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We would like to express our thanks to the
Golden Gate National
Recreation Area, The Alcatraz Island Park Rangers and all of our special
friends and guests that helped us enable this incredible experience.
Karen Mossey and Mike Sullivan
Alcatraz - San Francisco Ca.
Part I: Pre Investigation: The History Of Alcatraz Island
Part II: Investigation Report
April 12th, 2008
Part I: Pre Investigation: The History of Alcatraz Island
(What we might or might not want to know before the overnight)
Written by Karen Mossey
An opportunity of a lifetime has presented itself and, as luck would have it, we are going to do an overnight investigation, Saturday 4-12-2008 on the notorious “Rock”, Alcatraz Island in San Francisco California. While there, we have also arranged for an investigation at the very haunted Presidio and will be staying in the Queen Anne Hotel which was featured in the television special “ Haunted Hotels. “ With all of this I certainly hope to present you with many future Stateline write-ups featuring the experiences and paranormal evidence we hope to capture.
Joining me on this incredible adventure will be my very good friends and fellow researchers Mike Sullivan and Leo Monfet and his wife Linda from New England and several notables from the paranormal community throughout the United States. We are very excited for this, once in a lifetime, adventure and amazing opportunity. We may even bump into the Ghost of Al “Scarface” Capone or the other notorious criminals who spent hard time there. So let’s begin with the history of Alcatraz so that you may better understand the fascination it holds for paranormal investigators.
Alcatraz Island is now considered a National Park and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Every year over a million tourists visit Alcatraz, but very few will have an opportunity such as ours to stay overnight and perhaps come face to face with whatever residual energy that remains there , permeating the very walls of this former containment chamber for the hardest of convicted criminals.
Alcatraz had the reputation as one of the toughest federal prisons in America during its operation from 1934 to 1963. Some have nicknamed it “Hellcatraz.” Notorious criminals such as Robert Stroud, also known as “ the Birdman of Alcatraz,” Al “ Scarface” Capone, George “ Machine Gun” Kelly and Henry Young were all inmates of Alcatraz and have been the subject of many books and movies about their incorrigible crimes and confinement within the walls of this isolated and mysterious island penitentiary. It is said that even the President of the United States needed to give advance notice to visit Alcatraz. Alcatraz was said to be “the last stop for the nation’s worst criminals. Much of the harsh conditions, touch discipline and rigid routine is said to be exaggerated but whatever the truth is must surely remain within the dark walls and cells of this now silent and auspicious place.
Originally discovered in 1775 by the Spanish, the island was named “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which means the Island of the Pelicans.” It was a barren island surrounded by the swift currents of the San Francisco Bay. In 1847 the US Army took control of Alcatraz and used it as a strategic military fortification. As the “Gold Rush” hit the west coast it became imperative for the United States to protect its land from foreign seizure and Alcatraz became a symbol of military strength for the western U.S.
Because of its strategic location and surrounded by freezing cold waters and treacherous undertows and currents it was an ideal place to contain prisoners and in 1861 it became a Civil War prison and in 1898 for prisoners of the Spanish American War. By the 1920’s the prison was at full capacity and tales have been told of extremely harsh conditions of confinement for the prisoners. Alcatraz was said to have had underground dungeons where the most unruly and uncooperative prisoners were held in heavy shackles and chains in total darkness with only bread and water to eat.
Efforts were made later to beautify the island and soil, plants and flowers were brought in and conditions improved but when the Great Depression hit the country there was a surge in gang warfare and horrific violence and crimes and the country sought, desperately, to take back control of America’s “ Heartland” and Alcatraz became the detention facility of choice. It was meant to have a reputation to be so terrifying a prison that it took on the nickname of “Uncle Sam’s devils Island.” The prison underwent extensive, escape proof, security upgrades that made it impervious to any escape attempts from the structure itself and further impossible to get off the island due to the natural barrier of icy, tumultuous bay waters. Conditions at Alcatraz were so strict, rigid and monotonous , day after day and year after year even to the point of not being allowed to speak or face severe consequences, that some of the prisoners, it is said, went insane. Every prisoner had a single cell which was a further measure for which the prison isolated these hardened criminals. Inmates were counted every half hour. Visits were allowed once a month and all mail and reading material was screened and even rewritten.
