Escape from Alcatraz real story. They said it was resistant to escape, and sent refugees from other correctional facilities there with the certainty that they would never climb the walls or get across the treacherous 2.5 kilometers of ice water to the mainland. And most of the time they were right. During its 29 years as a federal prison, 36 prisoners tried to escape from Alcatraz. Twenty-three of them were quickly caught, six were shot by guards, and two drowned.
Escape in June 1962 from Alcatraz, real story, Morris, Anglin brothers
Only five of them are missing. Two of them were Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe, who tried to cross the San Francisco Bay in 1937 and probably drowned in the attempt. The fate of the other three – Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers – John and Clarence – is unclear. In June 1962, they entered the water on an improvised raft and no one ever saw them again. The official version is that they drowned. There are reasons to believe that it was different. Frank Morris was a mystery.
Frank had a high IQ of 133, yet he was addicted to crime from a young age. It wasn’t even a criminal brain. His crimes were petty, impulsive, often ruthless. Frank was abandoned as a child and spent his adolescence shifting from one foster family to another. He scored his first arrest at the age of thirteen and ended up in a trap. Since then, his life has been spinning in a monotonous circle – short periods of freedom interrupted by further imprisonment for charges from drug possession to armed robbery. He also gained a reputation as a skilled escape artist, which eventually got him to Alcatraz as prisoner No. AZ-1441. John and Clarence Anglin have gone through a similar path of life. However, the English did not lead to crime with problems of abandonment.
They were members of a large clan. For them, it was crippling poverty and the hard work of iterant farm workers that drove them to crime. John Clarence and their brother Alfred ended up in federal prison in Atlanta after a series of bank robberies. It was there that they first met Frank Morris. Like Morris, the fugitives were known, which eventually brought them to Altacraz. There they were placed in neighboring cells, on both sides alongside Morris and Allen West, who ended up in Alcatraz after an unsuccessful attempt to escape from a state prison in Florida. Wes had sat with the Anglins before, and he knew Frank Morris.
The original germ of the escape plan began to emerge in December 1961, when Allen West found several old saw blades tossed in a utility hall. West took them away from Morris since Morris took over the escape plan (despite West’s later attempts to take credit). The plan was simple in its conception, but extremely difficult to implement. Men would expand the ventilation shafts located under the sinks in the cells; they would enter the shaft and climb to the roof of the block. From there, they would climb down the ventilation ducts to the ground, reach the shore, and climb the raft, where they would row across the bay to the mainland. So far, it’s been easy. But to do that will require ingenuity, strong nerves and a good deal of luck.
The first task each man was given was to widen the vents in their cells. They used rough improvised tools – old saw blades, metal spoons smuggled from the dining room and later an electric drill constructed from the engine of a vacuum cleaner, which West stole. This effort, of course, made noise, so their work was limited to a “music lesson” every night when the sound of Frank Morris’s accordion masked scratching, drilling, and banging.
The runners also made painted cardboard screens to cover the holes they made in the walls. They were good enough to fool a casual observer. However, if one of the guards decided to take a closer look, they would be caught. The construction of these escape holes took the prisoners almost six months. Eventually, the vents were wide enough to extend through and get into the ventilation shaft. From that moment on, the men climbed every night to the free upper floor of the block, where they set up a secret workshop.
An inflatable felt and life jackets were made from more than fifty raincoats – some stolen, others donated by other prisoners. Frank Morris found the raft design in the old issue of “Popular Mechanics” magazine. Its construction consisted of carefully gluing parts of the cloaks, strengthening the joints with glue stolen from the prison workshop, and sealing them with the heat of the steam pipeline that ran throughout the prison.
Paddles for the raft were constructed from pieces of wood found around the prison and connected with screws. Moss made of Morris accordion was used to inflate the raft. Upon completion of the raft, the prisoners tried it. Now they just had to pray to stay together in the turbulent waters of the bay.
Of course, the long absence from the cells at night posed a significant risk to the prisoners. The guards carried out frequent checks, and the empty bed quickly set off an alarm. But Frank Morris had a plan. Before embarking on it, he and his companions made headaches made of a mixture of soap, toothpaste, concrete dust, and toilet paper. They were smeared with paint stolen from a maintenance workshop, which gave them a body tone. They even had real hair, made from clippings collected from the barber floor.
Several towels and clothes were tucked under the blankets to bring them closer to their body shape, and it was easy to deceive the guard with a flashlight. By June 1962, all preparations were complete. On June 11, a large escape was to take place. However, there was no chance for one of the refugees to be released. The hole in Allen West’s cell began to crumble during the previous week, so he had to reinforce it with cement. This reduced its size and West could not stretch into it. In the end, he succeeded, but it was too late. West reached the roof and found that his companions had already left.
So he returned to his cell and went to bed to wake up after sunrise when the alarm sounded. He later cooperated fully with the authorities in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It is thanks to his testimony that we know so much about the escape. Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers were to set out at half past nine in the evening, as soon as the lights went out. They left their dummies in place, made their way through the escape vents, and climbed to the top floor of the block. Here they picked up their rafters, paddles and life jackets and pulled them to the roof.
