Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Visit to Alcatraz

From the moment we landed on the island of Alcatraz, I knew there was something special about this place. Anyone can feel the energy swirling, if they truly pay attention to their body's reactions; however, a lot of anticipation on the cruise over to the island may cause a range of emotions. This being said, I had to be sure that what I was feeling wasn't because of excitement brewing. I shook it off and with my wife, Lesli, we looked around, paid $1 USD for a map of the Island, and made a plan of what areas to visit on our ascent to the top of the island where the famous Main Cell House stands.

Building 64 - Military Housing then Prison Residences

The first sight we saw after embarking the cruise ship was Building 64, which had been used as Residential Apartments. It is grand, and one cannot miss the imposing view with it's large sign.
Building 64 - Welcome Sign

Looking up I began to feel small, soon understanding that this place is bigger than once thought. A feeling of fear swept in and soon we found ourselves wondering what this place had in store for us. We moved on, past the crowds listening to the Parks Rangers give their welcome speech. Lesli and I had decided we'd either walk ahead of the crowd, or wait until everyone had finished touring each building. We wanted to feel the effects of this place without disturbance.. which is difficult to do.

Sign at the Power House
From the Dock, the Main Cell House is approximately a 1/4 mile up a zigzag road, climbing 130 feet (the height of a 13-storey building). Along the way we passed the Dock Tower (which was under repair), through the Sally Port and beneath the former Military Chapel (which became Bachelors Quarters later on). At the Officers Club building ruins is where the main road switches directions. However, we walked forward towards the Power House (also under repair) and the looming Water Tower. We followed a path which took us to the Model Industries Building (which was off limits) and the Industries Building (which we understood to be the former site of the Laundry facilities).

Prison Guard shadow man or not
A stream of tourists had just left the building so we slowly walked inside. There was a display for a book about prisoners in the USA, not necessarily those from Alcatraz. Above, to the left, small windows held a view of the trees and landscaping below the Recreation Yard. Then I saw the man, a shadow man. Well, not quite. I had to look again, and it appeared to be a dark cut out of a Prison Guard watching us from behind the barred windows. He gave me an eerie feeling. We wandered around and at one spot I felt as if I would be sick. I pushed the feeling down into my stomach, and as soon as I walked on, the feeling vanished. To check on this, I backed up and again felt as if I would upchuck all over the floor in that same spot. I quickly moved on. On the right side were larger windows with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The windows were barred and the glass was dirty. Above were hanging rusted pipes, which once moved water throughout the building, and rusted grates which may have been used for ventilation or as heating ducts. I cannot be sure. We walked the length of this building where there was a set of smashed toilets and a long sink, then turned around towards the exit where we had entered. The building is long, and as we came back to the entrance/exit, a group of tourists entered. Phew, we had beaten the crowd. I thought about the feeling of illness and decided it was not my own. What had caused this? I am not sure, perhaps lingering energy in that spot. It is worth a visit.

The Morgue
Once outside, we walked back to the Officers Club building and took the main road up towards the Main Cell House. We had to zigzag back and forth to make the climb. There were staircases going straight up, but they were off limits due to their crumbling stage. The views were fantastic! We could see north east, Angel Island, and more. Of course, it all depends on the weather. We were lucky to experience a clear blue sky day with a warm wind.
On our way up, we came across the Morgue, built in 1910 by the US Military. It covered an entrance to a tunnel which had been used by soldiers in the 1870s to cross to the opposite side of the island. It is not accessible, but one can look in. It was small, with an examination table, some machinery, pipes and a grated skylight. It's purpose was to hold bodies that had missed the last boat to the mainland and has been documented to have only been used once.

Next we switched back southward ascending towards the Main Cell House, and there it was. Big, imposing, and exuding dark energy. I looked up to see the structure appearing weathered from the salty air, and looming as if a home of darkness. Needless to say Lesli and I were excited we had finally reached the top of the Rock and about to enter a world we did not know or understand.

