We did the Alcatraz night tour (which starts at 4:20 :) Everyone recommended we do the night tour because apparently there aren’t as many people (almost 2/3 less) and also they let you into parts of the prison that aren’t open during the day. Yippee!
First let me say that there is only ONE company who will take you to the Alcatraz Island. They are called Alcatraz Cruises. There are lots of other boats that advertise as a Alcatraz tour but they just go around the island. Alcatraz Cruises is the ONLY one who is allowed to drop off people at The Rock.
While we were standing in line to get on the boat these sweet ladies came up to tell me how much they love my books. How cute are they? They were in town for The Green Festival.
Dang. I wish I had known about the festival … I would have planned my trip around it. 🙁
The tour starts right as you get on the boat and over the loud-speaker they start giving you information about Alcatraz Island.
As an adult – I find history (of any kind) endlessly fascinating … probably because when I was in high-school I wasn’t paying attention because I was too busy writing distraught love letters to my abusive boyfriend so therefore I don’t know ANY history. Now as a level headed adult – I try and soak up as much as I can. 🙂
Right when you dock you see this building with “Indians Welcome” spray-painted on the wall. I was like “huh?” … I found out later that a group of Native Americans occupied Alcatraz in 1969-71 (I told you I didn’t pay attention in history class). You can read more about it HERE.
They warn you that the walk up to the main prison is steep and Jane recently had surgery on her knee (remember when the tour was canceled?) so we took the tram (aka golf cart) up the hill.
You first enter Alcatraz through the entrance that all new prisoners entered. You get to see where they picked up their prison clothing, etc.
And that’s where you pick up your head-sets for the audio tour. I really enjoyed the audio tour. It had sound-effects and the voices in the tour are former inmates or guards testifying to their experiences. It’s fascinating …
First stop was to look at a cell. I said to Gerry “Is this a holding cell? How could someone live in there?”
It was indeed a cell. About 5 feet x 9 feet. This is what the cell looks like with the bed-frame.
After the first few cells you line up under the sign to “start” your audio tour. I am NOT good in crowds and I thought the tour was going to be a total clusterf**k so we took a few minutes to let everyone pass through and once the glut of people started to dissipate we started our audio tour.
I can’t imagine what the tour must be like during the day …
While we were waiting for everyone to pass … we went and looked at this section of the prison. These are cells that they stopped using due to a flaw in the bars. They lay flat against the door frame and I guess it made it easier to break out off. I recognized this section right away from the movie The Rock when Nic Cage is yelling at Sean Connery … meanwhile Sean uses his bedding to escape from the cell. I fracking love that movie. 🙂
Then we looked at the isolation cell.
It was terrifying … the man on the audio tour explained how once they closed the door and he was in the dark he would rip a button off his uniform and drop it on the floor. Then crawl around trying to find it. Once he found it – he would drop it again … it was the only thing he could do to keep his mind occupied and stimulated.
Feeling super spooked out we went into the cafeteria and looked around. Jane remarked that it felt like we were looking at real estate – and I started talking about how much I love prison furniture. Macabre humour gets me through when I’m feeling spooked out … 🙂
The kitchen was cool … but closed to the public so I had to admire the giant industrial soup pots from behind bars.
Then it was time to visit THE HOSPITAL!
That’s another bonus to taking the night tour … they open the hospital. The first room we went into was the operating theater… Eeeekk!
Jane was admiring the furniture and wondering if we could fit it in her car to take home. *laugh*
This is the dispensary …
I have such a lady-boner for old bottles …
If these hospital walls could talk …
Is it weird that I love every single piece of furniture in this room? 🙂
I want all of it!! Even the bedpan. 🙂
Just as we walked out of the hospital the sun started to set …
This is the portion of the prison that was most desirable as it faces the only windows that show the sunset …
What a beautiful night!
After we watched the sun set we ran into the Library to hear a presentation about the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz. Fascinating stuff … but the presentation was a little too P.C. for my tastes. I want to read more about what actually happened. Can anyone recommend any books?
After the talk we went onto “Broadway” the center portion of the jail for a cell door demonstration. BTW they called it “Broadway” because new prisoners were marched down (naked) when they first arrived, to the taunts of the other prisoners looking out of their cells. Yikes. 🙁
The sound of the cell doors opening and closing was terrifying. It actually made me kind of weepy because we had just spent the day with Jake (who just celebrated his 1 year free anniversary from prison).
He told Gerry that the first prison he spent time in was very similar to Alcatraz and the doors and the cells were almost identical to where he stayed. So when everyone was mugging for the cameras and pretending to be behind bars … I was holding back my tears thinking about my dear sweet friend and what he had to endure. 🙁
After the cell door demo it was time to get back onto the boat to the mainland. I’m so happy we did the night tour … I can’t imagine what it must be like during the day with that many more tourists …
But our night wasn’t over yet …
Jane took us to Cobbs Comedy Club to watch Michael Ian Black perform. He was HILARIOUS! I haven’t laughed like that for a long time … I laughed so hard/long/loudly that I was wheezing, crying and at one point I thought I was going to lose my mind.
It was a perfect way to end our last night in San Francisco. 🙂