There were 14 escape attempts from Alcatraz; most ending with failure, capture or death. Most of those that managed to make it as far as the water were drowned in their pursuit toward the main land. Alcatraz had a ratio of 1 guard to every 3 inmates. Many of the officers lived on the island with their families. The civilian population and housing was completely isolated from the inmate population and life for the families was said to be good.
From 1969 to 1971 a Native American, Richard Oakes, and his supporters laid claim to the island as theirs. The Federal government initially tried to disband the inhabitation but eventually agreed to listen to their demands hoping the desire to occupy the island would wane. In a short time there were arguments that sprung up between the groups and several left the island. Oakes, himself, left after the tragic death of his 13 year old stepdaughter from a fall on the prison stairwell. The island soon became a stopping ground for the homeless vagrants and a haven for the drug culture of the time. Eventually the colonization by the Native Americans fell into disarray with the open use of drugs, vandalism and destruction of property. In order to take back control of the island the government cut electricity and the fresh water supply to Alcatraz. Three days after this embargo a fire erupted on the island and destroyed several buildings and caused extensive damage to the 1854 lighthouse.
The occupation of the island ended in January 1971 but Native American recognition was brought to the attention of society and resulted in the procurement of land, a Native American University and the establishment of a bureau for Native American affairs.
In 1972 Alcatraz became part of the National Park Service under the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and after several renovations opened as a tourist attraction in 1973. But even with its gorgeous view of San Francisco, wildlife and gardens now on Alcatraz, the haunting images of the prison and those that spent their lives there is a reality that can never be forgotten.
We are very excited to have this opportunity to investigate what has been said to be one of “The most haunted places in the Nation,” Alcatraz Island. Some have described it as a “portal” to another dimension. Stories of Hauntings have been passed down over 100’s of years. Native American’s have told of evil spirits on the island. Officers and residents of the island during its day as Federal prison spoke of cries and moans, doors and cells opening and slamming shut, foul smells and black shadows, cold air and apparitions moving quickly past them. Even non believers spoke of hearing voices. Visitors have smelled gun powder and some have even heard the sounds of cannons being fired.
Probably the most haunted section of the prison is “D” Block. This was reserved for the most serious offenders. (Incidentally, this is where we are slated to sleep; each of us having our own individual cell. Aren’t we lucky? ) “D” block was also known as the “Hole”. Some of “D” block was so severe that in particular cells prisoners were placed naked in a pitch black, cold cell with no sink or toilet but just a hole in the floor to go to the bathroom. It is said that one prisoner was found dead one morning with hand prints around his neck but that no signs of anyone having been in there with him were found.
Cells 12 and 14D are noted for being the most active. (I wonder if this will be my assigned cell…Yikes). People have said that the feeling in this cell is so profound and intense that even Park rangers do not like to enter it alone.
“C” block is also reported to be haunted. It is here that three inmates were shot to death in a failed escape attempt. Another prisoner nicknamed “The Butcher,” was murdered in the laundry room by another inmate.
Voices, screams, misty apparitions, clanging noises and cold spots are experienced throughout Alcatraz and we are sure to be part of these ghostly phenomena upon our investigation and overnight stay there. We are truly looking forward to this fascinating step back in time and a very haunted experience.
Look for the follow-up of our
experience at Alcatraz in next months Stateline Review , followed in the ensuing
months by our Queen Mary Hotel and Presidio Investigations. We are very excited
for this incredible opportunity to visit some of the most haunted places in the
Country in the very Haunted city of San Francisco.
All right reserved
Part II: The Investigation - Alcatraz 04-12-2008
Written by Karen Mossey
Well things could not have been more perfect for our incredible expedition to San Francisco for our overnight investigation at the former Federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island. From the start to the finish everything was fantastic; our flight to and from, the weather(which was unseasonably warm for San Francisco this time of year), our good friends who joined us for the investigation, our stay in the haunted Queen Anne Hotel, a night investigating the very haunted former military base The Presidio, and Alcatraz which completely lived up to it’s haunted reputation and exceptional paranormal phenomena.
