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The family:


party poker

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, California.

Sunday November 20th through Saturday November 26th.

Picture of payphone

First, the photos aren't that hot because the scanner is not working. Those are digital photos of actual photo prints. This creates an interesting effect, don't you think? Anyway, this set of two pay phones (on the left: 415 xxx xxxx; on the right 415 xxx xxxx) is near the South end of the island, next to the bathrooms -- this li'l building appears in the leftmost photo at the extreme right of the frame, in the middle. I had a map at one point, but it's been eaten by the firetrap monster. Rarrr.

Alcatraz Island served as a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963. During this time, the only prisoners to successfully escape from Alcatraz were Clint Eastwood and two other co-actors. They were never found. Now it is loaded with tourists who come over on a boat. You can stay as long as you like, until the last boat leaves. If you would like to stay longer, you must find a good hiding place.

The first people to visit Alcatraz could conceivably walk by the payphones around 10am (but considering the layout of the place, more like 10:30am at the earliest). The last boat leaves Alcatraz at 4:30pm. There is also a "night tour" Thursday through Sunday which means people might be near the payphones anywhere from 4:45pm to 7:00pm on those days.

Sunday, November 20th, 2005.

The modem tone on pay phones reports the full or empty status of the change box. It saves time and money if they don't have to check potentially empty phone change boxes by foot.

There. Now we know everything about that tone.

Monday, November 21st, 2005.

The modem tone on prison phones reports the full or empty status of the prison. It saves time and money if they don't have to check on the prisoners by foot.

I think you are telling porkies. Will you marry me?

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005.

Interesting... This pay phone doesn't get the modem tone like last week's, as far as I know. Called at 10:00PM PST, no answer. I think the island shuts down when it gets dark, or at least the ferry stops.

Oh yeah, I was going to mention that, thank you. I have. Above.

You've got 71 guys on del.icio.us praising the goodness that is Phoneswarm. You've gotten popular pretty quickly - great job!

Only guys?

At about 3 AM as I was loading the latest numbers into the cell, I have determined that the number [wrong number] gets the recording "You've reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service"... Just thought you might have wanted to know. The other sounds good. Keep up the good, fun work!

Fixed it. Thank you.

I called the left payphone at 2:35pm Pacific. A teen of indeterminate gender answered the phone.

"This is Alcatraz."
"Hello, I was just checking to make sure the phone worked."
"Yeah, I think it does."
"That's excellent. Where are y'all from?"
"Okay, see ya."

The teen does not wish to reveal their hometown location. Prison changes people.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005.

I have the logo sitting on my desktop, so when I get bored during the day, why not rack up the boss' long distance bill.... Just called at 11:26PST and got a guy with a think Indian accent on a tour. Said the weather was lovely but he had to get back to his tour. First call I've made, cool stuff.

Was taking a break from coding today and grabbed the phone number for this week without even looking at the location. I called just after walking out my office door and got an answer right away. Noah, the gentleman that answered, gave me a weather update and wished me a happy Thanksgiving. I let him know I was calling from the middle of Colorado and told him about the web site. He asked me my name and what I did for a living. I told him I was a programmer and found out that he was on a tour of Alcatraz Island and was in town from Chicago visiting family for the holiday. He had to go then so we wished one another good day and a happy Thanksgiving.

Tyler W. Cox

Hrmmm. That gives me an idea. The unknown payphone. Just the number. Yes.

Long time reader, first time caller. I just called and talked to Fred from Korea. He sounded like he was from South America. Very confusing, that one was. He said the weather was nice, and that he was glad to be in California. I said that we are glad to have him (being a california native myself). As soon as I get home, the phoneswarm logo is going up on my website. Keep up the good work.

16:30 eastern:
AI: "Hello, Alcatraz."
ME: "Hey, how's the weather?"
AI: "Great, how'd you know this phone number? You work for PacBell?"
ME: "No, I work for Alcatraz...just checking to see if this line is working."
AI: "Cool, the weather is great."
ME: "Great, have a good day."
AI: click.....

Well, I picked the wrong week for this payphone. Not a lot of people are going to be cruisin' Alcatraz when turkey waits at home, far away. I'll re-run it next summer. This is a learning process. We are all learning.

Thursday, November 24th, 2005.

Greetings from Ottawa, Canada. Your web site has just been mentioned on CBC Radio here in Canada, and the hosts of the program (in Vancouver) called the Alcatraz number and had a chat first with a French tourist who spoke minimal english, then with a local (Alameda Ca) visitor, who was interviewed on national radio. You may be interesed in knowing that several years ago, one of CBC's main news programs became quite adept at calling pay phones in the midst of the world's current trouble spots and interviewing whoever picked up. Don't know where they managed to get the numbers, but it was unique, raw and on the spot journalism. As you note, pay phones capable of receiving incoming calls are becoming increasingly rare. (In fact pay phones themselves are a dying breed here in Canada and many other countries, since most people now carry their own portable version.) Thanks for the interesting web site.

M. Turner

Not exactly the best day to field calls, but excellent nevertheless.

I called and some dude with a weird accent picked up and he told me that I just called Alcatraz -- I recognized his accent as being Latino... Am Latino myself, and I had small conversation with him in Spanish and in the end I wished him Happy Thanksgiving... AWESOME!

Hi from Canada. Just heard the call on CBC. Cool idea.


6:15pm MST... Nobody answering. Is there anybody out there ?
Are they allowed to go home ?
Come in please Over

This is Phoneswarm headquaters ... over ... come in! COME IN! Anyway, there may not be a night tour today, seeing as it's Thanksgiving.

I heard about your website on a live CBC radio show (Canada) the two host called the Alcatraz number. A guy picked up the phone and they had a good 5 minute conversation on live radio. It was so nice it stayed in my car to listen the whole thing
Good stuff guys

I too heard about this site on CBC Radio (like your NPR down there) in Canada.

I called up and a very nice lady of hispanic descent answered. We exchanged hellos, and she said, "I think you have the wrong number, sweetie. This is Alcatraz." I told her I knew where I was calling and then she told me she was visiting Alcatraz with her family. She asked if I was calling from San Francisco, and I said no, I was calling from Ottawa, Canada. She thought that was interesting and suggested I should visit Alcatraz. I assured her that I would in the future and said I didn't want to keep her from her tour anymore and wished her a nice afternoon. She wished me the same and we said goodbye and hung up. Very cool. :)

Like most of us Canadians, we became aware of this website via CBC Radio Canada ...... listening to it, first with the french conversation then the phone being passed onto an American with his children on a days outing to Alcatraz ... all in all what a delightful, entertaining segment CBC put through to us Canadians ... and of course Scott the American or was it Al Capone?

Awesome website .......

Thank you,


Huh. I would like to hear that segment.

Just called and talked to a mom & daughter from the Tahoe area. Nice weather and no cheesy t-shirts for them! Calling from NJ after some good times cookie baking. Yay! Say hi to Mom for me.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005.

Chatted with a very nice couple of kids from Mexico. They actually giggled when I asked if they were visiting the island or imprisoned there.

From now on, when I hear a payphone ring, I'm picking it up!


this is very cool,keep it up

jack shoo

Sunday, November 27th, 2005.

I asked some of the people who wrote in after hearing the radio show for details. One of them wrote back:

The name of the show is Freestyle, hosted by Cameron Phillips and Kelly Ryan. The show's on from 2-4 p.m. eastern time Monday to Friday on CBC Radio One.

Hope that helps. :) Cool website, by the way.


The archives are unfortunately just textual notes and at this point only go up to November 21st. FREESTYLE! HOO CHA!