Going to Alcatraz is one of those weird experiences: Macabre tourism. An exquisite shiver and a delight in the horror of others. Clearly we’re fascinated – you have to book months in advance to get a ticket – to visit the incarceration home of some of the most repugnant people in history.
Take Capone. A syphilitic cold blooded murderer, extortionist, pimp and bootlegger. Look at those eyes… not a pleasant man, best avoided. But we love the frisson of visiting his prison cell. And it’s all the weirder when the weather is warm and the sky is blue. Horror in heaven – it’s a Hollywood wet dream!
I loved the story about the showers: The prison governor, wary that cold showers would acclimatise the prisoners to the cold and thus possibly give them reason to test the San Francisco Bay waters in an attempt to escape, mandated hot showers only. The food was pretty good too. The company was not.
The sun shone when we were there. It really did feel like a summer excursion, the warmth, the boats and the sea. But the place itself… There’s a chill that hangs over Alcatraz, justifiably. I think the San Francisco fog is much more apt for this visit. It should be cold. Clammy. And ever so slightly threatening…