Then they descended 15 meters to the ground and slid down the ventilation tube. Between them and the shore stood two twelve-meter barbed wire fences, which they overcame. From there, they headed for a bay in the northeast of the island, near the power plant, a blind spot for headlights. Here they inflated the felt with improvised moss. Then they went to the water and headed to the “Angel Island”, 3.5 kilometers to the north. No one saw or heard of them anymore. The authorities’ response was, as you can imagine, strong. Alcatraz has always been referred to as a prison from which there is no escape. She had a reputation that she had to maintain.
In the middle of the morning, several military-backed law enforcement agencies took part in a joint search from the air, sea and land. It was supposed to take ten days and bring in few footprints. On June 14, the Coast Guard cutter found a paddle floating about 200 meters from the south shore of Angel Island. Later that day, a commercial ship picked up a plastic-wrapped wallet. It contained a list of the names and addresses of Anglin’s friends and relatives. One week later, pieces of plastic, presumed to be the remains of a raft, were washed up on the beach near the Golden Gate Bridge. The next day, a prison boat picked up an emptied life jacket made of the same material. It was found just 50 meters from Alcatraz Island.
The FBI concluded that the men had probably drowned. However, not everyone agreed that Frank Morris and his companions ended up in the cold waters of San Francisco Bay. Opinions on this issue differ sharply. The most common argument against their survival is that no one has ever heard of any of the men and that it would be almost impossible to disappear completely when all the police in the country searched for them. The argument usually given to support their success is that no bodies were found, which would certainly happen if they drowned. Two of the three drowned victims are eventually fished out of the bay.
In this case, a massive ten-day search involving the Coast Guard and the Air Force revealed nothing but a few pieces of wreckage. According to a group of fugitive supporters, their refugees were probably deliberately thrown into the water to give the impression that something had happened to them. In 1989, the television program “Unsolved Mysteries” tried to end these speculations once and for all by staging a reconstruction of the escape. Three experienced kayakers were seated in a raft similar to that used by the refugees. They had to be rescued from the bay after their vessel fell apart halfway.
The swimmer, who set out on a similar path, managed to cross. In 2003, this experiment repeated the “Discovery Channel Mythbusters” program. He used a raft built from the same materials and tools as the prisoners, and successfully crossed the bay and landed in Marin Headlands. Conclusion? Swimming was definitely possible and not so difficult. But perhaps a better measure of viability is a real escape attempt. On December 16, 1962, inmate John Paul Scott tried to escape the island by freeing. He reached Fort Point, a distance of 3.5 kilometers, where he was later found hypothermic and exhausted.
Scott covered a distance greater than Morris and the Anglins. And in less favorable weather conditions … without felt. So maybe the Alcatraz trio still got to the other side. But if so, what happened to them after they arrived on the mainland? Allen West’s testimony could provide guidance. According to him, they planned to rob a clothing store, then steal a car and head east. The FBI has always claimed that no such crimes were reported at the time of the escape. She often cited this as further evidence that the refugees had ended up at the bottom of the bay. However, this is not entirely true.
The morning after the escape, a blue 1955 Chevrolet was stolen in Marin County. And the same vehicle was later seen 120 miles east of San Francisco, in Motorola, where he was involved in an incident with another motorist. He said there were three men in the vehicle. If these three men were indeed Frank Morris and the English Brothers, then that was the last official observation. Since then, of course, many reports have appeared, as is already the case in important cases. Most of them can be easily rejected, but there is at least one that is worth mentioning. In 1975, a childhood friend of the Anglin brothers returned from a trip to Brazil and a member of the branching Anglin clan said he met John and Clarence in Rio.
Fred Brizzi even submitted a photograph of two men standing at a large thermal field, which he said was taken on the farm where they were staying. The photo was a bit blurry and the men wore sunglasses, which made it impossible to identify clearly. However, forensic experts examined the photographs, claiming that both men were “more than likely” Anglin.
This version was later questioned when Brizzi’s past was examined. He was a con man who, according to his ex-wife, could not tell the truth. Brizzi’s “observation” was eventually considered a hoax. Four years later, in 1979, the FBI closed the investigation and handed the case over to the US Marshal’s Office. According to the office, Morris and Anglin were long dead. However, the case was to reappear in reports in January 2020, when IdenTV was commissioned to analyze Brizzi’s photograph. “IdenTV” is a pioneer in the field of face recognition and uses state-of-the-art technology, including artificial intelligence, to achieve surprisingly accurate results. In this case, the convolutional neural network was trained to recognize the brothers from the old photographs. A photo of Brizzi was then entered into the system.
She came with a high degree of certainty that the men in the photo were John and Clarence Anglin. Alcatraz Prison was closed as a federal prison in 1963. Today, it is a popular tourist destination, with the greatest interest attracted by the cells of Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin.