The time is here. After several seasons, Ghost Hunters have reached their 100th episode. According to some, this is a milestone very few TV programs ever reach. What location does one investigate for such a huge night? Alcatraz of course. Tonight we will be honored with an hour of the Alcatraz investigation followed by another LIVE hour with Josh Gates returning to his hosting duties. Allow me to dive in to the history of Alcatraz and why so many people believe it is haunted.
Native Americans discovered the island 10,000 to 20,000 years prior to the Europeans. It is believed the Miwok and Ohlone tribes used the island as a camping spot for gathering food and marine life. Long before one single stone was laid of the believed "inescapable" prison, tradition implies the island may have also been used as a place to banish tribal members who violated tribal law. Unfortunately, oral histories have been lost and not much can be validated. Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala spent several weeks charting the San Francisco Bay. In his surveys he described a rocky island which he name "La Isla de los Alcatraces" or "The Island of Pelicans". There was much debate as to which island he was referring to but the title was given to Alcatraz.
Julian Workman was the earliest recorded owner of Alcatraz Island. He acquired it from Mexican governor Pio Pico in June 1846 for the sole purpose of building a lighthouse. The actual first lighthouse on the West Coast located on the island was built and went in to operation on June 1, 1854. Later that year, Military Governor of California, John C. Fremont, champion of Manifest Destiny and leader of the Bear Flag Republic, bought the island for $5000 in the name of the United States government from Francis Temple. The United States took possession of California on February 2, 1848 in a treaty with Mexico thus ending the Mexican War. In 1850, President Millard Filmore ordered the island be set aside for military purposes only and the US Army began studying the island for its suitability to protect the San Francisco Bay. This study led to a fort being built and completed in December 1859. During the American Civil War, Alcatraz was the largest fort west of the Mississippi River.
While Native Americans may have seen its punishment potential, the US Army only began sending soldier convicts to the fort in 1860. Over the following forty years, the it's defense purposes slowly gave way to imprisonment. However, it wasn't officially designated as a military prison until 1907 and acquired a new name in 1915, "Pacific Branch, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks". Thanks to the Spanish American War, a larger detainment unit was needed. Prisoners spent days constructing many of the buildings located on the island. The demolished Citadel, a three-story barracks, gave way to rumors of "dungeons" being located below the main cell block. The last soldiers and final military role of Alcatraz came in 1933.
A year later, the Bureau of Prisons quickly converted the aging military prison in to a maximum security, civilian penitentiary. "The prison with in the prison system" was located and designed to be virtually escape-proof. No court could sentence anyone to Alcatraz. You had to be labeled the "Most Troublesome Inmate" in your prison to get a ticket to The Rock. That is until you settle down and become civil enough to be sent back. It house such notable criminals as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud a.k.a. the Birdman of Alcatraz, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, James "Whitey" Bulger, and Alvin Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate).
The federal penitentiary provided a model for "escape-proof" prisons all over the world. However, Alcatraz was involved in fourteen separate escape attempts by thirty-six prisoners. Twenty-three men were caught. Six died by gunshot and two drown. The most infamous escape took place on June 11, 1962. Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin successfully carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. Plywood paddles and parts of the raincoat raft were discovered on nearby Angel Island but the official report states the inmates drowned while trying to reach the mainland. the Mythbusters took this escape on and determined it is quite plausible they made it to shore with their lives intact. We may never know if they actually survived or not. Some may think this little embarrassment on the prison's record led to it shutting down. However, Attorney General Robert Kennedy cited increasing maintenance and operational costs as the reason why Alcatraz ceased operations. On March 1, 1963, the last federal prisoners were removed from the island.
After laying dormant for six years, American Indians re-entered the island's history. Activists seized Alcatraz and declared it Indian Land on November 20, 1969. A group of Native Americans from various tribes relocated to the island and proposed an education center, ecology center and cultural center. The Sioux Treaty of 1868 stated that all abandoned or unused federal land adjacent to the Sioux Reservation could be reclaimed by descendant of the Sioux Nation. It was that exact reason that led to nineteen months and nine days of occupation and the damage or destruction of several buildings by fire. Though the actual origins of the fires are unknown. During the occupation, the Indian termination policy, designed to end federal recognition of tribes, was rescinded by President Richard Nixon, and the new policy of self-determination was established. The occupation ended on June 11, 1971. This occupation played a huge role in Native American rights and led to the U.S. Government returning land to several tribes as well as influencing the Longest Walk in 1985.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, was established by Congress in 1972 as a way to bring "parks to the people." Alcatraz was first opened to the people in October 1973. Each year, more than 1.3 million visitors travel to Alcatraz Island. Native Americans return to the island each November to hold a sunrise ceremony commemorating their 1969 occupation of the former prison. The lighthouse is still operational. The island’s twin foghorns still send out their throaty roars as summer fogs creep in through the Golden Gate. An added element which shrouds in Alcatraz in mystery.
There are many reports regarding Alcatraz Island's paranormal side. It has been labeled "The World's Most Haunted Prison" But will it live up to its reputation? In the Utility Corridor, Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard were shot to death during a failed prison escape. There are reports of unexplained clanging sounds coming from inside. The 1854 lighthouse was damaged in the Great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 and was demolished. Today, the old lighthouse suddenly appears followed by a strange whistling noise and a green light that travels all around the island before vanishing. One of the "hole" cells, Cell 14D, is believed to be plagued with spirits. Visitors and employees have reported cold spots and a sudden "intense" feeling in the cell. In the 1940s, an inmate located in Cell 14D screamed throughout the night that he was being killed by a creature with glowing eyes. The next day guards discovered the man strangled to death. While doing a head counts the next day, they came up with one too many prisoners. Some guards believed they saw the dead convict in line with the others a second before he vanished.
One of Alcatraz most famous convicts, Al Capone, spent his last years there. His health declined due to untreated syphilis. Fearing he would be killed during his recreational time in the "yard", he took up banjo playing in a prison band and was allowed to practice in the shower room. In recent years, visitors and employees have reported hearing banjo music emanating from the shower room and prison walls. Other paranormal reports include ghostly apparitions of former prisoners and military personnel, whistling, orbs, doors clanging, men screaming, crying, moaning, the smell of smoke in the absence of fire and intense feels of being watched.