Ghost Hunters 100th episode rallied their troops from the current TAPS team and Ghost Hunters International to explore Alcatraz Island. I found Robert Stroud, the infamous birdman of Alcatraz exceptionally talkative during the investigation.
The two-hour season premiere was hosted by the ever-charming Josh Gates of Destination Truth, complete with a live studio audience.
I wanted to touch on Josh’s overview of key Alcatraz Island dates. The first US structure was built on the eve of the Civil War in 1859 as a cannon based fortress. By 1861 it was used as a prison for Confederate sympathizers, spies and disgraced soldiers. The prison Ghost Hunters investigated was built in 1934 as the end of the road for Federal maximum security prison failures. Alcatraz continued in this capacity until 1963. It sat empty for a decade until the National Parks Service took over in 1973.
Alcatraz tour-guide Jim F. showed Jason and Grant around the rock. Walkthrough started on Broadway, a section of the prison that was the site of a three-day riot started during an escape attempt on May 2, 1946. Two guards and three inmates died of bullet wounds. The riot was eventually quelled when US Marines dropped concussion grenades through the ceiling, permanently pitting the floor of the cellblock.
Jason and Grant were shown Cellblock D, the location of small solitary confinement cells that featured steel floors and mattresses issued only at night. Prisoners in solitary were allowed one hour a week outside of their cells. Cell’s 14 and 42 were well known as the most active locations in Cellblock D. Visitor Robert D. was recounted his experience. He volunteered to spend some time in Cell 14 during a tour when he felt and heard a ghostly presence clap a hand firmly on his shoulder.
Jim recounted the story of a prisoner who claimed to have seen glowing red eyes glaring at him out of the darkness of his solitary cell. The same prisoner was found strangled to death with no viable suspect ever identified. My guides told me this was not a ghostly murder. Somehow another inmate found his way into and out of the dead man’s cell, exacting a personal form of justice. Furthermore, my guides said the red eyes that freaked out the murdered inmate were a manifestation of mental illness made worse by solitary confinement.
The Citadel, built during the Civil War had long been reported as a hotbed of paranormal activity. Jim told of disembodied screams echoing through the rest of Alcatraz from the tomb like space.
Last but not least was the Hospital, especially the room that held Robert Stroud for over a decade. Photographer Dan G. shared the experience of a figure blowing past him. At first he thought it was the guy working with him, but found his buddy far behind him. They both promptly left the area. A female visitor had seen the shade of a prisoner in the corner of a hospital cell who stood up and walked through a wall.
Ghost Hunters set cameras up in the riot area, the Citadel, Cellblock D 42, (the first cell of Robert Stroud at Alcatraz) and Stroud’s Hospital room.
Jason and Grant started out in the Citadel. First thing I saw was the ghost of a thin male prisoner playing the clown. He followed Jason around with exaggerated pacing motions somewhat reminiscent of the John Cleese sketch featuring the Minister of Silly Walks.
Jason and Grant heard a noise nearby. They asked any ghosts around them to repeat the noise, then both heard a disembodied voice responding, “No”.
Steve and Tango were the next team sent in, this time to Stroud’s Hospital room. Their EMF meter showed an unexplained spike. I think the rising EMF readings were because Stroud was in the room with them. He started out just standing in a corner glaring at the guys. Tango asked Stroud if he was innocent. Stroud replied, “No.” followed by a rather unpleasant laugh. Stroud’s ghost commented, “I butchered, chopped him up alright.” I looked up Stroud’s initial 1908 murder of F.K. Von Dahmer in Alaska after Dahmer badly beat up Stroud’s girlfriend at the time. However, Stroud murdered again in his first prison on McNeil Island in Washington State. His second victim was a young guard named Andrew Turner. Stroud stabbed Turner to death after being taken to task for talking too loud in the prison cafeteria. I think it was his second murder Stroud was talking to Tango about.
Tango and Steve heard a sound like a door moving or closing. They tested several cell doors in the area and one replicated the sound they heard. They debunked it because the door in question adjoined central command where their tech team was set up.
Tango and Steve had a good provoking item in the form of a bird feather they balanced on the edge of a surface, noting the still air around them. It didn’t move at all. The guys did have a personal experience of getting a whiff of soap or antiseptic while near Stroud’s room. They speculated it might have been Stroud coming out of his daily bath which was apparently located across from his hospital room.
Kris, Amy and Dustin (from GHI) were the next team to explore the Citadel. Dustin heard a disembodied voice that was recorded as an indistinct EVP talking over his team.
Britt and Barry checked out Cellblock D, cell 42, the first residence of Robert Stroud at Alcatraz. Britt speculated that Stroud’s abusive father might have contributed to the birdman’s violent personality. Both guys saw something indistinct moving farther down the cellblock but it wasn’t caught on camera. Britt had a personal experience of something peeking out of a cell door nearby.
Kris and Amy were sent to try their luck back at Stroud’s Hospital room. They had a cool new toy that set up a laser grid. The theory was a ghost might pass through or block the light of the beams. It was straight out of Mission Impossible. Amy did get Stroud’s attention and he found the girls calling him “Mr. Stroud” amusing, but he was more interested in watching Amy than responding to her. Stroud likely was rarely treated with such courtesy while incarcerated.
Tango and Steve gave Cellblock D, cell 42 another try with a toy I didn’t quite catch the full name of. Steve called it a Bumblebee something. If anyone can explain what this gadget is about I would like to know more. The Bumblebee’s readings spiked when Tango provoked by putting an arm through the cell door in imitation of reports that Stroud had a habit of grabbing passing guards.
