The Alcatraz Escape
The 1962 Alcatraz Escape is the only successful escape in the penitentiary‘s history. Three daring inmates plotted and executed their plan which fooled officers for long enough to allow them to escape. Here’s the story…
Sometime on the evening of June 11th, 1962 and the morning of June 12th, four inmates executed a plan to escape Alcatraz Penitentiary, a plan they had been working on for a long time. The four inmates were two brothers Clarence and John Anglin, and Allen West and Frank Morris.
In December 1961, the four men were given adjacent cells. It is also thought they knew each other from when they spent time in prison in Atlanta. Morris was described as “exceptionally intelligent” and was the man who formulated the plans for the group. The four men had acquired used saw blades from the prison grounds, metal spoons, and an improvised drill made from the motor of a broken vacuum cleaner. The men used these tools to increase the width of the ventilation duct openings in their cells over the next six months. During the process, they concealed any work they were doing with cardboard and other various items.
Just prior to the night of the escape they sculpted papier-mâché heads, each resembling their own likeness. They did this with toilet tissue, soap, water, and hair from the barbershop floor. They managed to keep the heads concealed from officers until that night when they placed the heads in their beds and used towels and clothing to make their beds look like they were asleep in them, these were the first steps in the daring Alcatraz Escape.
When darkness fell, they broke out of the main prison building via their widened ventilation duct and into an unused utility corridor. Allen West could not get the ventilation grill in his cell removed in time because he had tried to conceal the crumbling concrete with cement, which had hardened and secured the grill in place. By the time he removed his ventilation grill, the other three were already gone and he went back to his cell to sleep. He was the only one of the four who did not participate in the escape. West was cooperative with authorities and was not charged with attempted escape or involvement in the plan.
The trio made their way to the roof of their cell block, still inside the building, and set up a temporary workshop where they assembled a variety of stolen and donated materials, including more than 50 raincoats that they turned into makeshift life preservers and a 6×14 feet rubber raft. They carefully stitched the seams together and sealed them with heat from nearby steam pipes. They built wooden paddles. Finally, they climbed a shaft of pipes and ducts to the building’s roof, where they cut away most of the rivets holding a large ventilating fan and grill in place.
From there, Morris and the Anglin brothers climbed the ventilation shaft to the roof. Alcatraz guards reported hearing a loud crash as they broke out of the shaft, but since nothing further was heard, the source of the noise was not investigated. Hauling their gear with them, they descended a 50 feet wall by sliding down a kitchen vent pipe to the ground. They then climbed two 12 feet barbed wire perimeter fences. At the north east shoreline, near the power plant — a blind spot in the prison’s network of searchlights and gun towers — they inflated their raft. At some time between 10pm on June 11th and the early morning of June 12th, they departed toward Angel Island, two miles to the north.
Guards in the prison conducted their routine checks through the night and were happy that all three men were still in their cell, their sculpted heads and piled clothing in beds had fooled the guards temporarily. Their cunning plan to fool the guards gave them enough time to achieve the only Alcatraz Escape in the penitentiary’s history. That morning guards checked the cell and realized the three prisoners were not there.
Despite thorough investigation and pursued leads by the FBI, military and local law enforcement in recent years, the Alcatraz Escape trio have never been seen since. Some theorize they moved to Brazil, while others say they never made it to the mainland and died at sea. Either way, there is no conclusive evidence proving either theory and the Alcatraz Escape, or more so the fate of the three inmates, remains an unsolved mystery. More on the leads after the Alcatraz Escape from Wiki.
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