Escape From Alcatraz: The Story Of Three Prisoners’ Great Escape
Published June 16th, 2021
Did they really manage to escape from Alcatraz?
It’s been 42 years since the movie came out (and even longer for the 1963 book in which it was based on), but people are still wondering if those three men managed to pull off the impossible.
Escape from Alcatraz is based on the events that happened on June 11, 1962, when a trio of dangerous criminals made a harrowing escape out of the infamous prison.
Now before we get too far ahead in this article, make no mistake that these men were dangerous criminals. Thanks to Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the lead character, this movie feels like an overcoming of impossible odds that seems worthy of emulating, that’s not really the case.
These men were imprisoned for their crimes and were deemed unfit to be housed in any other penitentiary save for Alcatraz.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the real story behind the movie Escape from Alcatraz.
Criminal Minds Come Together
The story begins when Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood’s character) arrives at Alcatraz after getting deemed too difficult for other prisons. He was a high IQ criminal with plenty of recorded escape attempts from other facilities. Once he gets on The Rock, he meets Charlie Butts and the Anglin brothers, John and Clarence.
Note: Charlie Butts is the representation of Allen West, the real life fourth inmate who conspired with Morris and the Anglin brothers.
The quartet become fast friends and eventually start to trade escape methods they’ve employed in other facilities. Putting their heads together, they managed to come up with a plan to abscond from Alcatraz.
The quartet lost no time in devising crude shovels from spoons. They then carefully perforated the area surrounding the air grilles in their cells to create a hole from which they can escape from. This is a long, arduous process as the four have to work in secrecy and carefully cover their progress with makeshift grilles.
At the same time, they also fashioned fake heads out of papier mache and a life raft from prison jackets they collected.
They manage to escape a few near misses before the night of the fateful escape arrives.
Quickly working through their plan, the four manage to get out of their cell and work their way through the passageway up to the roof. Charlie Butts loses his nerve and decides to go back to his cell leaving Morris and the Anglin brothers to soldier on.
What happens next is a heart pounding series of events where the trio find their way to the roof, slide down the pipe, avoid the search light’s beam, go over a barbed wire fence and carry their life raft to the shore.
They quickly inflate their life raft and head into the water. This is the last we’ll see of the three.
The following morning, the guards discover the fake heads and a search is conducted.
No sign of the three were ever found.
So Did They Survive?
As far as a realistic depiction of historic facts, the last few scenes of the movie stayed true to what actually happened that night.
It’s been nearly 60 years and everyone’s still wondering if the three managed to make it to Angel Island. Scientists have conducted experiments trying to uncover what exactly happened on that night. Some say the three drifted off course, suffered from hypothermia, and drowned.
There have also been reports of sightings where the Anglin brothers were in a Mexican bar having a good laugh. That’s still up for debate.
There was a postcard sent to the FBI where the three wrote a simple “Haha” on it to taunt the agents pursuing them. Whether this was sent by the trio or just a prank sent by someone else is also debatable.
What’s true though is that if they did survive, Frank Morris would be 95 years old and John and Clarence Anglin would be 90 and 91 years old, respectively.
Has Anyone Ever Managed To Escape from Alcatraz Successfully?
There have been numerous attempts to escape Alcatraz. These have happened before and after the infamous 1962 escape of Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers.
Has anyone managed to succeed?
The funny thing is, although the trio’s escape is the most well-known escape from Alcatraz, this isn’t considered a real success. There was one convict who managed to escape from Alcatraz alive and ended up under the Golden Bridge but suffered shock and hypothermia.
His name was John Paul Scott. As soon as he was well enough, he got sent back to Alcatraz where he served the rest of his sentence until the prison closed down.
So What Do You Think?
If John Paul Scott was able to escape from Alcatraz alive, do you think Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers managed to do the same thing as well?
Here’s something to think about, John Paul Scott (along with Darl Lee Parker, who was recaptured immediately), escaped in December by swimming unassisted. These meant he faced tougher odds than the three men who escaped before him.
Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers had a raft, the luxury of time, the cover of darkness, and teamwork available to them. They also escaped in June which is far warmer than December. Is it possible they did manage to reach land in better shape than John Paul Scott?
We’d like to hear your thoughts on that one.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer for the GlobalTel blog. She works hard to ensure her work contains accurate facts by cross checking reputable sources and doesn’t settle for less. Her passion for telling stories about true crime and criminal justice has allowed her to create hundreds of articles that have benefited millions of people.