Three Men Escaped Alcatraz And Now Send A Letter To The FBI To Give Themselves Up

by Shirley Williams
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The most infamous prison in the world is the brutal Alcatraz, which lies off the west coast of San Francisco in the USA. The prison is located on a small, strategically located island in the bay of the city and is deemed impossible to escape.

In 1850 a fort was built on the small piece of land for defense. More than 50 years later it was decided that it could perfectly serve as a military prison and was converted to the most secure detention center in the world. It soon gained a relentless reputation…

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The ‘fort’ was known as one of the most secure prisons in the world. In large part because of its remote location and the strong currents in the bay. It ensured that the most notorious criminals of the last century were placed in this prison. And they didn’t have it easy …

Between 1920 and 1930 (at the time of the gangsters and the prohibition) federal agencies decided that Alcatraz would be the perfect location to incarcerate prominent criminals such as Al Capone, Bill “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and  Robert “Birdman” Stroud. To keep all these prominent prisoners under control, they had to stay in their cells almost all day long and were not allowed to talk to each other.

Cell life on Alcatraz was not a walk in the park, prisoners who caused difficulties lost privileges and were for example not allowed to read books or receive visitors. The worst inmates got placed in isolation cells, where they were only allowed to leave the cell 10 minutes a week to take a shower. This resulted in a lot of prisoners trying to escape …

Perhaps the most difficult thing for the prisoners was the fact they could see San Francisco, and thus literally looked at freedom. If the wind was right, they could hear cars honking and hear the music from nearby bars. The distance was only a few miles away.

Even though they could smell freedom, escaping was considered impossible. The island was surrounded with barbed wire and there were guards stationed in towers who kept an eye on things. Also, the prisoners would have to swim another 1.5 miles to the mainland, while the current was very strong and the water freezing cold. There would also be sharks in the bay. In short: it wouldn’t be easy.

Yet in total around 36 criminals have tried. Some alone, some together. 25 of them were quickly arrested again, while 6 others were killed. Of the others – until today – every trace is missing. No one knows whether they have achieved their freedom …

However, how three of them managed to escape is an Oscar-worthy story. It is probably also the most famous escape attempt ever. The Anglin brothers had enough time in their joint cells to think about a good plan. And so it happened. In 1962 they brought their escape attempt to fruition …

First, they dug a hole around the ventilation grille in their cell, then they managed to craft lifelike masks of their face from paper-mâché. This was to ensure that the guards were misled and wouldn’t notice their escape for a few hours. If this worked, they would also need a boat. They built it in one of the workspaces above the cells by gluing raincoats together.

Their plan seemed to succeed. On June 11, 1962, they climbed through the ventilation shaft to the roof of the prison and stepped into the water with their ‘boat’, towards freedom. Since then, there is no trace of the three men. The only evidence was a paddle and some personal belongings that washed up later.

After the disappearance of the three was noticed, one of the largest manhunts in American history was organized. Without any results, the three were assumed to have drowned in the bay during their journey. But did they? Last year, the San Francisco police revealed a letter from someone claiming to be John Anglin, one of the escaped men …

The letter could explain what happened that day in June: “My name is John Anglin, I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962. Yes, we all made it that night, but barely! I am 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. If you announce on TV that I will be promised to just go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention I will write back to let you know exactly where I am.” says the writer …

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