Shower Heads
Entering the building on its ground floor, you find a photo sign that explains: the Federal Penitentiary operated from 1934 - 1963. 1576 inmates were processed, 90 correction officers were employed during this time, with 53 rules and regulations, 14 escape attempts, and 4 wardens held the position. The passage led to a large room on the right, below the main cells.  A crowd of people were ahead of us, cuing in line to receive audio headphones with recordings. We pushed on. To our right was an area where new prisoners would receive their clothing. The clothes were in cubbyholes, neatly folded. A long table held shoes, while another one held supplies such as soap, brushes, shaving material and so on. To our left was a long strip of shower heads hanging from the ceiling. I counted more than 24. New prisoners would have to strip down, take a shower, get a check over by the officers, and then gather their prison garb and supplies.The area was large enough to hold several hundred people. Further ahead was a narrow staircase on the left wall, which would lead us up to the cells above. I began to wonder what new prisoners would be feeling as they passed through this area, freshly showered with their new attire. For me it was as if the world I had known was disappearing, and brought on a new fright. What would I discover once crossing through that door at the top of the steps? Who would be waiting for me?
Lesli and I passed the crowd waiting and walked up the stairs. The door at the top opened up to B and C Blocks, and the moment I crossed its threshold, I felt a whirl of emotions hit me. It was as if every ghostly spirit of past inmates and officers had rushed up screaming and pushing themselves upon me. I had to stop for a moment to understand this feeling was of the place and people who had lived and worked here those many years ago. It took my breath away. I calmly stated "I am here, please allow me time to explore", and with that the feeling dissipated. Had I been bombarded with spirit energy? I believe so.

Cells on Broadway in B Block
Without audio to assist us, we began wandering the different rows of cells; looking into the ones that were open, taking in their small size; 9' by 5' each, with a small cot, a shelf (some had 2) on the far wall to store your toothbrush, comb, books and all sorts, a small sink below it and a toilet in the corner. There were small sitting tables made of two slabs jutting out from the wall. The lower one to sit on, and the upper one to write on or do whatever it is one can do in their cell. Prisoners spent most of their day alone in their cells, and talking was forbidden. That in itself is intimidating. I know I could never survive such a penalty.

Next we passed through a library, which had shelves that were empty of books; however, a sign read: "Because they were physically confined, most prisoners sought mental escape through books. Literate convicts read 75-100 books a year. The 15,000 volumes in the library include photography, philosophy and educational material. Books with sexual, violent or criminal references were not allowed." A quote read: "These men read more serious literature then does the ordinary person in the community. Philosophers such as Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, etc. are especially popular..." - Federal Bureau of Prisons booklet, 1960.

Once through the library we entered the D Block cells, which were considered the Isolation Cells, or "Treatment Unit" as a sign read.
D Block Isolation Cell Sign
This is where everything changed for Lesli and me. Our spirit was alerted, and we began to pay extra attention to our senses and feelings. My feet were buzzing as I walked the length of the unit. For me this means that a large amount of energy resides in the place. However, I found this buzzing to subside the further I walked away from the dark cells considered as "the Hole". They were numbered 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, and 9. This Block turned out to be the most active part of the Cell House during our visit. Not that we witnessed cell doors slamming or voices screaming, or even a ghostly figure standing in a cell watching us. Instead it was where most of our senses felt alive and active. In front of cells 14 and 13, I felt ill. I wanted to bend over and let it all out; but a large crowd of people had followed us into the area, so we thought it best to leave and explore other areas first, with a plan to return later on. Leaving made me feel so much better. We wandered off to explore the Recreation Yard.

