a picture of three prisoners

a picture of three prisoners

When three men escaped from Alcatraz in the early 1960s, no one had any idea how they’d pulled it off. We still don’t know what happened to them.

On June 11th in the year 1962 on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco of the United States, three prisoners managed to escape the prison, much to the shock of everyone who believed the prison was inescapable. Even though the guards believed that the three prisoners were sleeping peacefully in their cells, they weren’t.

Escape From Alcatraz

John Anglin, his brother, Clarence, and Frank Morris broke out of their cells in Alcatraz. They left some dummy heads in their beds in place of their own. They made homemade plaster, using soap and toilet paper to make the heads. Then painted them flesh-colored and actually used real human hair.

No one believed escaping from Alcatraz was possible. It was the most secure prison the country. Alcatraz housed some of the most notorious gangsters, like Al Capone, as well as other escape artists. It was on an island just off the shore of San Francisco and had been reinforced in 1934. The iron bars on it were tougher than at other prisons. The prison also had guard towers strategically placed so that they could see everything. Criminals there were under constant watch and checked multiple times every single day.

Thirty three other inmates tried to escape Alcatraz, but all were either killed or recaptured. When John, Clarence, and Frank were found missing the next morning, no one was worried. Everyone at the prison believed it wouldn’t take long before the three were either caught or killed, like everyone else. On June 12th, a memo had been sent to the FBI’s San Francisco office that read, “It is not known whether the inmates actually left the island… If it appears that an actual escape occurred, immediately intensive investigation will be instituted.” So, two FBI agents were sent to find out what was going on.

Investigation Into Cells

They learned that the three inmates along with a fourth named Allen, made a makeshift drill with a vacuum cleaner motor and cut out the wall around the ventilation unit at the back of their cells. Behind their cells, they found an unguarded utility corridor. This connected to the plumbing pipes that led into the roof just above their cell block in Alcatraz.

One of the FBI agents actually said that the work the inmates had put into their Alcatraz escape was “fantastic.” The prisoners worked together to scrape up what they needed to pull off their escape. Fifty raincoats had been stitched together to make four different life-preserver vests and two rubber rafts. They made wooden paddles to inflate the raft.

Allen finished the hole with Frank on the night of the escape but had been left behind. He told police that the plan had been to row to Angel Island nearby. From there across Raccoon Strait and into Marin County on the mainland from Alcatraz. They would rob a place to get clothes, guns and a car and drive as far away from possible. But no robberies were reported after the escape, which investigators found unusual. Officers thought that the inmates had been helped by friends and family on the outside.

Where Did They Go?

Other people believe that the prisoners were unlikely to make it in their raft and that they might have been swept out to sea. However, no bodies were ever found.

Soon after, packets of the men’s letters that had been sealed in rubber were found on Angel Island, as well as a homemade paddle and some rubber tubing. Then in 1963, bones were found at Point Reyes National Seashore. DNA analysis later confirmed that it wasn’t a match for the two brothers and Frank has no match to test the bones against. So, no one knows what really happened to the escaped prisoners.