I'm on vacation this week, and my husband and I took a short trip to San Francisco for the sole purpose of touring Alcatraz Island. Just getting there was an adventure in itself, but I won't bore you with the particulars of that leg of the journey.
I never realized the close proximity between the island and the city of San Francisco until we were on the ferry. I can understand how torturous it must have been for those in the D block cells (solitary confinement) to be able to see, and at times hear, the activity of a very much alive and bustling city; so close, and yet: so far. Sounds cliché, but one need only make the trip to comprehend the truth of those words.
While the weather in the Bay Area rivaled that of my current hometown of Las Vegas, an eerie fog rolled over and enshrouded the island. Standing on the landing dock and looking at the sky, we could literally see the fog rolling in the sky overhead. The wind blew constantly, and chilled me to the bone, having forgotten my jacket in the hotel room in Oakland haha. Still, those who weren't suffering the same bout of forgetfulness were feeling the chill as well.
Regrettably, we had to opt for the afternoon tour, as the night tour had been booked well in advance. It was an audio tour, and we were each given a headset at the beginning, which I chose not to use. I think I was probably the only one to make such a choice, but I didn't want anything to interfere with what I might hear.
Our plans to visit in the middle of September panned out really well, as I was very appreciative of the lack of children present. Nothing against kids, but they can cause unnecessary distractions. The tour rules recommend that children be at least 9 years old, as it is quite a big place, and younger, smaller children would become bored and restless. The rules are very strict about unruly children, that unruliness isn't tolerated. There were only three children I saw the entire time I was on the island: one baby in a carrier, and a boy in a wheelchair accompanied by his brother.
I mention the lack of children because my first "experience" involved hearing children laughing and playing in the area between the door to the outside recreation area and the mess hall (nicknamed "Times Square"). There, also, is the stairway to the upper floors of the "A" block. I heard them twice as we walked around that area. My research hasn't divulged any reports of child ghosts; but it is a fact that during the Native American occupation of the island during the late 1960's a 13 year old girl fell three floors to her death down a stairwell. The stairwell in question has never been mentioned, but I believe it is the one at the end of cell block A, where I heard the children.
The tour of blocks A, B and C over, we proceeded to the infamous D block. I expected a dark, dreary dungeon-like atmosphere, but was surprised at how well lit the hall was. It was depressing though, since the light was from the nearly two stories of windows that the upper level cells faced, giving the prisoners full view of the Bay and the city. Torture, indeed.
With the exception of one cell on the ground level, all of the cells were dubbed "the hole". Here in D block, many men lost their sanity, and a few their very lives. I won't go into the history of these cells, as Google is a great source for that. But I will say that 14D is known to have claimed the life of one, who, screaming in terror throughout the night that he was being attacked by a demon, was found dead in the morning with evidence of having been strangled.
The first cell on the ground floor is just like all the others in the prison. It was here though, that I refused to enter. My husband wanted to get a picture of me behind the bars, but I could not allow myself to enter this cell. Twice he insisted; and twice I said, "F**k that! I'm not going in there!" I felt a fear like I've never known, and a complete aversion to take even one step inside. I did however, go into 14D, and snapped a few pictures. Still had a very depressing feeling, but no fear like the first cell.
On our way back to the landing dock we saw the tiny outbuilding that was the morgue. We got in line to view the inside, and I was really excited. (I have a somewhat morbid side, as I'm sure more than a few of you can relate to!) The outside door to the building has been removed, and a sheet of plexi-glass placed over the opening. The room itself is below ground level, and one can peer through the glass to the room below. Taking any kind of picture through the plexi-glass is futile, as the distortions are ridiculous. There is, however, a small space at the top just large enough for the lens of my camera. So I took two through the glass, and two through the small opening. I think you'll find this series of photos interesting. Some of the emotions I felt as I peered into this hole were: grossed out, sad, happy, lonely, fearful, and finally relief, like I had been set free; all in a matter of seconds.
It was a great trip, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I can cross off two entries on my list of "places to visit before I die"!