From Recreation Yard, looking back at Main Cell House
Not far from D Block, in fact, directly at the end of "C-D Street (Seedy)", as the inmates called it, was an exit to the outside.The Recreation Yard was large. The only view outside of the area was seen from the top of the steps (where we exited the Main Cell House) and a set of steps built against the building.
Recreation Yard & steps against the Main Cell House. A view only seen from the top.
The photo above helps to explain what I mean. On the stairs one can see the Golden Gate Bridge, and all the land and water surroundings, as well as parts of San Francisco city. It is beautiful on a blue sky day! Above, in the Main Cell House building is the Dining Hall (2nd floor) and the Infirmary (Hospital - 3rd floor). The main floor was used for storage, but back in the days of the prison, that is where the Shower Area, Band Practice Room, Clothing and Administration was. Click on the following link to see a diagram layout of the main Cell House: Diagram of Interior of Cell house
Lesli (left) & Kati (right) with the top floors behind us.
Once outside, I truly felt so much better. The air had a slight salty flavour and scent to it, birds were flying around squawking and looking for food handouts, and the view was tremendous! It certainly is a great spot to sit and relax a moment, gather your thoughts and think about what you had just learned. We took in the view and thought of what we wanted to know about this incredible place that appears to be crumbling here and there. We thought about what it may have been like for the inmates and those working for the prison. Chaos, I imagine, always on guard, watching your back, and trying to keep sane.

The Dining Hall
After our visit to the Recreation Yard we decided to visit the dining area before taking a break. Just before we stepped into the large room we saw a staircase leading upwards towards the Infirmary, but a chain was strung across forbidding entrance. The hospital was off limits to us. Why? I am not sure. The Dining Hall was a large room with a caged off kitchen at the end. The tables and chairs were long gone, and the windows were dirty with age. Regardless, the view was spectacular. In the caged kitchen was an area for prepping, cooking and had a guards desk to monitor what was going on.
The Guards room inside the Kitchen
A list above the kitchen cage indicated the last meal served on March 21, 1963. It read: "Assorted Dry Cereals, Steamed Wheat, Scrambled Eggs, 2 Milk, Fruit, Toast, Bread, Butter".
Another sign indicated that the inmates were served three meals a day, and the men thought the food was the best served in the Federal Prison System, indicating there was plenty of it. It also advised that tear gas canisters were mounted in the ceiling in case of trouble, but they were never used.

With this, it was time to take a break, so we wandered back down the main road to the Dock. There we sat at picnic tables and enjoyed our packed lunch, talked about what we had felt, and what we would do next. We had just enough time to explore the Administration area, Warden's Office and go back to D Block for another visit. By then, most of the tourists would be leaving the Cell House to make their way back to the boat. This would leave us with an empty Cell House, or so we hoped.

On our way back up, we decided to pass by the area in which we had entered the Cell House previously, and visit the Lighthouse facing the city. Across from the prison we saw gardens filled with vegetables and more in an area they once called "Officers' Row". This was once home to the military elite, three cottages built in 1880 for the commanding officers stood here. After they were demolished in 1941, residents and inmates created gardens in the cottage foundations. It was really rather beautiful!

The present lighthouse standing 84 feet tall
The first lighthouse (50 feet) had been built in 1854, however it was damaged in San Francisco's earthquake of 1906 and therefore taken down between 1912-1913. In 1909 a new taller lighthouse (84 feet) was built to the south of the original one. It is across from the Warden's House (northeast of the main cell block), which was burnt down on June 1, 1970 during the American Indian Movement. The house was built approximately in 1921, with 3 floors and 15 rooms. Quite massive. Now it is an outer shell with vegetation taking over.

The Administration entrance is directly behind the lighthouse, and wandering in, after taking in the amazing views of the city, we found several offices and waiting rooms. There was the accounting area, officers' lounge, warden's secretary, associate warden's office and so on. Of course there was also a vault, and behind this area was the Visitation area which comprised of small windows and chairs. The main entrance into the cell house was next door, and opened up to the B Block. I was surprised the visiting area did not have little telephones attached to hear both parties speaking.
Visitation Area with B Block on the other side
Perhaps they had been removed. I am not sure. Never-the-less, the windows were small and the glass fairly thick. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like visiting a friend, husband, brother etc during the time the prison was in full function. It definitely felt as if one was penned in and had no where to turn.