With all of the evidence collected, I will have an entire write up for the Queen Anne and the Presidio in the upcoming months issues of the State Line Review. So stay tuned for these exciting adventures that were all part of this most amazing excursion into the paranormal.
Alcatraz was everything we expected and more. We headed off to the island on a glorious 80 degree day. Our ferry, exclusively for us, afforded us with a beautiful trip across the ocean bay waters. We could see the city of San Francisco leave us behind and the island of Alcatraz approaching in the distance. Of course, our adrenaline started surging as we got nearer to the notorious Alcatraz Federal Prison once known as “Uncles Sam’s Devils Island,” and “ Hellcatraz.” The long gone cries from prisoners behind bars in this desolate place seemed to be calling us to the island. Once we arrived on the dock we were greeted by the very upbeat, high energy and good looking “Ranger George.” What a wealth of information this man had for us about the island, and his passion for his job and Alcatraz was clearly obvious as he introduced himself and the prison to us. There were so many tourists visiting the island but we were “special,” though some might not think sleeping overnight in pitch black in a single solitary cell called the “hole” in D Block on Alcatraz would be very special at all. But for us this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I was thankful to have been the lucky lottery winner that enabled this incredible adventure.
So we locked up our equipment, stored our food for dinner, grabbed our cameras and set off to get acquainted with this Island and it’s tell tale structures. Ranger George has us do a bit of penance for the well being of Alcatraz, (LOL) by handing us all one rubber glove each and putting us into groups of four to do our service project of trash pickup for an hour. But the island is amazingly clean and well maintained so it was hard to find enough to fill the bag. From our perspective, it was a great opportunity to see the island, the prison and the accompanying buildings, some of which only the burned out shell remained from times that destroyed several buildings during the Native American occupation of Alcatraz. The graffiti from this occupation still remains embedded in the structures on Alcatraz. Even the spray painted words on the water tower reminded us of that time in history. Ranger George told us it is significant to the history of Alcatraz that the graffiti remains undisturbed. The lighthouse, though partially rebuilt, continues to beam its uninterrupted flash from Alcatraz reminding those in the city of the prison that used to confine the most incorrigible of criminals.
Following our service project, we were allowed to join all of the other tourists on an audio-visual walking tour of the prison. Here we learned the history of the island, the Federal penitentiary and the Native American occupation. We had a guided tour of every cell block, familiarizing ourselves with the prisoners that were held there, escape attempts, murders, deaths and suicides. In addition to the jail, we saw the showers, chow hall and administration building while on the tour. The Golden Gate National Parks and Recreation Commission has done a fabulous job at recreating the prison as it was in it’s active days, with cells still set up the way the prisoners had them, the kitchen settings and accessories readied for food preparation and the administration building left as it was as the control room for the prison but additionally made into a museum of photos and artifacts from the prison.
The island has become a bird sanctuary and the smell of flora and greenery which is so well maintained fills the airs and delighted our sense of smell as we walked about. From the island the view of San Francisco is absolutely breath-taking and even more so at night which we, as the overnighters, would be privy to see.
After finishing the public tour we had our time to visit the Alcatraz gift shop which has some awesome souvenirs and prison and island memorabilia.
The last tourist group left the island at 7:30 and then, along with Ranger George, who would do a personal tour with us to those places on Alcatraz the public never see’s, the island and prison would be ours until the next morning. Even better and more exciting was that after the ranger left us to retire for the evening at 11:00 PM it would be lights out in “D” block and the prison would be entirely ours. The ranger would leave the infirmary door open for us to explore as well as the prison cell block, kitchen and showers. It is a really big place, especially in minimal lighting. How very cool for the passionate paranormal adventurer.
