole"! I went into "the Hole" to see what it was like...with the door open for what felt like an eternity but in reality was only a couple of seconds. I wanted out of there in the worse way. It was bone chillingly scary in there. There were noises! Weird howling noises.

I also went into their basement which was really dark. Lit only by a couple of hanging light bulbs. They use to keep those inmates that have been acting out down there. It is a sensor deprivation chamber of sorts. When they cut the lights, it is pitch dark and you cannot hear anything. The tour guide commented that it would literally take the inmates days to get adjusted to the darkness. They did a demo for us and it was so dark in there you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Inmates were sometimes sentenced to stay in there for weeks in the dark, depending on the severity of their misbehavior. They even had to pee and eat in the dark. It was just not a place you wanted to end up.

I posted this photo because if you look to the lower left-hand side you will see some yarn and some knitting in progress. They were allowed to crochet in there and paint. See paintings on the back wall? These cells were so small!

This is what the Warden would have looked like back then.

This was a fake Warden. He was playing a role in a game we were playing.

This was where inmates met with visitors. 

So creepy! When they opened and closed the cell doors, it made a terrible racket. 

Famous inmates...including Al Capone and countless other mobsters. 

That is a replica of a fake head used in a famous escape attempt by three inmates to fool the guards and break out of Alcatraz! It took the inmates many months to collect enough hair and paper to create this paper mache head. Of course they were also working on the escape plan during these many months as well. Hollywood attempted to recreate this jail break in the movie Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood. The movie had an ambiguous ending, whereas actual events did not turn out so favorably. I actually went and rented three of the four movies made on Alcatraz including the one I just mentioned, The Rock and Murder in the First when I got back home.

Look at the back of the cell. The inmates would quietly dig a little bit out of the wall every night when everyone else went to sleep. They made it just big enough to fit through and then climbed up some plumbing pipes. This digging took them a very long time since they could only do this at night and very quietly. You should rent Escape from Alcatraz, it's all in there for the most part.

This was the "Mess Hall" where inmates ate their meals. Fights would sometimes break out in here due to close contact. 

Really old metal detector. 

Gun Gallery

This was the Medical ward of Alcatraz. This has to be the scariest part of this whole place for me. I was having nightmares about this room for days after I returned from my trip. 

Hallway in medical ward. Looks like something from a scary movie, no?

Robert Franklin Stroud - the Birdman of Alcatraz. They allowed him to keep, cultivate and raise birds in this room. They also made a movie about him called Birdman of Alcatraz. I haven't watch this one yet.

It was very scary in there! I mean just look at it. 

This is where they performed "behavior modification therapy". You really don't want to know more than that. Trust me! I know too much!

And that is the end of this photo tour. Alcatraz is such an amazing place! The history alone is worth the visit. Plus, if you go, you will get to take that nice boat ride on the Bay.

1 comment:

Glenn Jones said...

Interesting. I wrote software that was used in "Correctional Facilities" (the PC term), and I've had an opportunity to visit quite a few of them. Thing haven't really changed all that much in a lot of cases.