A Great Escape From Alcatraz – A True Story

Escaping from prison is no mean feat, especially when it is a maximum security installation. Despite that, there have been instances throughout the decades where inmates have braved all odds and come out on the other side.

Why An Escape From Alcatraz Was Tough?

Unlike other prisons around the world, Alcatraz won the nickname ‘The Rock’ and for good reason. 

It was strategically located smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The waters around the prison were known to be notoriously turbulent and so cold that despite a wetsuit, a person can soon succumb to hypothermia if they failed to remain careful. All these factors together make Escape from Alcatraz an impossible task.

Furthermore, Alcatraz was designed as a maximum security prison that has been used to hold hardened criminals captive since the American Civil War. Later in 1934, the then-American government, re-fortified Alcatraz with strategically positioned guard towers, reinforced iron bars and a plethora of security measures that included a dozen headcounts a day. All of this was done to make sure that the prison was fit to keep public enemies like George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Al Capone within its confines.  

Despite the re-fortification measures, thirty-six men escaped from the Alcatraz prison in 14 separate incidents. Most of them were either caught or did not survive the ordeal.

But the Alcatraz true story 1962 is an account of three hardened criminals who, despite the staggering odds stacked against them, escaped the seemingly inescapable prison of Alcatraz and disappeared for good!

Escape From Alcatraz – The Escapees

The prisoners who successfully made their escape from Alcatraz are – 

  • John Anglin
  • Clarence Anglin and
  • Frank Morris

Frank Morris was a convicted bank robber, and burglar and known to be a notorious inmate with skills to break out of prisons quite easily. He arrived at Alcatraz in January 1960. Later that year, in his adjoining cell, John Anglin arrived. He was a known face to Frank as the men shared cell blocks in their previous prison stints. The two men were then joined by Clarence Anglin, John’s brother in the early part of 1961. he was housed in yet another adjacent cell.

The three men began their escape plan as soon as they could. They all agreed to let Frank take charge of the plan as morris was known for his intelligence. During the investigation led by the FBI, it was found that the three inmates had extensive help from a fourth inmate, Allen West. 

The Plan

The inmate’s Alcatraz escape plan looked like this 

  • They first got their hands on some used saw blades.
  • They loosened the air vents in their respective cells. 
  • They made a crude drill using the motor of a defunct vacuum cleaner which was used to drill close-spaced holes around the vents. This was done to remove a huge section of the wall. The hole was then covered with cardboard pieces, a suitcase, etc.
  • The inmates periodically came out of their respective cells, used an unguarded utility corridor, reached its end and climbed to the roof of their cell block. Here they put together a secret workshop.
  • They then took turns to stand watch using a makeshift periscope for guards. They stole around fifty raincoats and used them to make life vests as well as a 6×14 foot wide rubber raft. The raft was vulcanised using the heat from the steam pipes heating the prison. The ideas were taken from science magazines that authorities discovered later in the cells of the escapees. 
  • Wooden paddles and a pump using a musical instrument were also made. The pump was used to inflate the rubber raft.
  • They found a way out of the prison building using a ventilator shaft that was on the ceiling 30 feet high from their makeshift workshop. A network of pipes was used to climb up to the shaft. The cover of the shaft was pried open and kept in place using a fake bolt made out of a soap bar.

The Execution Of The Plan

By the evening of June 11, the Inmates Alcatraz Escape were ready to execute. Allen West had to be left behind as he was unable to remove the section of the wall at the back of his cell. The remaining three made their way through the utility corridor, gathered their escape gear from their makeshift workshop and climbed to the roof of the prison using the ventilator shaft. After that, they used the bakery chimney to slide down to the base of the prison, climbed over the fence and launched their raft from the northeast corner of the island.

On The Day Of The Escape

The inmates Escape from Alcatraz on the morning of June 12, 1962. It was noticed during the early morning headcount. Each bed of the respective inmates had fake heads made using human hair from the barber shop, plaster and skin-tone paint. After the discovery, the prison went into lockdown and search operations began.

What Happened Next?

No one truly knows the fate of the three inmates. The FBI worked on the case for seventeen years and came up empty-handed. The law enforcement agency finally closed the case, unsolved on December 31, 1979. The case is now under the cold case division of the U.S. Marshals Service.