Alcatraz Prison Escape: The True Complete Story With Evidence
Published August 25, 2023
Alcatraz prison was known as the world’s most remote and isolated prison. It was during the 1960s. The correctional institution considers it impossible to escape. It is due to its location on an island. It is why the world was shocked when the Alcatraz Prison Escape story blew out.
In the history of Alcatraz, 36 inmates tried to get away. None of those succeed or even survive. Yet, this grim statistic altered suddenly in June of 1962. Three men tried to escape “The Rock.” They jumped into the cold, tumultuous waters of San Francisco Bay. These men were never seen again. Their fates remained a mystery for over 50 years. In January 2018, the police gained a mysterious letter. This new information alters everything and forces the FBI to reopen the crime.
Keep reading if you’re curious to find the true story behind the Alcatraz prison escape. We’ll dive deep into the facts that took place in the 1962 escape from Alcatraz. Let’s waste no more time and get started.
Alcatraz Prison: Unbelievable Getaway
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was the greatest security prison. It stands on Alcatraz Island. It is located over a mile off the seaboard of San Francisco, California. It had held military captives during the Civil Water. It was then refortified in the 1930s. To fight against the significant crime wave of the early 20th century. The prison operated for 30 years. From August 11, 1934, to March 21, 1963.
Alcatraz has an isolated location and harsh security measures. The prison has spiked iron bars. It contains strategically placed guards towards and guards. These guards perform at least a dozen strict inmate checks per day. You can only imagine how rigorous prison management was back then.
In Federal Reports, 36 men tried 14 separate escapes in Alcatraz. Nearly all these attempts ended with detainees’ recapture or death. It all changes when Morris and the Anglin brothers. The three execute their clever prison break in times of June 11, 1962.
Who Escaped From Alcatraz?
Frank Lee Morris
Frank Lee Morris was known for his gifted mind and ability to plan. He was cunning, skilled, and a genius. When he was 11, Morris became an orphan. He began moving from foster home to foster home. This incident taught him self-reliance and independence.
But, Morris has a way of enticing trouble. He was 13 when he was convicted for his first crime. As he got older, Morris kept up his criminal activities. He served time in prisons in different states. Frank Lee Morris was doing ten years for bank robbery when the unthinkable happened. He managed to escape. Morris evaded the authorities for a year. It is before he was captured during another robbery. He was then sent to the notorious Alcatraz.
The Anglin Brothers
Frank Lee Morris knows that a successful prison break cannot be managed alone. He needed a team and found them when he got to Alcatraz. The group consists of two brothers. John and Clarence Anglin, and another detainee, Allen West.
The Anglin brothers were born in Georgia. They grew up in Florida. Their parents were seasonal farm laborers. John and Clarence Anglin were inseparable as children. In their early 20s, the brothers begin executing bank robberies together. The two were caught and arrested during a bank job in 1956. During their sentence at the Atlanta Penitentiary, the Anglin brothers were caught. The two are also trying to break escape on numerous occasions. It led to them being sent to Alcatraz. It was when they met Morris, who was the leader of the team.
The Thrilling Escape
During the routine cell check following June 11, 1962. The guards discovered Morris, John, and Clarence were not in their beds. In their place were dummy heads made from plaster. The dummy heads have flesh-toned paint and real human hair. It is considered an ingenious arts-and-crafts project, that tricked the night guards.
Investigators are dumbfounded. They start to piece the plan together several days past as they discover more evidence.
The escape plan was set in motion six months earlier. The trio starts making makeshift tools to remove a wall section in the back of their cells. They concealed their works using false walls, suitcases, and cardboard.
As they finished, the trio managed to access an unguarded utility corridor. It is located behind the cells and climbs to the roof of their cellblock. Here, they set up a secret workshop to proceed to the next step of their prison break. They fasten more than 50 raincoats together. It is to form life jackets and a 6-foot by 14-foot rubber raft. The team also made wooden paddles. They also convert a musical instrument into an air pump to inflate the raft.
When the plan was ready for execution, the men accessed the corridor and got their gear. They climb onto the prison roof through a ventilator. Afterward, they slide down the smokestack from the on-site bakery. They climbed a fence and made for the northeast shore when they set up the raft.
Escape From Alcatraz Story: What Happened After the Escape?
The escape was entitled “Hollywood.” The Federal Bureau of Prisons gives it. In 1972, it was turned into a movie, “Escape from Alcatraz.” Clint Eastwood portrays Morris.
Several weeks after the prison break, a body in blue clothing, the same as a prison uniform, was found. It was washed ashore near San Francisco. Unfortunately, it is hard to identify. The trio has then been listed as missing. They have been presumed drowned ever since.
Investigators believe the men died. It is shortly after stepping foot into the cold water of San Francisco. The bodies were never recorded. Some believe that the inmates manage to survive and fly to other countries. Others think they perished in the frigid waters or on nearby islands.
Conspiracy Theories about Alcatraz Prison Escape
The trio’s survival is the most prominent conspiracy theory surrounding the 1962 Escape from Alcatraz. However, since they vanished in the half-century, other theories attempted to solve where the men went into hiding. The views grew into their activities ever since as well.
The latest development is a letter that emerged in January 2018. It was written by John Anglin and contained an admission of escape. The letter also discusses the inmates’ fate.
The letter states, “My name is John Anglin,” and “I escaped (sic) from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes, we all made it that night but barely.”
The letter continued, “If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke.”
The letter confirmed that Clarence died in 2008, and Morris died in 2005. CBS San Francisco reports that the letter came from an unmanned source. The report said the letter had been delivered to the San Francisco Police Department’s Richmond site. It was then handed over to the FBI in 2013. The FBI conducted a test for its fingerprints. However, the results were inconclusive. The letter had been kept from the public for five years.
Mystery Gifts from Mom
A U.S. Marshal, Michael Dyke inherited the unsolved case in 2003. He told the Associated Press 2012 that he did not know whether any trio members were still alive. However, he said he sees enough evidence to fight the allegations.
The evidence includes credible reports that the Anglins’ mothers receive flowers delivered without a card. It takes place for several years. Also, the brothers attended her 1973 funeral disguised in women’s clothes. It is despite a heavy FBI presence.
The Deathbed Confession
In 2016, investigations were searching into a purported deathbed confession. A man claims that he and his accomplice helped the trio escape from Alcatraz. Sources who saw the document told KFSN that two men were waiting on a white boat in the bay. It picked up the escapees as they paddled toward the shore. It brings them to the coast of Seattle.
The details coincide with a report filed the day after the escape. It is by now-retired San Francisco cop Robert Checchi. He discusses how he was off duty when he spotted a white boat on the bay. It has lights off in the marina on the night of the prison break. It appeared empty but later flashed a spotlight on the water and disappeared into the night.
In the confession, the dying man narrated that it wasn’t long after the escape that he murdered the trio. He buried their bodies near a highway. Author and Alcatraz scholar Michal Esslinger told the station that they went to the scene. However, they fail to find any bodies that would prove the confession.
Current Status of Alcatraz Prison Escape
The FBI closed the case in 1979 and handed over the lead to the U.S. Marshals Service. It carries on the investigation in case the trio is still alive.
If the 2013 letter and deathbed confession are false, all the men still survive. Morris would be around 97 years old. John and Clarence would be 93 and 92.
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.