must have been a winning gent who had a fascinating way. But no, he
had a feline face, a wolfish mouth, a furtive air; as shy of beauty
as of grace - yet he won brides most everywhere." - 1920 press
account of Bluebeard.
Hill, San Quentin's old cemetery, was the end of the line for James
P. "Bluebeard" Watson, the smooth-talking bigamist who
murdered nine of the 20 women he married.
known in news reports of the time as "The Enigma" and the
"Monster of the Western Coast," Bluebeard was sentenced to
San Quentin in 1915 and served a life sentence before taking a final
horse-and-buggy ride to the prison's hilltop cemetery.
was an era of striped prison uniforms, the "dungeon where
inmates were held in solitary, and cons bearing flamboyant nicknames
like Black Bart and Barking Willie - a name given a convict for the
nervous bark he developed after being found in bed with a Hollywood
starlet. Willie served time for rape.
legal appeals were few, and the executions were speedy. The
condemned were hung by the neck until dead, sometimes within a month,
and seldom longer than a year after the day of sentencing.
records indicate killers from all walks of life are buried in the cemetery.
only a handful of old redwood grave markers poke up through hip-high
grass, foxtails, and poison oak - the stuff of nature that long ago
reclaimed the abandoned graveyard. The only clue to a convict's
identity is a prison number crudely burned into the wood.
cemetery, in which the bodies of 696 condemned and unclaimed
prisoners are buried, has a sweeping view of Mount Tamalpais, the
prison complex and Richardson Bay. The winding dirt road that once
was the scene of horse and buggy funeral processions now serves as a
fire road and jogging trail.
the convicts were buried near what is now the prison hospital. But
when the prison population began to mushroom, the graves were moved
out of the prison compound and across East Sir Francis Drake
Boulevard to Boot Hill.
of those unearthed bodies were placed in common graves with markers
that simply read 10 men" or "30 men,"
according to Dave Langerman, a prison spokesman.
one time hundreds of redwood markers dotted the hillside. Souvenir
hunters took many. The few than remain have been vandalized. R.I.P.
is scratched across one.
officials recently reclaimed several of the historic markers after
they were discovered at a flea market in the South Bay. The graveyard
was abandoned in the early 1950s when the prison began cremating its
unclaimed dead. The ashes of convicts now are scattered at sea.
plan to remove the grave markers that remain on Boot Hill and store
them for possible display in a prison museum.