San Francisco, California
The “Rock,” the name given to Alcatraz Penitentiary, was the ultimate American prison. It was the place where scores of the country’s worst criminal offenders, bloodletters, badmen and escaped artists called the end of the line. Although it started as a military prison, for 29 years the prison kept the country’s most notorious lawbreakers – including Al Capone, Doc Barker, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and others – confined behind stone walls. The initial prison was built in 1859 but fell into disuse by the 1920s. It was then re-opened in 1933 to be an escape-proof federal prison. It was a brutal place of punishment and confinement with few privileges. Suicide, murder and even insanity became common. In 1946, several inmates attempted a violent and bloody escape from the Rock, but failed. There were a handful of other attempts, but only one successful escape in 1962 when three bank robbers, using handmade rubber rafts and dummies with real human hair, vanished into the dark waters of the bay. Alcatraz was closed down one year later, in 1963. Regarded as one of America’s most haunted places, ghosts have been widely reported ever since, even by staff members of the National Park Service, which now operates the property. Ghosts have been sighted, along with strange sounds, screams, yells, weeping and eerie music.