Each one of us was given a thin mattress should we decide to take a nap in between our investigating; as if any of us would really want to sleep away any of this golden opportunity to investigate Alcatraz. But just in case we needed a few winks, the mattress was there. Conditions were perfect. It was a clear and warm day and night. We had all night and into the wee hours of the morning to do our investigating but come 7:30 AM we needed to be up and ready to go and board the ferry soon after to leave the island. Thinking back, it was like land of the living dead looking at all of us the next morning looking like totally sleep-deprived zombies. But everyone was so great. Really the best of the best were on this paranormal adventure and the entire investigation went perfect and without a hitch.
The paranormal evidence gathered was so incredible, from clear EVP to shadows, apparitions and residual sounds of cell doors opening and closing during the night.
As winner of the lottery, I was allowed to have 1st choice of the cell I wanted to bunk in and I chose cell # 12. Cells 9 through 14 were known as the “hole.” In these cells prisoners who disobeyed were thrown into total darkness with just a hole in the floor to go to the bathroom in. Cell # 12, where I was, is the cell portrayed in the movie “Escape from Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood. Eastwood portrayed an actual prisoner, Frank Morris, whom, along with his brother and one other inmate, dug their way out in an escape attempt from Alcatraz with spoons they smuggled from the chow hall. It is believed that, even though they made it to the bay and escaped from the prison in rafts made of raincoats; they perished in the treacherous, shark infested ocean waters of San Francisco bay. Their bodies were never found but the remnants of the raft were discovered washed up on a nearby island. Even today there is a $2000 dollar reward for their capture and return.
My experience in cell #12 was an amazing one, which I later discovered, was experienced similarly by Debbie Constantino who was with her husband Mark in cell #10. Mike Sullivan, my research partner, was in cell #11 and your very own Stateline Review Editor, Leo Monfet and his wife Linda were in #14.
At about 2:30 AM we took a break from investigating and sat down in Leo’s cell to playback some of our EVP (electronic voice phenomena) evidence and I started to get a little tired. I decided to lie down for a little while on my mattress in my respective cell # 12 to regenerate and then get back up and start investigating again. I held my flashlight in one hand and my cell phone in the other and set my phone alarm to wake me up. Of course, my eyes were closed but who could really sleep in this amazing and very dark place. I kept hearing the sounds of cell doors opening and closing and all sorts of bangs as I lay there. At about 3:00 AM I felt this pressure on top of me as if someone was laying down right on top of me. I felt myself sink down into the mattress as it went down and then slowly back up as if someone got back up and off of me. It happened so suddenly that the fear did not register until afterwards. At this point, having realized the paranormal encounter I had just had, I was too scared to turn on my flashlight lest I might see something I didn’t want to see at the moment. So, I just held tightly onto my flashlight and cell phone and mentally repeated the “Lord’s Prayer” about 50 times over and over in my head to keep my mind busy, protect myself and suppress my fear enough to regroup. I laid still for awhile and nothing more happened so I slowly got up and sat in my cell alone in the pitch black until I got up enough courage to turn on my flashlight, By this time the sun was slowly coming up and I decided I might as well just get up.
During the course of the night and early morning investigation we found our way to several very active areas in the penitentiary.
I started off joining several other investigators in the infirmary near the examination table and proceeded from there to the pharmacy, x-ray room, dental room and several other areas in the infirmary and psychiatric ward. The rooms seemed endless. There was a separate shower area in this part of the prison, and it seemed so strange to see cell bars on a shower. Probably the most interesting cell in this area of the prison was the cell of Robert Stroud, also known as the “ birdman of Alcatraz;” although Ranger George informed us that Stroud never kept birds in his cell on Alcatraz – only wrote journals on diseases of birds. Stroud was at Alcatraz for committing multiple murders. He had been transferred to Alcatraz from Leavenworth after he murdered a prison guard there. He was so psychotic that he not only had bars on his cell but a solid metal door closing over the bars to prevent him from throwing things, even his own feces, at guards and medical staff.
I captured several interesting EVP throughout the prison. One EVP was captured in the group prisoners shower area. Leo and I were sitting down and recording here and I heard an EVP, on playback, that sounded like a wise crack remark which would be typical of a prisoners personality that said “ Hey..I’m Pregnant!” I guess this entity might have been being humorous or perhaps it was residual energy from a remark mentioned long ago by a prisoner. Another EVP in this area said “I was naked!” What an appropriate comment for the shower area.
