Alcatraz is one of the most famous American prisons in history. At any given time, prisoners come from anywhere from the low of 202 residents up to a high of 302. Over 1,500 men called Alcatraz their home at one point. There were 30 inmates who were repeat customers. Cell Blocks B & C had a capacity of 336 cells. D-Block had 36 segregation cells and six solitary confinement cells. Inmates were permitted one visitor per month, and all visits had to be approved by the warden. Physical contact was not allowed between inmates and visitors and discussing prison events was prohibited.
At any given time, over 300 civilians lived on the island. This included prison staff and their families, some with children.
There were eight inmates murdered by other inmates at Alcatraz. Five men took their own lives and 15 died of natural causes. While the island does have a morgue, there are no resources to conduct on-site autopsies.
There were 36 inmates who attempted to escape. Seven of them were shot and killed during their escapes, two drowned, and five were unaccounted for but also presumed to have drowned despite contradictory evidence. These are some of the more chilling Alcatraz facts. Now, get ready for the 15 Most Chilling Photographs Taken At Alcatraz.
15. The Boss Lives Here
This dilapidated old structure once served as the warden’s house and was presumably designed to make the jailer as comfortable as possible considering he had an uncomfortable job. The first warden was nicknamed “Old Saltwater.” James Johnson was instrumental in establishing Alcatraz and the longest warden for 14 years. He has served in the position for 14 years. The former warden to Folsom and San Quentin would eat meals with the inmates unguarded. When an inmate attacked him during a meal, he didn’t change his methods. Olin Blackwell was the fourth and final warden of the famed gray bar hotel. Known as “Gypsy,” Blackwell was a heavy drinker and the most lenient of all wardens. He was in charge when inmates escaped the prison in 1962. However, he was on vacation when the escape occurred. When the cat’s away, the mice will play and the inmates will flee.
This is an assortment of actual contraband items from Alcatraz. The bucket of foreign objects consists of shivs and other instruments. Some of these articles are presumed to have been used in failed escape attempts and prison yard violence or inmate stabbings. Many of the artifacts that were recovered were stolen from other areas of the facility where the items were to be secured. Some turned out to be made by inmates. The types of things that inmates can make weapons out of are astonishing. A basic cardboard pint of milk carton could be dried out and folded in a way where it can be sharpened. You could actually kill someone with this. If inmates spent half as much time focusing their abilities on positive things instead of making a stinger to heat their coffee using a battery or tin foil, the world would be a much better place.
13. Home Sweet Home
Welcome home. If you committed a crime serious enough to make Alcatraz your new home, then this is your living quarters. You would be confined to a cell identical to the ones pictured here. These are the actual jail cells from Alcatraz. Your dwelling would have measured five feet by nine feet. Most inmates were capable of extending their arms and touching both walls in their tiny abode. The cells contained a small sink with running water and a stainless-steel toilet, with no seat cover or lid; everything you need to be miserable while you contemplate your crimes against society. You did not have a cellmate as most facilities have today. If you think this is bad, you should spend a few days in solitary confinement.
12. Al Capone
This is the inmate photo of Al Capone taken of him while he was one of the most famous residents of the clink. Capone remains to be one of the most infamous organized criminals of all time. He began his life of crime managing prostitutes before he even reached puberty. In 1924, it has been said that Capone was earning $100,000 per week from his criminal escapades. That would be an incredible income for today’s economy and equal to over $5 million annually. When you consider inflation, that will equate to around $78 million per year today. For all of his bootlegging and murder, Capone was finally pinched for income tax evasion. Capone was released in 1939 after serving most of his 11-year sentence. He died at his Miami’s Palm Island Mansion from complications due to syphilis.
11. Lamont, Ya Big Dummy
If you look closely at this inmate’s face, it appears to be somewhat bruised and battered. However, it is not. It is detached from the body. Don’t be totally grossed out though, because it’s not a real head from a real person. It is one of the dummy heads constructed by inmates and used to fool guards while they tried to escape from Alcatraz. Hey, that sounds like a title of a movie, Escape from Alcatraz. Oh, it was. That film was about Frank Morris who did break free from his captors. Along with two brothers, the trio fabricated the dummies using paint from an inmate art shop to provide a fleshy tone. Human hair from the prison barbershop was used. Ingenious when you really look at it.
10. The Green Mile
Dead men walking. Not really. But this somber image is of the remaining Alcatraz inmates leaving their old home to be relocated to other prisons. The only thing worse than being in prison is being released only to be sent to another jailing facility. It has been almost 55 years since the federal criminal housing facility closed its doors. Alcatraz was shut down because the property was decaying and insufficient funding would not have allowed for much-needed repairs. Alcatraz closed in 1963, so there would be very few inmates still alive today serving their sentence. Even the youngest Alcatraz inmates would need to be well into their seventies today. It is rumored that Frank Morris, Clarence Elgin, and John Elgin survived their escape even though federal officials stick by their theory that the men did not survive the frigid waters around the island. Despite the Fed’s claims, there is substantial evidence that the group was able to restore their liberty.
