“High school kids all over play murder, I think. It’s the one where you wink to kill people. We did this on speech and debate trips. There would be 30 of us stuck in a hotel room, and we would have a deck of cards and whoever got the jacks or something, they would be the murderer, and the way you would kill people is by winking at them, which would lead to some very dramatic death scenes. And you have to figure out who the murderer was, and the key was you had to wink at people without being caught. It gets easier towards the end.”
The informant is my father. He attended public school for his entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.
This kind of game is always a big hit amongst kids who like to act and investigate. I have encountered many variations of this game. Some involve shaking hands instead of winking, some involve voting people out, and some involve multiple set rounds with different rules. The one thing that is constant is that there is a murderer, and every person who dies must act out a very dramatic death. There is something enjoyable about playing a game that is based on taboo topics like murder and death. This game allows people to act out things that they would never do in real life, but enjoy doing in a fantasy setting.
Informant: “My class always talks about how Alcatraz is haunted.”
Collector: “Really? Are there any specific ghosts that people mention?”
Informant: “Yeah! Al Capone is one of the most common ones I hear, and then the people who tried escaping the island when they were prisoners. A lot of my classmates say that they are stuck at sea, and that on the boat ride over there that the ghosts try to get help from the passengers.”
Collector: “Do they know that Al Capone didn’t die on Alcatraz?”
Informant: “I think so…they say that the reason his ghost stays there is because that is where he suffered the most during his life.”
Collector: “Has your class been there together or have they just hear about it in the city?”
Informant: “We went on a field trip and people working there even mentioned it. They sell some stuff in the gift shop that has to do with it! I think they might give tours about the ghosts.”
Alcatraz offers a prime example of how folklore can be used in a marketable way with a great deal of the tourism to the spot inspired by famous ghost stories. Although the informant is younger and did not have any detailed examples of haunting stories on the island, she probably has a greater idea of it being a haunted spot than some older people she knows. The amount of time that has passed since the prison was actively in use and not just a National Park designated land has allowed it to become further associated with the past identities that it has held, with particular attention to the era in which it held its prison.