Once back through the threshold of the main entrance, we walked silently and found that no one was around. Most of the tourists had just left the area. Finally we were in the Cell House alone, or nearly, with a few stragglers waiting for that same opportunity. This presented a new feeling, an eerie one, and my feet were once again buzzing. I felt as if I could hear men whispering to me but I could not make out what it was they were saying. I had to snap a photograph of "Broadway" directly in front of us.
Broadway in B Block.
We made our way back to D Block and the cells of "the Hole". It was our opportunity to get the full effect of what was going on. Let me share a few photos with you to help you understand why this area gave me such a queasy feeling.
D Block Cells - Isolation & "the Hole"

Looking into Cell #14 - D Block. Two doors creating darkness
Lesli and I took a cell each. We wanted to stand quietly and experience what energy may still be within the cells. So we quietly stood in the back of each cell for several minutes, listening to sounds, attentive to our feelings. Outside of the cells, directly in front of #14 and #13 I again felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to hurl our lovely lunch right out onto the floor. Once inside the cells I felt differently. Each one gave me a new sensation. Cell #14 made my stomach turn. Cell #13 made me feel like I was being tricked by someone, as if I was being told one thing but realized it was another. I felt that someone was trying to fool me. I backed out and went into Cell #12, which felt lighter but still carried an energy of "doom" (the best way I can describe it). So I wandered back to Cell #14 to see if I still felt the same. Mind you, our Electromagnetic Meter (EMF) did not react in any of the cells; however it did light up and give a reading directly outside. The EMF did record each cell as 2 degrees colder than just outside of the doors. Interesting! Back in Cell #14, I felt like I was in a metal cage, and left to rot. This gave my stomach a churning feeling and again I felt myself wanting to crouch down to see if I could find relief. A pounding headache began, yet in Cell #13 I felt a spinning effect. In Cell #12, I didn't feel any of this, and it seemed to dissipate the further I went away from the two cells at the end (#14 & #13). At one point I wanted to scream out for "it" to "leave me alone"! Yet, what was "it"? Note, we could not close the cell doors. There were two sets of them. A heavy outer door with a grate over a small window, and a barred cell door (like those of the cells in the other blocks). If they had been closed, we would have been in pure darkness.. and I'm sure all the feelings of sadness, worry, anger, loneliness and madness would descend upon us. I kept hearing the "trickster" in Cell #13 trying to convince me all was fine. Of course it was not a voice speaking out loud, nor did I capture him on our digital recordings.. but I knew, he was with me.. whomever he or "it" was.

Finally it was time to leave the area and head back down to the Docks where our boat was about to arrive. It took 15 minutes to make our way back, at a brisk pace, wandering past all the areas we had explored, thinking about how truly amazing this trip had been and the new feelings we discovered coming from within. The sun was slowly beginning to drop, and although Lesli and I wanted to stay, after 5 1/2 hours we truly needed a break. There was one evening tour booked that day, but we are sure to come back to visit the Rock during the evening hours and hopefully discover more feelings and perhaps even see something unexplained. For now, this was something I can check off on my "wish list". I, sorry, We had experienced the most famous prison in the United States of America, and stood in the darkest of cells in "the Hole". WOW!

Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge (left)
Saying goodbye is never easy. I wanted to cry. Did the experience effect me deeply? Yes! Once at the Docks, Lesli & I held hands and thanked the spirits of the Rock for allowing us to visit, and let them know they were not welcome to come with us, that this was their home and they had to remain. We always put protection on us when visiting a "haunted" area, and say a closing prayer when we leave. However, we are not sure that this time they listened.. for the next morning, Lesli woke up to two large bruises on her forearms. Each looked as if someone had stood in front of her, crossed their arms over one another, grabbing hers with their hands. It was clear the bruises were of thumbs and finger prints grabbing her. They were much larger than mine or hers.

Note: We've posted an EVP caught in Cell #14 and some more photos to our Website.
A great website for information about Alcatraz: Alcatraz History
The tour we took: Alcatraz Cruises

Stay safe always! Talk soon,


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