The Alcatraz experience

Most people have heard about Alcatraz if I would guess. The brutal history of a federal penitentiary. At first it was a lighthouse, a military fortification and a military prison (in 1868). And in 1934 (to 1963), «the rock» as they called Alcatraz, turned in to a federal prison, for all the convicted that no other prison could hold.

The ferry leaves Pier 33 in the San Fransisco bay. I was lucky to get a ticket, and made it out to the island after a 10-15 min trip with the ferry. We got a debrief from a national park ranger, and then everyone headed off to wherever we wanted to go.

Even when I arrived on a bright sunny day, I could feel the vibe over this place. I started walking towards the top. Going through some interesting hallways and corridors.

«At 9:40 am on August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived at Alcatraz, arriving by railroad from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas at Santa Venetia, California, before being escorted to Alcatraz, handcuffed in high security coaches and guarded by some 60 special FBI agents, U.S. Marshals and railway security officials. Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers and murderers.» – Source

I’ve never been on an audio tour before, so doing that here gave me a whole new experience. They even had some of the prisoners talking on the audio.

And we were taken around in the prison as they told us on the audio about the escape attempt in May 1946. That ended quite brutally, and both guards and inmates were killed and injured. And the escape of three inmates in 1962, that is still considered fugitives today.

On the picture above, you can see where the entrance is (where the people are the furthest away). From there, you have a beautiful view out towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Fransisco. Where the inmates got a constant reminder on how close they are to a normal life, but still so far away. And they could even hear the laughter and people cheering from the bay, when the wind was blowing from that direction.

It’s a beautiful place with a terrible history. A place with a lot of pain. And you can feel that to the bone. The vibe in this place. I can definitely recommend going here. It is an experience itself.

After the tour, I bought a book – «Alcatraz from inside» by Jim Quillen, which was the prisoner AZ-586, and arrived at «the rock» at the age of 22. He was an inmate there from 1942 to 1952. Nearly finished reading the whole book this first week. And it’s fascinating to see the story from a different side, from an inmates side.

I didn’t have too big expectations going in here. But it definitely caught me off guard, and was so much better than what I first thought. And I hope you will feel the same way if you go here as well.

 

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