Alcatraz: The World’s Most Famous Prison is More Puzzling Than You Think

The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary sat on Alcatraz Island, also known as “The Rock,” located in San Francisco Bay, California and is one of the world’s most famous prisons. Not every prison becomes the setting of popular Hollywood movies like Shawshank Redemption and Escape from Alcatraz.

Between 1934 and 1963 the island was used as a federal prison. And during that time in history, it held some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, including Al Capone and Robert Stroud. The prison was closed in 1963, however, due to the excessive cost and damage to the buildings from the salt water. But despite having been closed for decades now, its legend lives on.

These are some unsettling facts about Alcatraz which will make you understand why it became a world-famous prison and one popular culture never ceases to reference.

Al Capone Played in an Inmate Band

It may already be old news that the notorious gangster and mob boss, Al Capone, was among the first prisoners of the Alcatraz federal prison in August 1934. But not many people know that Capone was in prison band, and he played the banjo. Capone had actually bribed the prison guards to receive preferential treatment while serving his sentence for tax-evasion in Atlanta.

Al Capone Played in an Inmate Band

Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

But his treatment changed after he was transferred to the island prison. “It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked,” he told his warden. Capone, otherwise known as convict # 85, became very cooperative and he was allowed to play banjo in the Alcatraz prison band, “the Rock Islanders”, which performed regular Sunday concerts for the other inmates.