The biggest revelation about Alcatraz half a century after the escape: “We made it by the hairs!”

John Anglin, one of the three escapees from Alcatraz prison, in 1962, in a montage about his alleged letter

Israel Viana


Documentaries, photographs, books, the famous movie starring Clint Eastwood, statements from the prisoners with whom they shared a corridor in Alcatraz prison and even a scientific study on the waters of San Francisco. The attempts to find out what really happened in the most famous escape in history are endless. Nobody seems convinced by the official version given by the FBI in 1979, according to which Frank Lee Morris and the brothers John and Clarence Anglin They lost their lives on June 11, 1962. Everything continues to be shrouded in mystery.

The bodies were never found, as ABC already advanced three days after the disappearance of the inmates: «Three bank robbers have escaped from their cells in Alcatraz, making a hole in the cement walls.

They have only used spoons. If they are released, it will be the first time that an inmate confined in this prison manages to successfully escape from this prison, considered the safest in the world. As is known, it is located on a large rock in the San Francisco Bay. The fugitives, who are believed to have tried to swim the distance that separates them from the mainland, are still being searched for. The water, at the time of the leak, had a temperature of 12 degrees and currents greater than 13 kilometers per hour.

The newspaper had previously described Alcatraz as an island from which it was impossible to escape. He also reported other unsuccessful escape attempts, but none of the hundreds of tests that the police followed in the following years were conclusive in determining whether the attempt by Morris and the Anglin brothers was a success or a failure. It was not until the release of Eastwood’s film in 1979 that the FBI closed the case and officially concluded that the prisoners had drowned in the frigid waters of the bay, before reaching the coast.

Article about the conditions Alcatraz was in a few months before the breakout+ info
Article on the conditions in which Alcatraz was found a few months before the escape – ABC FILE

a detailed plan

The plan was thorough. For 18 months, the inmates dug a tunnel not only with the aforementioned metal spoons from the dining room, but also with an improvised electric drill with the motor of a vacuum cleaner. At the same time they made doll heads with hair, toilet paper, plaster and paint with which they made the guards believe, the night of the escape, that they were sleeping. The deception was essential to buy time and be able to climb some poles and go through the roof through the ventilation systems, before sliding down a 15-meter chimney that led to the showers. According to the FBI investigation, they jumped into the water between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. In that moment, they were gone forever.

Days later the vest of one of them was found in a coastal area, the remains of the raft built with fifty raincoats on a nearby island and some personal effects of the Anglin brothers floating in the bay. With few more clues, the FBI handed over the baton to the Marshalls, the United States federal marshals agency, whose prisoners have remained on the most wanted list ever since. The hundreds of calls that have occurred in recent decades giving information on the whereabouts of one of the three escapees have been unsuccessful. A nephew of the brothers even claimed that his grandmother received flowers with cards signed by John and Clarence several times after the escape, but nothing.

The case was falling into oblivion until, in 2013, the San Francisco Police received a letter signed, supposedly, by one of them: “My name is John Anglin. I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I am 83 years old and I am in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes, we got it that night… albeit just barely!” And he then offered a pact to the authorities: «If they announce on television that they promise me that I will go to jail for only one year and that they will give me medical attention, I will write back to tell them where exactly I am. It is not a joke”.

Report on the scientific study on the waters surrounding Alcatraz+ info
Report on the scientific study on the waters surrounding Alcatraz – ABC FILE

The photograph

This letter was the biggest revelation about the case since the escape in 1962. The document was analyzed by the FBI to determine if it was authentic, but the results were inconclusive. In it, according to the agency, the alleged fugitive also indicated that Morris had died in 2008 and that his brother, in 2011. John Anglin also assured that he had lived for many years in Seattle, in the state of Washington, in addition to eight years in North Dakota, a state that he would have left to later arrive in South Carolina. The long-awaited appearance of the former Alcatraz inmate never materialized, but the letter served to reopen the case and increase public interest.

A year later, Dutch scientists from the Technical University of Delft and the Deltares research institute presented research that simulated the movements of these three men that night. The study, a high-performance hydraulic model to simulate the movement of water masses in deltas and bays, concluded that the leak could be possible. If they left that night around 11:30 p.m., their boat would have arrived just north of the Golden Gate.

In 2015, a History Channel documentary also showed a photograph of the Anglin brothers on a farm in Brazil, which would have been taken thirteen years after the famous escape. His nephews, Ken and David Widner, said they received the document from a family friend named Fred Brizzi who knew John and Clarence before they entered Alcatraz. According to him, one day he met them in a bar in Rio de Janeiro and they suggested he go to the farm that the inmates kept to take pictures of them with his camera. Later, a forensic investigator took a look at the image and concluded that it was “highly likely” that it was Morris’s companions based on their facial structures. Again, nothing was conclusive.

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