Alcatraz is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. People ferry over to this old prison to learn about its rich history. Many of them also come because they have heard rumors that this place is haunted. Even if they don’t feel the spirits that are supposed to be haunting this place, they are interested in learning about it. Although the thirty years that the federal prison was in operation at Alcatraz is really only a blip in the island’s history, it’s the era that most visitors want to know about. It’s no surprise, then, that the most famous ghosts that supposedly haunt this island are the prisoners who were once contained within its walls.
Here’s a look at five famous prisoners that people say haunt the halls and cells of Alcatraz to this day:
1. Al Capone
This gangster is arguably the most famous prisoner to have been housed at Alcatraz. Learning about him is a favorite part of the island’s audio tour for many visitors. Although what he was actually sent to prison for was tax evasion, he was a mobster who was likely engaged in many different types of crime. He’s famous for his criminal acts and he’s also famous for supposedly haunting the prison where he stayed the longest (Alcatraz). Some people say that they see strange white orbs when they pass his old cell, a phenomenon that has been attributed to his ghost’s activity in the area. More commonly, though, people claim to hear banjo music resonating throughout the prison. As Capone got older, his mind started to go and he became paranoid that people were after him. He refused to go out into the prison yard and was often found hiding out inside the prison playing his banjo to stay sane.
2. Robert “Birdman” Stroud
The “Birdman of Alcatraz” is another one of the most notorious prisoners in the short history of Alcatraz. He gained international attention for studying ornithology while he was incarcerated. That’s how he got the nickname “The Birdman”. However, he didn’t actually complete these studies at Alcatraz. He studied birds when he was at Leavenworth prison in the Midwest. Later, he was moved to Alcatraz where there was no opportunity for him to continue these studies but Alcatraz is a much more famous prison so the nickname “Birdman of Alcatraz” stuck. The Birdman was released from Alcatraz but many people say that his spirit never left. People are convinced that they hear him calling his birds. It’s easy to see why you might hear this if you go to Alcatraz, the wind whipping around this chilly island creates a lot of strange sounds. But could the famous old prisoner really still be there in spirit?!
3. Abie “Butcher” Maldowitz
Abie “Butcher” Maldowitz probably would not even have become a famous prisoner if it weren’t for the fact that his ghost was found to be haunting the prison. His story was an average story of a convicted felon ending up in Alcatraz’s prison for his crimes. He would have probably been forgotten except that famous medium Sylvia Brown says that she discovered his spirit in a cell there. She had been called in to discern whether the weird activities that people were saying they had experienced at Alcatraz were really signs of ghosts. Indeed, she felt the presence of a man and an unusual amount of violence in certain areas of the prison. The man was identified as hit man Butcher Maldowitz.
4. Rufe McCain
This is another prison who would not likely have become famous if it hadn’t been for the fact that he supposedly haunts Alcatraz. In fact, he’s the most famous ghost of Alcatraz because he has been reported to be seen or felt there so many times. The signs of his presence include such things as the fact that his old cell always remains icy cold, people feel significantly strong emotions when they step into that cell and some old guards reportedly saw glowing red eyes coming out of this cell when it was an active prison. A strange murder that occurred during the active prison years gave more fodder to the story that McCain was still haunting the area because guards blamed his ghost for committing the act! There are some wild stories surrounding this prisoner; they may or may not be true but they’re certainly interesting.
5. Escapees Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard
Take the Alcatraz tour and you will hear all about these three guys. That’s because they’re the guys that tried to escape from Alcatraz in a famous prison break. They hid out in a utility corridor which was eventually bombed by grenades to get them out. Before they were killed, they managed to kill a couple of guards. People say that the violence surrounding their deaths is the reason that their spirits continue to haunt the prison to this day. A night watchman was the first to report that he could still hear clanging in that old utility corridor thirty years later. Others have also reported strange sounds coming from here that are attributed to the ghosts of these three men.
