Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Book Talk with Brian Stannard – Alcatraz Ghost Story

May 16 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Alcatraz tour guide Stannard recounts the exploits of the prison’s “second-most-notorious inmate” in his immersive debut. Ray Gardner was a mail train robber who escaped prison three times in the years after WWI, earning himself regular mentions in vaudeville acts of the era and nicknames including the Smiling Bandit and the Human Eel. In reality, Gardner was an Army deserter and amateur boxer with a wife and child, whose thefts up and down the West Coast were never particularly lucrative. After Gardner broke out of Washington State’s McNeil Island prison twice in the early 1920s, federal agents mounted a public campaign for information leading to his arrest, and America became enthralled by the letters he wrote to California newspapers and President Warren Harding earnestly pleading for his conviction to be overturned. After he was caught and sent to Leavenworth and then Alcatraz, Gardner begged for a lobotomy, attributing his criminal behavior to an old head injury. Finally paroled in 1938, he published a brief memoir about his time locked up in Alcatraz with the likes of Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and gave several radio interviews. In 1940, Gardner died poor and alone, by suicide, at a hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Stannard’s thorough research and swift pacing satisfy. Historical true crime fans should check this out.

Thursday May 16th 2024, 7pm

St Francis Room, UICC

Publishers Weekly Article

More about Brian


May 16
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Categories:
, ,


United Irish Cultural Center
2700 45th Avenue
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94116 United States
+ Google Map
(415) 661-2700
View Venue Website