Tour the Infamous Rock

Total Spook Factor: Although Hollywood has done a lot to boost the fear factor of "The Rock," you might shudder more when you realize Alcatraz began housing military prisoners during the Civil War. The history goes far deeper than the cellblocks made famous during its 29-year stint as a federal prison, 1934-1963. Sounds of running steps, unexplainable cold spots, bodiless screams, EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), full-bodied apparations... The range of reported paranormal activity has long made Alcatraz a hot spot for ghost hunters, and the chilled isolation in the bay has only added to the allure.

Take a Tour: To visit Alcatraz, book a ferry ride offered by Alcatraz Cruises, a concession of the National Park Service. Trips usually sell out in advance, especially Saturdays and Sundays (which can sell out weeks in advance). During the day, you can explore on your own self-guided tour or attend ranger-led discussions or tours on the island's history. For chills and thrills, most come for the Alcatraz Night Tour program, which is limited to only a few hundred visitors. Off-Limits Alcatraz tours, which include visits to the "dungeon" and hospital, are also occasionally offered to members of the Park Conservancy.

Plan a Paranormal Investigation: Although you can't take an official ghost tour of Alcatraz, you can try to capture phenomena with small portable electronics during your visit. If you're a serious ghost-hunting team, you can apply for a special event permit to host an historical investigation of the paranormal kind via the National Park Service (Alcatraz Island is managed as part of the Golden Gate National Park Recreation Area).

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