The Untold Truth About the Escape From Alcatraz

36 men have tried and 33 have failed. What happened to the 3 men who made it the
farthest? Here’s the untold truth about the Alcatraz
escape! 9 – Background on Alcatraz
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum-security federal prison on Alcatraz Island, around
one and a quarter miles off the coast of San Francisco. Given its high security and the island’s location
in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was believed to be escape-proof and America’s strongest
prison. Alcatraz was used to hold prisoners who caused
trouble at other federal prisons. It housed roughly fifteen hundred federal
inmates, including some of America’s most infamous criminals. Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly are
some examples. The three-story cellhouse had four main cell
blocks, A-block through D-block, right in the center. The warden’s office and visitation room were
on one end of the building. The dining hall and kitchen areas were on
the other side, along with the exercise yard. The prison cells typically measured 9 feet
by 5 feet and 7 feet high. Each prisoner had their own cell, but they
were primitive and lacked privacy. They were only outfitted with the bare necessities. Prisoners followed a strict daily routine
and their whereabouts were known at all times. To give you an idea of how closely they checked
on prisoners, a total of 13 official counts were made every 24 hours! Escape seemed almost impossible! Despite the odds, from 1934 until the prison
was closed in 1963, 36 men tried 14 separate escapes. Nearly all were caught or didn’t survive
the attempt. However, the fate of three particular inmates
remains a mystery to this day! 8 – The Escapees
Inmates Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin were the prisoners who attempted
the infamous 1962 prison break out of Alcatraz! Frank Lee Morris was orphaned at age 11 and
spent most of his childhood in foster homes. He was convicted of his first crime at age
13, and by his late teens he had been arrested for crimes such as armed robbery! However, even with his criminal past, Morris
was in the 98th percentile in intelligence. Supposedly he had an IQ of 133. Genius level is considered 140 and above. Escaping from Alcatraz actually wasn’t his
first escape! He escaped from the Louisiana State Penitentiary
while serving time for bank robbery. He was caught again a year later sent to Alcatraz
in January 1960. The Anglin brothers, John and Clarence, were
born into a family of thirteen children in Georgia. The brothers began robbing banks and other
businesses as a team in the early 1950s. They targeted places that were closed, to
ensure that no one got injured. They claimed that they used a weapon only
once, during a bank heist, with a toy gun. By the 1960s, both received sentences that
brought them to Alcatraz. But how did the brothers and Frank Morris
come together? They all had served time together at the United
States Penitentiary in Atlanta! After repeated failed attempts to escape from
the Atlanta facility, the brothers were transferred to Alcatraz. A fourth guy, Allen West, was also involved
although he didn’t leave Alcatraz with the trio. West was serving his second term in Alcatraz. He knew John Anglin from prison time together
in Florida. The escape plan started to take shape in December
of 1961, beginning with a collection of several old saw blades that West allegedly found in
one of the utility corridors while cleaning. And that’s why he was pulled into the escape. In later interviews, West would take credit
for masterminding the whole thing! 7 – The Plan
While in Alcatraz, inmate Clarence Carnes became friends with Morris and told him about
the access tunnel behind their cells. Morris used this information to develop the
overall escape plan. They then all carefully planned the escape
for eight months, leaving nothing to coincidence. Over the next six months, the men widened
the ventilation ducts beneath their sinks using the saw blades discovered by West. They also used metal spoons smuggled in from
the dining hall. Amazingly enough, they also made an electric
drill improvised from the motor of a vacuum cleaner! They hid the noise of their work with the
louder noise of Morris playing his accordion during music hour. That was in addition to all the noise of instruments
during music hour! Yup, that’s right, Alcatraz had a music
hour. This was something new to the prison and a
somewhat loosening of the extremely tight rules. Dozens of men simultaneously playing the accordion
and other instruments was able to cover up the sound of drilling. Their progress was concealed by whatever they
could find to cover the walls in their cells. Behind their cells was a common, unguarded
utility corridor. They made their way down this corridor and
climbed to the roof of their cell block, still inside the building, where they set up a secret
workshop. This was a hidden place where it was always
