Located on the lonely island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was the re-fortified prison for America’s most dangerous criminals. It held Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz. And while Alcatraz had long been considered un-escapable, during its re-fortification in the 1930s, it was given tough iron bars, strategically positioned guard towers, and strict rules. This made the thoughts of escape seem near impossible.
Despite the odds, from 1934 until its closure in 1963, 36 men attempted 14 separate escapes. Nearly all of them were caught or did not survive. But there are three inmates whose fates still remain a mystery.
On June 12, 1962, the guard’s routine early morning bed checks turned out to be anything but. Three inmates were not in their cells. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris were nowhere to be found. All that was found in their beds were cleverly built dummy heads made of plaster, real human hair, and flesh-toned paint, which had already fooled the night guards. The prison was sent into lockdown and a thorough search took place.
John William and Alfred Clarence Anglin were two of 13 children born in Donalsonville, Georgia. Their parents, George Robert and Rachael Van Miller Anglin were farmworkers. During the 1940s, they moved to Ruskin, Florida, 20 miles south of Tampa, where the farms and tomato fields provided them with a more reliable source of income. Still, each June, they would move north, sometimes as far as Michigan, to pick cherries. It is said that Clarence and John were inseparable.
They were arrested in 1956 for robbing a bank in Columbia, Alabama, and were given 15 to 20 years. They were first sent to Atlanta Penitentiary where they met Frank Morris and Allen West. Later, they would be transferred to Florida State Prison and then to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. When they tried to escape from Leavenworth, they were sent to Alcatraz. Remember, nobody could be sent to Alcatraz from the courts, they had to earn their spots. John arrived on October 1, 1960, and Clarence got there on January 10, 1961. In about a year, they started to come up with an elaborate escape attempt with Frank Morris and Allen West.
Frank Lee Morris was born in Washington, DC, and was orphaned at age 11. He spent the…