Petit Futé's opinion on ALCATRAZ
Alcatraz, named Pelican Island by the first Spaniards who landed there in 1770, became a penitentiary in 1850 in the buildings of a military fortress. In 1933, the American justice system took over the property and wanted to make Alcatraz a model prison with maximum security. The famous Al Capone was detained in this fortress (he was released in 1939 for good conduct) which is only a mile from the coast, but from which it is almost impossible to escape: frozen waters, strong currents and sharks are indeed the best guarantees against prisoners' escape attempts. Alcatraz prisoners were the only ones in America to be entitled to hot showers, so that they would be even less able to withstand the cold water of the bay in the event of an escape. This factor did not discourage some. Fourteen organized attempts were made. These are the two most famous. The first episode, nicknamed "the Battle of Alcatraz", took place in May 1946. Bernard Coy put in place an escape plan: after starving for months to get through the bars, he joined the Gun Gallery where the guards' weapons were stored. He knocked out one of the guards, stole his keys. Bad luck: they were the wrong ones. The guards were alerted and a furious battle ensued. Guards were taken hostage and locked in a cell. They were shot a little later by the rebel detainees. An appeal was made to the Marines who bombed the island and won the bloody battle.
The second episode took place in June 1962. It was an escape developed by the Anglin brothers and inmate Frank Morris. Using spoons stolen from the canteen, they dug into the wall of their cells until they reached the air vents. On the day of the escape, they had mannequins made of crumb of human bread and hair in their beds so as not to alert the guards of their absence. They built a makeshift raft, were never found and were reported missing. This unique escape inspired the film L'évadé d'Alcatraz, in which Clint Eastwood plays Frank Morris. In October 2015, the documentary Alcatraz: search for the truth, broadcast on History Channel, contradicts the official version of the drowning of the three fugitives in San Francisco Bay and even claims that they are still alive today.
Closed on March 21, 1963 for budgetary reasons, Alcatraz has been open to the public since 1973. When you arrive on the island, you will see red graffiti "Indians Welcome" and "Indian Land". They recall an important event: the occupation of the island by native Indians from the region.
On the night of November 9, 1969, 78 Amerindians landed on the island to claim ancestral land. In less than a month, they were about 600 representatives of 50 different tribes. They were the "Indians of all tribes", as they were called. They wrote a statement entitled "We Hold the Rock" in which they proposed to buy Alcatraz with glass beads and canvas rags, as whites had done for Manhattan 300 years earlier. They were expelled 6 months later by the federal army. This was an important moment in Alcatraz's history.
During your visit, do not forget to get an audioguide (small devices are distributed free of charge at the entrance of the prison and recordings are available in French). For years, this audioguide has been listed as one of the best in the USA, and for good reason: prisoners' voices, soundtracks, everything is there... A very beautiful achievement!
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Activities & Visits
Opening time and information on ALCATRAZ
Visits to Alcatraz all year round. Departure from Pier 33. In summer, 15 departures per day from 9:10 am and night visits from 5:55 pm to 9:25 pm. In winter, 10 departures per day. Rates (12 to 61 years old) 39.90 US$ during the day and 47.30 US$ in the evening. Children (5 to 11 years old): US$24.40 and US$26.50 in the evening. Senior: US$35.25 per day, US$41.25 per night. The day: Family package (2 children + 2 adults: 112.75 US$). Behind the Scenes excursion at 92.30 US$. Free French Audioguide. Reservations several weeks in advance are recommended, especially in summer and at weekends. Possibility to combine Alcatraz tours with Angel Island.