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Why Is Alcatraz A Tourist Attraction?

Updated: Sep 01, 2022 10:08
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Alcatraz is a world famous tourist attraction, and I’ve never understood why.

Yes, it’s pretty, and yes, it’s history is interesting, but why are we morbidly fascinated by a place where the criminally inclined were essentially locked away and tortured? It’s heinous. I also find it ironic that a city that prides itself on its progressive politics essentially touts a museum of human suffering as part of its local tourist attractions because at some point in history, Al Capone may have jerked off and cried himself to sleep in one of its shoebox shaped cells.

I don’t think moms from Minnesota should be allowed to take selfies in rooms where men pushed past the point of no return hung themselves as part of the “San Francisco experience.”

This is a place where multiple people have been verifiably murdered. This is a place where there were reports that prisoners would go insane while listening the bustle of San Francisco while trapped inside of their tiny cells. I don’t think moms from Minnesota should be allowed to take selfies in rooms where men pushed past the point of no return hung themselves as part of the “San Francisco experience.”

If they want to see suffering, all they have to do is walk down Market Street.

We should give Alcatraz back to the natives or build affording housing on it with daily ferry service, similar to Treasure Island minus all the toxic shit on Treasure Island.

In 1969, a decade that defined San Francisco in the cultural lexicon, Native American tribes gathered on the island because they wanted a cultural center in the San Francisco Bay Area and felt that Alcatraz Island would be a fitting location.

“We moved onto Alcatraz Island because we feel that Indian people need a cultural center of their own. For several decades, Indian people have not had enough control of training their young people. And without a cultural center of their own, we are afraid that the old Indian ways may be lost. We believe that the only way to keep them alive is for Indian people to do it themselves.”  – Letter from Indians of All Tribes, December 16, 1969

I think that Alcatraz Island would be a great spot for a Native American cultural center or museum. If you’re going to take a tour filled with tales of human misery, at least let it be for something good.

Or maybe don’t make it a tourist attraction or cultural center. Maybe make it affordable housing and allow indigenous people to have priority on the list to get in. That would be a much better use of the land than a fucking prison tour.

Sometimes in order to get shit done, we have to make sacrifices. We should start by sacrificing this prison we’ve fetishized because famous murderers were there. “Wow, I can’t believe Whitey Bulger took a shit on that toilet!” No one cares. Go watch Black Mass, and jerk off to your fantasy of gangsters you would do your best to avoid in real life from the privacy of your own home. Italian Americans have been doing it forever.

Also fuck golf courses…





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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!


  1. Annie Dillon
    September 2, 2022 at 2:38 am — Reply

    The Light Party was a failed attempt in the 1980s to change Alcatraz from a human suffering attraction, into a global spiritual center… Pretty sure they went bankrupt. Rumor has it that the the leader, DaVid, is still alive and off the grid. Apparently, the main obstacle was that Alcatraz is the #1 money maker for the Regional Parks.. Forget housing etc.. The lighthouse function must be at the center… Maybe get with The Coast Guard and East Brother Light Station, etc,… and remember to include how everyone can make $$$ in the transformation…

  2. Moi
    September 4, 2022 at 4:05 am — Reply

    You seem to be struggling here, Woodliff. I think you are having trouble feigning outrage, since you double-back and forth to make a pretty basic point: Alcatraz is an odd tourist attraction. But, see what I did there? It _is_ a tourist attraction because it attracts tourists to its history, as lowly or sad as you may find it.

    Me? I have been there three times. Never need to go back.

    Return it to the indigenous peoples? That is a lazy lob on your part. You know that won’t happen.

    Make it into housing? Again, are you sleepy? A designated ferry for housing in the middle of the bay? You got the votes for that?

    Your weakness is shown when you throw out a little grenade at the end. Has nothing to do with your point. But you throw it anyway. Geesh.

    But you are getting published. That is a good thing. You have a book coming out. That is also a good thing.

    So stick with real injustice and real anger. That always makes me think. But toggling for a tagline when you have nothing to really say? Come on, Woodliff. You are better than that.

    And, besides, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is far more interesting (and better run) than Alcatraz. You should visit it sometime. Then you can give SF some notes on how to run a first-class tourist attraction that was predicated on incarcerating individuals. Hint: Capone stayed at both and probably liked one more than the other. Then again, he was in a bit worse shape when he happened on Baghdad by the Bay.

    See what I did there? I actually added to the discuss you tried to start, rather than simply yelling at a balloon that got in the way of your flat-brim dilated eyes. But we are all good. Right? We good? I hope so. I want you to sign my copy of your book.

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