One of the very interesting parts of our Alcatraz experience was when Ranger George took us to the underground Citadel which dates back to the Civil War. He showed us the cells that were used for the prisoners during this time in history. In one cell you could see lines that had been scratched into the walls by the prisoners that had been imprisoned there. These lines marked the number of days that the prisoner had been incarcerated in the cell. Many of these men died of diseases which ran rampant in confined areas such as tuberculosis.
Another place we were privileged to enter was the morgue. These are the places that the public does not get to see and was a real special experience for us. The morgue, just by its connotation would give anyone a spooky feeling when standing and observing the slabs and freezers where the bodies were placed and stored.
Alcatraz was an experience of a lifetime and ranks up there with one of the best memories as well as a compilation of some of the best paranormal evidence and experiences I have ever had. Is Alcatraz haunted? You bet it is!!! If such an opportunity should ever present itself to me again in the future I will be there in a heartbeat. (Although I am sure my heart skipped a couple beats during some of my encounters there.)
I look forward to telling you all about more paranormal experiences we encountered at the two other interesting and very haunted places we investigated during our trip to San Francisco: the former military base, The Presidio and the Queen Anne Hotel.
So I will meet you back here next month between the pages of the Stateline Review for more tales from haunted San Francisco
Copyright Karen Mossey
All rights reserved.
It's Ray - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in response to his request for names.
Alive - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in Robert Stroud's cell, located in the hospital/infirmary.
Hey, I'm Pregnant - Recorded by Karen Mossey in the general prison shower area. It seems this wisecracking spirit has a sense of humor.
Mary Mick - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in response to his request for names.
I Was Naked - Recorded by Karen Mossey in the hospital/infirmary shower located next to Robert Stroud's cell.
Stop Poking - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in the hospital/infirmary.
Get Off - Recorded by Karen Mossey in the hospital/infirmary.
I'm In - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in front of cells 403 & 404. This is where officers were locked up & shot during the Battle Of Alcatraz in 1946.
Get Out - Recorded by Mike Sullivan.
Frank - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in response to his request for names.
I Hear You - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in the morgue. The speaker is Tom Stone. Tom asks "Do You Like Being On This Island". After a short pause a spirit says "I Hear You".
I'll Be Good - Recorded by Mike Sullivan in the morgue. This is the same clip as above. He was using a second recorder as a control device to verify any voices captured are evp. On this recorder, "I Hear You" is not heard. Instead another spirit says "I'll Be Good"
Recorded by Mike Sullivan in the morgue. The speaker is Tom Stone. Tom asks for someone to knock if they are present with us and two knocks are heard. A second recorder confirmed that no audible knocking occurred. Note: We've amplified the two knocks for better clarity.
|This photo was taken by Karen Mossey. There appears to be a few entities making their presence known in the window.||
Another interesting picture taken by Karen.
On the right side of the photo there appears to be the head of a man peering out of the cell. There's also an image on the lower left side, mid center.
Close Ups / Enhanced
Left Photo :
Mike, Karen & Leo the day before the Alcatraz overnight.
Right: Our Group, just before we boarded the boat on Sunday to return to San Francisco.
When the last boat had left we were allowed to choose our cells in D Block
Karen's Cell #12
Cells 9 through 14 were used for Solitary Confinement and were referred to as "The Hole"
Mike's Cell #11
Here Are Pictures Of Areas Not Normally Seen When Visiting Alcatraz
Cell Block A
The oldest of the four cell blocks, it still has the flat-iron bars. It was used as a study area when Alcatraz became a Federal prison in 1934.
Hospital / Infirmary
Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, spent six years in segregation in D Block, and eleven years in the prison hospital (lower left photo).
Beneath The Cell House
Note: The writing on the ceiling in the upper right photo was done during the historic Indian Occupation (1969 - 1971)
Power Plant / Maintenance Area
Copyright 2008. Karen Mossey/Mike Sullivan. All rights reserved.