Stroud was in cell 42 with Steve and Tango. Steve was trying to engage him, saying the guys didn’t care what Stroud might have done. Stroud’s ghost replied, “You are the only ones.” As one of the Federal prisons problem children that was probably true as Stroud spent his life from the age of 18 until his death in assorted prisons for his crimes.
Barry, Kris and Amy spent some time on the second floor of Broadway around the cell that once held George Kelly, AKA Machine Gun Kelly. Amy asked Kelly what landed him in Alcatraz. Kelly’s ghost replied, “I killed people. What else?” It was true that the “worst of the worst” were sent to Alcatraz figuring that the mile and a half of cold, shark infested water separating it from the mainland would keep any stray prisoners contained.
As Kris, Amy and Barry walked further down the cellblock Amy stopped abruptly thinking she had seen Barry stop in front of her but he had kept moving. The team didn’t record anything, but I did see a bunch of prisoners pressed against the bars of their cells hooting and hollering at both Amy and Kris. I suppose death doesn’t stop the libido of men long denied female company.
Jason and Grant headed back to the Citadel where they heard footsteps from a nearby hallway. They felt followed by an unseen presence. Presumably this was the same presence that they heard walk up to them and stop barely an arm’s length away. The origin of these sounds was not recorded. The ghost I saw during this part of the investigation was peering out of the door at the end of the space Jason and Grant were in. It was the ghost a gray-haired prisoner wondering what Jason and Grant were about. I had the impression this prisoner worked in the area often and his work involved food. I would like to know what that large door or framed square was. It was hard to tell in the dark at a distance, but it looked like it might have been big enough to be a cargo door. I hope someone familiar with the floor plan of Alcatraz could tell me what it led to.
Barry and Dustin went to Stroud’s Hospital room. Their camera focused on a sign featuring a large black and white photo of Stroud, who said, “The picture doesn’t do me justice.”
Barry placed an empty box on the table in the room and asked Stroud to knock it over. Dustin tried to provoke Stroud, taunting him that his alleged genius should have allowed him to be able to move an object in this world. At first, Stroud acted uninterested in the guy’s comments, as he yawned and said, “No.”
Stroud didn’t stay indifferent for long. Barry hit a nerve when he told Stroud to push over the box or give some sign he was present or Barry and Dustin would leave the area and Stroud would be forgotten again. This was not caught on EVP, but I heard Stroud get really upset and protest, “I will never be forgotten!” This was one ghost who valued his celebrity.
Just before Barry and Dustin left Stroud’s room they moved over to the wall with the sink. Stroud lost it, screaming at Dustin to “Get away from my stuff!” at the sink. I saw a razor sitting on the sink and Stroud was concerned that Dustin would touch or take it. Earlier in the episode, Steve had commented that Stroud was known to have shaved his body daily at bath time. So maybe his razor was a prized possession in prison. I was surprised prison staff let him have what looked like a cutthroat razor, but maybe they didn’t care so much if Stroud did himself in. He was known for attacking guards and the warden at Leavenworth prison had been documented as hoping Stroud would be transferred to Alcatraz. Apparently his fan mail alone was an administrative nightmare. Stroud’s reaction to Dustin being anywhere near the razor had a lot of anger behind it.
Jason and Grant debunked reports of visitors experiencing nausea in Stroud’s D Block cell. Jason reviewed common factors that could cause nausea, high EMF fields, low vibrations and carbon monoxide gas exposure. The guys got a whiff of sewer gas that was stronger near the hole where the toilet once stood. Just before Jason and Grant entered cell 42, I saw the ghost of a young man tossing and turning restlessly on the bed. Could this have been Stroud shortly after his transfer from Leavenworth to Alcatraz? I didn’t know but the figure was definitely agitated.
Jason and Grant continued walking down Cellblock D. Grant got a glimpse of someone walking by a nearby cell. Jason and Grant heard disembodied footsteps walking on a metal grate. Grant and Jason also saw some sort of weird shadow in a cell. Their cameras didn’t catch much so the guys chalked the weird light obstruction they saw up to personal experience.
Steve and Tango did a comedy routine in the Citadel centered on the question of the existence of fictional “snozzberries” from “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”. Tango was out $25 bucks and I am sure Roald Dahl was pleased with the free publicity wherever he landed in the great beyond.
The evidence review and reveals strongest points were the personal experiences of a ghostly voice saying “no” early in the investigation of the Citadel and the EVP of the name and cell number of former inmate Harry Brunnette. Ghost Hunters found record of a prisoner named Harry Walter Brunnette who had resided in cell 374. Brunnette had a colorful history as he had been present during a shootout with the FBI presided over by J. Edgar Hoover.
The two-hour episode revealed that Ghost Hunters Academy would be back for a second season. Ghost Hunters had been scheduled to investigate an Irish Pub on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. It was broadly hinted Ghost Hunters International would investigate Poveglia Island off of Venice this season.
The final wrap up at 30 Rock included champagne all around and a really cool looking Alcatraz cake. It looked like something Charm City Cakes might do. I would have liked to get a closer look at it.
Being in the Pacific Time zone, the online bonus after show was unavailable. I tried for 15 minutes to find a link to the after show without success. It was a good concept for added value and I am sure they will get the kinks worked out for next time.
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(C) 2010 Lynne Olson. All rights reserved.