empty and guards pretty much never went. But they would still take turns keeping watch
for guards at night. They used a variety of stolen and donated
materials to build and hide what they needed to escape. 6 – The raft
The guys spent many weeks constructing an improvised inflatable raft along with life
jackets. Swimming was just not an option with the conditions
in the waters surrounding Alcatraz. The raft and the jackets were made using material
from more than fifty prison raincoats. Of course, all of the materials were stolen. So how were they able to figure out how to
make a life raft? The men had access to magazines, and it’s
believed that information from magazines such as Popular Mechanics helped the men with the
construction. The rubber raincoats were held together with
thread and contact cement. The seams were carefully stitched by hand
and sealed by heat coming from steam pipes. They were able to inflate the raft with a
concertina, which is pretty much like an accordion, ingeniously rigged to blow air into their
raft. The raft came out to be around 6 feet by 14
feet, just enough room to hold all of them. They would typically take turns working on
the raft beginning at 5:30pm and stop just before 9:00pm. That was the final lights-out count for the
night. While they were working on the raft, they
were also looking for a good way to get out of the actual building. That’s because the ceiling was roughly 30
feet high! But by using a network of pipes, they were
able to climb up the walls. They eventually pried open the ventilator
at the top of the ventilation shaft. They kept it in place temporarily by fashioning
a fake bolt made out of soap. This mystery kind of reminds us of the mystery
of why Michael Jackson owned so much crazy stuff. Find out more with this video! 5 – The Escape
The night of June 11, 1962 was when they decided to make their escape. They had finally made everything they needed,
and everything was in place! From the service corridor, Morris and the
Anglin brothers climbed into the ventilation shaft to the roof. Guards actually did hear a loud crash as they
broke out of the ventilation shaft. But since nothing more was heard, they decided
not to investigate. C’mon, what could possibly be happening,
people breaking out a maximum security prison on an island?! They descended 50 feet to the ground by sliding
down a kitchen vent pipe, and then they climbed two 12-foot barbed-wire perimeter fences. They were able to do all this hauling the
life raft and stuff to inflate the raft! They decided to go to the northeast shoreline
of Alcatraz, near the island’s power plant to inflate their raft. That spot was a blind spot in the prison’s
network of searchlights and gun towers. It’s estimated that sometime after 10 PM,
they left toward Angel Island two miles to the north. But really, authorities really had no way
to tell how much of a head start they had. And that was thanks to the crude plaster heads
they had made! Up close the heads obviously don’t look
real at all. But from a few feet away, they did the job
of looking lifelike over and over again when they were working in their workshop! The heads were ingeniously made out of a mixture
of soap, toothpaste, concrete dust, and toilet paper! They were able to make them look somewhat
realistic with paint from art supplies for prisoners. The hair they used were from the barbershop
floor. For the actual bodies, they would just pile
towels and clothes underneath their blankets! 4 – Left Behind
It was supposed to have been the four of them all escaping together. But only 3 guys showed up! What happened? Allen West had trouble opening his vent covering
in his cell. He had used cement to cover up the crumbling
concrete around the vent in his cell. But it had actually hardened too much. The other guys did try to kick open his vent
cover but it didn’t work. They had to leave since they had limited time. By the time West managed to make the hole
wider to escape, the other guys had already left on the raft! He escaped the building only to return to
his cell around sunrise and go to sleep. He decided to tell investigators exactly what
they all did though. He gave them a detailed description of the
escape plan. In return, he didn’t get punishment for
his role in the escape. 3 – What’s the official story? The official story by the FBI is that they
believe the men didn’t survive their escape attempt to Angel Island. The FBI and the coast guard combed the area
and found several items that they believed belong to the men. This included a paddle, a couple of life jackets,
and a sealed plastic bag that belonged to the Anglin brothers with letters, photos,
and addresses. Later, shreds of what’s believed to be the
raft were found washed up on a beach. Investigators thought that the high tides
would have made it impossible for the three men to safely get to shore. Their bodies are assumed to have been swept
out into the Pacific Ocean. Also, there were reports of a body spotted
in the days after. The reports came from a Norwegian shipping