Maybe you believe in ghosts and wonder if it’s true that these guys are haunting Alcatraz today. But even if you don’t, the ghost stories that people tell about Alcatraz can provide a great education for you into the history of the most famous prisoners that were kept there.
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Travel-Wise on April 18, 2017:
Ghost stories, walks and tours are a really interesting way to learn about the history of some places (in this case people). I can only imagine that Alcatraz would be full of fascinating stories!
Christine OBrien from Milton, NY on April 16, 2013:
great HUB! i have a admire for the paranormal to hauntings and even the history of many hauntings around the world. most people don't know that Alcatraz is still haunted to this day.
email@example.com on December 20, 2012:
I don't know the reason the so called "Birdman of Alcatraz" was in prison in the first place, but he was NOT the kindly grandfather figure he is belived to be. He was a PERVERT! He wrote stories of using little kids to rape.
Mónica on September 06, 2012:
I want to go too,
Just visiting! :o
fonzmc original on April 14, 2012:
really interesting hub.tanx for saying alcatrazhistory.com must cheack it out.
great help for me as i am doing a project on alcatraz and needed more info
cody on April 10, 2012:
he is bad
cookie on March 21, 2012:
Wow,This is very interesting i want to go there someday :)
alli on January 25, 2012:
wow. didn't know this much!
calli on January 02, 2012:
im going there in two weeks excited but... mervous!
Samantha on December 13, 2011:
Read the book and it was so good. But this was a little better.
captin under pants on October 04, 2011:
Katerina on August 28, 2011:
Ah! I just went to Alcatraz today! and i'm pretty sure my mom caught a picture of the ghost
there was no light reflection on one of the wall pictures but my mom took a picture of it twice, once with flash, once without
and both times there was a white orb light in the picture which shouldn't have been there if no flash was used
noneya on August 15, 2011:
im trying to find out who willie one arm is. He was a con in alcatraz, but i can not find more info. i checked the alcatraz website but they apparently have no info on him or william radkay who also was a prisoner. Maybe they dont have all the inmates? i have no clue, i think his real name was William Steward but again not sure please help.
Jenny Calender on June 16, 2011:
Wow, enlightening! Always wonder about this place for some reason.
goody7 from over there under the sycamore tree on April 09, 2011:
This was a very interesting hub from start to finish. I find this topic to be totally fascinating, and I put a link from your hub to my own ghostly hub. This should increase the traffic to all of your hubs about ghost, not that you really need the help from what I've already seen & read. If you don't like the link, then just please let me know & I'll remove it for you. Keep on hubbing.
cul8ter on March 31, 2011:
missymoo from Kent, UK on March 02, 2011:
Great hub - I love anything to do with hauntings in famous places. And what better place to haunt than Alcatraz?
Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on February 19, 2011:
I can understand the concept of a ghost haunting the place where they died, how horrible to be doomed in death to haunt the place where you were held as a prisioner in life. Fascinating hub.
Brittany on August 06, 2010:
The Al Copone & The Birdman statements are somewhat false. On the Alcatraz site you can read about boths time spent their. & The Birdman was never released bc he died at Alcatraz. & Copone was arrested for multiple reasons but his arrest was brought to consideration by President Herbert Hoover who was outraged after The St. Valentine's Day Massacre & the secretary of treasury maintained evidence which exploited his gang affiliations, bootlegging, prostitution rings, and flagrant evasion of taxes. & was sent to Alcatraz bc of his manipulations with the wardens of the prisons before. alcatrazhistory.com if you're interested in learning more about there time spent.
captain planet on June 29, 2010:
****** on April 28, 2010:
I NEED TO SEE THIS!!!
Alya rose from From beyond the reeds on February 27, 2010:
very interesting,i will have to visit someday.
JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on February 25, 2010:
great Hub! Very Interesting!
sheila b. on February 24, 2010:
I'm not sure about ghosts, but open to the idea. In this case, my question is why would a ghost want to stay in a prison?
cosette on February 24, 2010:
fun hub! can people tour Alcatraz these days? it would be an interesting excursion...