An incredible 5000 people a day do an Alcatraz tour and the night tour is both extended and extra creepy.
The island was first taken over by the military as a fort and in 1859 military prisoners were the first imprisoned here, then WW1 conscientious objectors and then became the prison for prisoners other prisons didn't want – the worst of the worst'. The two most famous prisoners are probably Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the 'Birdman of Alcatraz'. The truth of his nickname is rather dull. He was originally held in Leavenworth where he was allowed to keep birds as part of his rehabilitation attempt. He ended up with hundreds of canaries when other prisoners were sharing a cell. He sold hundreds of them and wrote scientific papers and was undoubtedly a mad psychopath. Robert Stroud actually had a chance at parole from Alcatraz, but handed a piece of paper to the parole board. When asked what it was he stated it was a list of people he still had to kill. He died in prison of potentially alcohol related illnesses – it turned out he was brewing beer from the birdseed.
We wandered through the prison, the exercise yard, solitary and so on. Beds are made up with the false heads of three prisoners who attempted to swim off the island. With waters at 58F and 6-8 knots of current escape was not for the faint hearted, but the knowledge that you were to live as a caged animal for life meant many tried. Apart from 2 escapees, everyone was either captured or died. The two that weren't found have never been heard of since, so no-one knows whether they made it or not. Many guards were murdered during attempts.