Of all the prisons in the world, Alcatraz is easily one of the most notorious — and for good reason. Originally constructed as a military installment, the imposing stone structure housed some of history’s most dangerous criminals and became legendary for its impenetrability. Many inmates tried to escape the prison over the years, but according to record, none ever made it back to the mainland.
Yet this is only one side of the story, as according to the details the record left out, three men may have actually escaped from Alcatraz after all. While this has only been mere speculation over the years, one newfound piece of evidence may finally provide the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries.
When the military barracks on Alcatraz were first converted into a prison in 1933, many believed the island fortress was inescapable. Still, that didn’t stop a handful of inmates from trying.
Over the prison’s first 15 years of operation, 12 escape attempts were made by a total of 31 prisoners; 21 of them were caught alive, six were shot and killed, two were never found and presumed dead, and two drowned in the icy waters of San Francisco Bay.
But even so, a group of inmates resolved in the summer of 1962 to become the first to successfully escape from Alcatraz. Career criminals Frank Morris, Allen West, and John and Clarence Anglin knew they had their work cut out for them.
For six months, the escapees used the noise of the prison’s music hour to drown out their work. With discarded saw blades, spoons smuggled from the mess hall, and a make-shift drill, the four men chiseled away at the vents beneath their cell sinks.
Once the holes were large enough to crawl through, the men slipped into the vacant utility hall behind their cells and climbed to the empty top level of their cellblock. There, they constructed a makeshift workshop to begin the second phase of their plan.
Using stolen raincoats, the inmates meticulously sewed a raft and built paddles out of scrap wood. They also cleverly rigged a concertina to serve as a bellows, which would allow them to inflate the raft and make their escape.
To account for their absence while working, the men crafted dummy heads out of soap, toothpaste, concrete dust, and toilet paper, even going as far as attaching human hair collected from the prison barbershop. Tucked into their beds, these dummies easily fooled the guards.
With everything in place, the men put their plan into action on the night of June 11, 1962. Yet no sooner did they begin climbing from their cells did the scheme hit a major snag.