9. You Win The Lovely Set Of Steak Knives
Pictured here are actual items from the Alcatraz prison that inmates would have access to. Since the prison’s inhabitants are given job details that directly pertain to the daily operations such as cooking and serving food, some of them would have had access to these objects on a regular basis. This is how they are capable of getting tools to use in escape attempts or to assault other inmates so they may keep their status as jailhouse tough guy. This is a common practice because giving the criminals simple tasks is said to help rehabilitate them and teach them responsibility and the value of hard work. Additionally, it helps keep costs down on running the joint. On the other hand though, entrusting criminals with deadly weapons doesn’t sound like something you should do.
8. Sick Bay
This plush room is an upgrade from the standard cells. If you would like to have this cell instead of your crappy one, you would need to get stabbed in a prison yard scuffle or suffer some other sort of serious injury. This room is an infirmary cell. Inmates who need regular medical attention for a short period of time are housed here. So, this is sort of a catch-22. You would want to spend more of your time in this cell compared to the standard-issued cells. However, you would not want to endure any of the situations that would require you to be assigned here. Getting beat up is never fun, especially when it will make you look weak in the eyes of other prisoners and lead to more beatings.
If you are an inmate patient who has been classified as someone who required long-term medical attention, you will spend that time in this cell. This one is similar to the nicer cell shown in the previous subsection. Again, this is not a place you would want to be in. This cell looks much more run-down and unsanitary for medical care. When you have open wounds or any sort of immune deficiency, you don’t want to find yourself in a place that appears to be dirtier than the place you were in before you contracted your ailment. At least they won’t reuse bandages and medical wrappings on you. Well, we don’t think they did, but you would be surprised at what goes on in prisons.
6. Come & Get It
This grimy setting is that of the prison kitchen. If health inspectors took a stroll through here, it would have given other reasons to shut Alcatraz down. If the place where the food is prepared looks like this, we would hate to see what the rock is cooking. (Yeah, that was a WWE joke, but Alcatraz was known as the rock before Dwayne Johnson even was.) Seriously though, prisons often serve food that were deemed unsuitable for human consumption and are clearly labeled as such. Who are the inmates going to complain to and what rights do they really have? It happened back then, presumably at Alcatraz, and it continues to happen today at other prisons across the United States.
5. “Machine Gun” Kelly
Inmate number 117 was “Machine Gun” Kelly. Kelly was as notorious of a prohibition era mobster as Al Capone was. During his 17 years at Alcatraz, he was renamed “Pop Gun” Kelly by other inmates due to his institutionalized nature. He was a model prisoner who obeyed Alcatraz rules. His most notorious crime, which he left sufficient evidence behind leading to his eventual apprehension, was the kidnapping of oil tycoon Charles Urschel. Kelly and his gang collected a $200,000 ransom for the businessman. The machine gun ran out of bullets on July 18, 1954 due to a heart attack. This was also his 59th birthday. Happy Birthday to you, you’re dead!
4. Rec Time
This is the prison yard. This photo was taken while Alcatraz was still in business and the men seen in the picture are actual inmates of Alcatraz. This is the area where inmates would play chess, spades, or any other recreational games they had access to. Of course, though, there was probably more conspiring to escape or commit further crimes going on in this area than playing games. Your occasional prison yard brawl or shanking would take place here as well. This is the location where prisoners would have the open and easiest access to the other inmates. The mess hall or cafeteria is where the inmates would eat their meals but that area would have had guards nearby. Also, the dining space would be indoors and easier to restrain inmates. This yard could be considered both the heart of the prison for the inmates as well as the bowels.
3. The Hole
This is the door to the worst accommodations in the house. Behind this ultra-high security door is solitary confinement. It is often referred to as prison’s prison. Inmates who commit serious infractions while incarcerated would be sent here. Once behind these doors, you can expect to spend a minimum of 23 hours per day here. You are allowed out for some alone recreational time an hour per day or every few days. This location is also known as lockdown, the hole, or SHU. SHU stands for Special Housing Unit. Prisons also use this type of detainment to protect inmates who might be in grave danger if mixed in with the general population. Gambling debts, informants, child molesters, and police officers gone bad would be reasons to check in here.
2. Room Without A View
This may look like an air filter or grate, but it is the window in your cell. Don’t expect to see much out of it as the glass is secured by a metal weaving that would make even a fly’s escape difficult. There is no opening to this cell in order to get some fresh air circulating in your stinky cell. A minimal amount of sunlight would be able to get by. You won’t get a great view here, but it’s all you have. At least you get maid service, daily fresh linens, turn down service at night, and a mint on your pillow. NO, you do not! This is prison! Sleep late, lose weight. Be thankful you have a bed. Some inmates get a thin mat in county lockup and sleep on the floor.
1. Don’t Drop Your Soap
This is the communal shower area for the prisoners. This area might be even more dangerous for inmates than the rec yard. It is certainly harder to control the inmates with soap and water on the ground. If there were a situation that required guards to enter this area, they would be weighed down by wet clothing and equally vulnerable as the unclothed inmates who were bathing. This is the central spot where one inmate would attempt to stab a fellow prisoner. It provides a better atmosphere for getting with the murder or a convicted murderer. The blood would wash away, and you would be clean of visible evidence. The showers also serve as a place for inmates to prey on other incarcerated criminals by s*xually assaulting them.