Thursday, April 10, 2014

Abandoned Places: Jails

Let's start with Alcatraz, a place I have never been even though I, basically, live right next door to it. I did try to go once, on a field trip with one of my kids, but the teacher failed to buy the correct number of passes for the ferry (which you have to purchase well in advance), so I got to stay behind. Anyway...

Meaning "Island of the Pelicans" in Spanish, the Native Americans believed it to be cursed and referred to it as the "Evil Island." Although best known as a prison, it started out as a military base. And, then, as a place to house Civil War prisoners. It is also the location of the first lighthouse built on the West Coast. The fortifications on the island officially became a prison in 1934, the final destination for prisoners that caused too much trouble in other federal prisons. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary only operated for 29 years before it was shut down due to operating costs (more than three times the amount of other prisons) and the toxic environment caused by the sewage being released into San Francisco Bay at the time.

Photos courtesy of my wife (who did get to go on the ferry).

Other abandoned jails:

As an added bonus, here is an abandoned Japanese home:


  1. I always wondered why Alcatraz was shut down.
    Some of those don't even look like jails. Maybe more like hospitals for the criminally insane?

  2. When I was growing up, I thought Alcatraz was near NY. I think I was a young teen before I found out where it really was. What's with the Indians welcome on the wall?

    For an abandoned Japanese house, it still looks really nice.

    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

  3. You forgot to mention the part where Nicolas Cage had to get that one guy off the island before he nerve gassed the entire city.

    Or is that still being covered up by the government? I saw that documentary! YOU CAN'T SILENCE THE PEOPLE.

    Also: There is a really neat Freakonomics podcast on Japanese homes, which are basically treated the exact opposite of how American homes are. They're basically disposable, and for that reason may be more unique than US homes. New buyers apparently routinely tear them down.

  4. Definitely loved the pics here- especially the last couple. I admit really liking to watch paranormal activity when they visit the old jails too. They give haunted tours of our old jail. I've never been though (both while it was a jail or on a tour) Great post!

  5. Those jails would be scary to visit at night.

  6. I went to Alcatraz when I was out visiting my sister. It's a cool place, but it's got a dark vibe to it. And I think the 'Indians welcome' sign came during the 60s when they occupied the place for a while in protest (of course now I have to go look up and see if I'm correct about that...yup, I am).

  7. I have been to Alcatraz, 1987, the note about the Indians, they squatted there for a while.

    I found it absolutely fascinating made more so by the recordings they gave you to listen to. Only problem you have to climb the equivalent of 8 storeys to get to the prison and that is a long way for a not terribly fit person on a hot day. Luckily they have benches along the climb. You really should go see it Andrew.

  8. My son has been to Alcatraz. Me, not so much. Did tour the sub docked in Fisherman's Wharf. Awesome. And I met a robot. I think. Also got a ticket for $10 for... Something???

    Anyway, Clint Eastwood escaped from there too I think.

  9. I was wondering if the Château d'If could make this list, but it's a tourist attraction now. That wouldn't exactly count as abandoned. :)

  10. It's cool Alcatra was the site of the first lighthouse on the west coast. I'm so sad when I see beautiful abandoned homes (and castles). It's such a shame no one lives there and enjoys the beauty...

  11. We have an abandoned prison near us--Old Newgate Prison. I took my friends there once and they refused to get out of the car! Pretty cool, though, they turned the woods behind it into a series of trail systems, so you can actually hike or mountain bike around some pretty cool old structures.

  12. Alex C: I think there was a psychological component, too. We were willing to pay that much to keep it operational when we thought no one could or would try to escape from it.

    Elsie: As some other commenters have noted, the island was occupied by Native Americans at one point during a protest. That's where that came from.

    Briane: That's interesting. I didn't know anything about that. I wonder why that house has been left there, then.

    G_G: I've never watched that, although I did see the spoof they did on Psych.

    Pat: I know! Fun, right!

    mshatch: I wouldn't know about the vibe. My kid liked it.

    scruffy: Thanks.

    Jo: I'm hoping they go back next year when my daughter is in that class, then I'll try again.

    Rusty: There's a sub at Fisherman's Wharf?

    David: Some of these things are tourist spots, now, so that's not why. It's just not something I came across. Now I have to go look it up, though.

    Lexa: There are so many castles!

    randi: That sounds cool. And I love the name: "Old Newgate." heh

  13. Boy I'd love to turn some of those into creepy, awesome houses!
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  14. I've always wanted to tour Alcatraz. But the rest of those…can't imagine what conditions were like when they housed prisoners. Must have been deplorable in some cases. They look so haunted now.

  15. GSMarlene: Some of those would make great houses. With lots of rooms. That you could lock your guests into.

    L.G.: Still, not as bad as French prisons. Or what I've read about French prisons.

    Michael: But no less abandoned.

  16. Neat history. I'd never known the Native Americans there thought the island was cursed. Cool post!

  17. It's funny because I live on the other side of the country, but I have been to Alcatraz. Some of those other abandoned jails are way more impressive looking. One of them looks like a freaking castle.

  18. Ava: Yeah, that's interesting bit of history that isn't often talked about. It makes me wonder why they wanted to inhabit the island during their protest, though.

    Jeanne: Well... I don't know what to say about that.

    Jails have often been just other building re-purposed. That's what Alcatraz was, after all.

  19. I wouldn't ever want to visit Alcatraz. Eek! haha "Island of the Pelicans" is too much of a pretty name for such a horrible place.

  20. I think visiting these places, as interesting as thy sound, would creep me right out!

  21. Chrys: I'd like to visit it just for the name, although I bet pelicans don't hang out there much anymore.

    Andrea: I thought that was the attraction? At least for most people.

  22. Now I don't feel so bad because I live near Fresno and haven't been there either. *laughs*
    Thanks for sharing those photos. Very cool!


  23. Too bad you missed out on the Alcatraz visit.

    Jails are creepy enough when they're occupied.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  24. I've been to San Fran twice, and never made it to Alcatraz, though it was on the list. Just so much to do. It's on my list of cities I must visit again, and also just as a bit of trivia, one of the cities whose weather I have on my weather app. I'm just a girl who likes the climate there, so I like to check it. (I'm not totally weird, I also have the cities of some of my best buddies so I can know what's going on in their world...)
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

  25. James: Well, if I ever make it, I'll let you know! Or invite you along.

    Lee: You know, I'd rather go to an empty jail than a full one.

    Tina: There is so much to do. Way more than I have done.

  26. Wow...I always wanted to visit there...kinda. But now I don't know.

  27. RG: Why? Just because they'll lock you into a cell if you want?

  28. That Japanese house looks seriously Western... I wonder if it was built in the Taisho era.

    I also have never gone to Alcatraz, more from a lack of interest than anything else. There's something weird to me about making a tourist attraction out of a place like that, with merchandise and everything. Just feels strange... But I've been known to be overly sensitive to those kinds of things. :P

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

  29. There's an abandoned jail in Arizona I visited and it's beyond creepy.

  30. Alex H: I'd like to see it, but it's not one of those places I've ever felt like going out of my way to see, which is why I've never been.

    Maurice: Did you take pictures?