Alcatraz is located in San Francisco Bay. This small island was operated as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. Today it has become a major tourist attraction with more than a million visitors each year.
We visited Alcatraz in Oct 2021. The island is beautiful and calming itself. However, most of the prisoners in this former federal prison were infamous and notorious bank robbers and murderers, such as Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelley, and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud.
Isolated by the cold, strong, tremendous water currents of San Francisco Bay, needless to say, there are sharks around the island, for its time, Alcatraz was the nation’s most secure prison. During its 29 years of operation, a total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts. Nearly all were caught or didn’t survive the attempt.
The most famous Alcatraz escape carried out on June 11, 1962, by Frank Morris, brothers John and Clarence Anglin. It was called one of the greatest prison escapes in American history. The prisoners planned their big break for several months. They had dig an escape tunnel out of their concrete cells using sharpened spoons, left dummy heads, fashioned out of soap, toilet paper and hair, in their beds on the night of 11 June 1962. They also built an inflatable raft out of raincoats. It is interesting that the idea of making the raft from raincoats is learning from prison library. The pictures below, which I took in our tour, explained how the three prisoners escaped from the Alcatraz.
Despite an intense search effort, the men were never found, leaving many wondering whether they drown in the choppy San Francisco Bay or made it to land of freedom. When pieces of the raft and paddles washed up near the island, Alcatraz officials have suggested they drowned or died of hypothermia. The FBI closed its case in 1979, concluding that the escapees were unlikely to have survived an icy cold current in the sea.
But more than 50 years later, the Anglin family has provided evidence that the men might have survived. What’s more, John Anglin allegedly wrote a letter to the San Francisco Police in 2013. In the letter, the writer explained that all three prisoners barely survived the escape, and he was the last living member of the trio, with the others dying in 2005 and 2008. He offered a deal: If authorities announced on television that he would receive a single one-year jail sentence, in which he could have the medical treatment he needed, “I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke…” However, FBI officials doubt the letter is real; a handwriting analysis of the letter came back “inconclusive”.
No one knows what happened to the escapees. It remained mysterious. Your guess is good as anyone’s.