freighter, that claimed to see a body floating nearby. The body was never recovered, but it was assumed
as more proof of the men not making it. Another reason to believe the men had drowned
was the information West had given. The men had intended to steal a car and perform
a robbery once they reached Angel Island. However, no robberies or stolen cars were
reported in the days after their escape were made. The FBI’s official line was that the raft
broke up and sank at some point after having launched from Alcatraz. They then tried to swim for it, but most likely
succumbed to hypothermia and their bodies were quickly swept out to sea. After 17 years of searching for answers, the
FBI decided to close the file in 1979. 2 – What REALLY happened? Well, the only people that REALLY know for
sure are the 3 escapees and whoever they told! Anyone else doesn’t know for sure. Despite the official statements, a number
of family members have come forward and have insisted that their relatives did survive
that night. In 2011, Bud Morris, a man who claimed to
be Frank Morris’s cousin, came forward and said that he had previously delivered bribes
to Alcatraz guards. He also claimed to have met Frank in a San
Diego park shortly after the escape. His daughter claimed to have remembered being
there as well, meeting with her quote, “father’s friend Frank”. In 2012, two of the Anglins’ sisters, along
with two of their nephews, claimed to have received phone calls and Christmas cards from
the brothers in December of 1962. Then, in a 2015 History Channel documentary,
it was revealed that handwriting on some of the Christmas cards was found to match one
of the brothers. One of the more popular theories is that they
traveled to Brazil. A friend of the Anglin brothers, Fred Brizzi,
claimed that he had met with them in Rio de Janeiro in 1975. He had even taken a photograph of them. Forensic experts concluded that the photograph
was “most likely” of the Anglins. But c’mon, they’re wearing sunglasses
here, how can someone really be sure?! Robert, another Anglin brother, told his family
members that he had been in contact with the brothers until around 1987. Finally, a letter was posted to the San Francisco
police department in 2018, by a person claiming to be John Anglin. It read, in part quote My name is John Anglin. I escaped 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! He stated that he would turn himself in, in
return for a minimal prison sentence and treatment for his cancer. The letter was tested for fingerprints, DNA,
and handwriting analysis. However, the results were inconclusive. There are two main theories in how they made
it off the island. The first is that once they inflated their
raft and lifejackets, they paddled hard towards Angel Island. This aligns with the assumed “physical”
evidence from the escape. Fellow prisoner Bob Schibline asserted that
he had been providing Clarence Anglin tide tables torn from newspapers thrown in the
trash by the guards. This shows that they had at least some knowledge
on the tide conditions. The Anglin Brothers also grew up on the Tampa
Bay and the family members say the brothers were great swimmers. Supposedly they understood the currents and
general conditions of swimming in open water and the nature of swift ocean currents. Their success was predicated on several factors,
but the most important one was the time they had entered the water. Too early and they would have been swept to
sea. But if they timed it using the tidal charts
and entered the water between 11:00 PM and midnight, they could have survived without
much effort. The second main theory suggested that they
had planned to make their escape with help from a passenger ferry at a nearby dock. A 120ft electrical wire was reported missing
from that dock. It’s been theorized that the men used the
rope to attach themselves to the ferry and hitch a ride to the mainland. Then a boat was waiting for them near the
St. Francis Yacht Club and sped them to a distant harbor for safe passage out of San
Francisco. After hearing of the escape, Robert Checchi,
a reputable San Francisco Police Officer, contacted the FBI reporting that he had witnessed
a suspicious boat in this very area. He’s remained convinced he had witnessed
activities linked to the escape. 1 – What’s the Most likely truth? Most of the time the right answer is the simplest
answer. For every single piece of evidence or theory
that suggests they didn’t make it is another piece of evidence making a compelling case
for survival. There just simply isn’t any definitive evidence
on either side of the debate to close the case. A lack of evidence doesn’t prove they died,
nor does it prove they lived. The untold truth is that we’ll never ever
know unless one of the men actually shows up today and is confirmed to be one of the
escapees! Too much time has passed for any stories remembered
to be actually accurate. Watch this next video to learn about the craziest
things Michael Jackson owned!

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