Perhaps one of the most famous prisons today — due to its presence in pop culture, film, and literature — is Alcatraz Island, a prison off the coast of San Francisco, California in the United States. Now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the prison was one of the most feared places for a prisoner to end up serving time, but it is not the only famous prison in the world to strike fear in the hearts of its potential inhabitants. Prisons have been around as long almost as people have, and some have gained notoriety over the centuries, marking them as famous prisons worthy of fear and lore.
One such example is the Tower of London. Known officially as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, this castle in London is one of the most famous prisons not only for its frightening and often bloody past, but also for its reputation today as the most haunted building in England. However, the Tower of London's reputation as one of the most famous prisons and, more accurately, one of the most terrifying ones, is greatly exaggerated. Most of the prisoners who spent time there were high-profile prisoners whose lives were made much easier than prisoners in other prisons where disease and cruelty were common. In fact, the Tower of London was often used as an abode for the King and Queen, and the grounds were and still are quite beautiful.
Another of the famous prisons with a reputation far more sinister than reality is the Bastille in Paris, France. Primarily a military fortification, the building was used as a prison after the Hundred Years' War ended. Common and petty criminals were held there, and the facility could only hold about fifty prisoners, making it an unglamorous place to spend a prison term. However, much secrecy revolved around the prison's reputation, causing people to believe the prison was a much more terrifying place.
Some of the most famous prisons have a well-deserved reputation as a sinister place. Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, is a fine example. Built in the 1930s, Attica's inmates are often sent there after causing problems in other correctional facilities. Therefore, some of the most dangerous and troublesome inmates in the United States reside at this prison. David Berkowitz, commonly known as Son of Sam, was guilty of several murders in the 1970s and is among the facility's most famous inmates. Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's assassin, also resides in Attica.