Alcatraz Prison rises on the horizon as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge in California. Almost every American has heard of the notorious island prison, and it is famous for being impossible to escape from. From its construction until 1963, it served as the most secure and safe prison across the entire United States – and so they put the most dangerous criminals there.
Over the years, 36 prisoners attempted to escape from the prison. Until 2013, it was widely known that every single one of those escape attempts has failed.
Clarence and John Anglin were two of those attempted escapees, along with their friend Frank Morris. They plotted for months and months and finally made it out of the prison through some ventilation ducts in their cells.
They used old saw blades, sharpened spoons, and even a drill Macgyvered from an old vacuum cleaner to open up the ducts enough to fit the three men, one at a time. To hide the loud noise of their grinding and picking, Morris picked up the accordion and played loudly, and often.
Soon, they managed to make it out of their cells only to encounter another problem: the ocean rising in front of them. By continuously entering and exiting their cells, they managed to create life jackets and a raft made up of a bunch of raincoats. Their paddles were made from wood they found while exploring, and soon the plan came to fruition.
On the night of their great escape, they made dummy heads with real human hair and a makeshift form of paper-mâché. They slid out of their cells through the vents and climbed the fence at just the right time.
From there, the story gets really murky. The FBI became involved in the search soon after, but all that was discovered was some remnants of the raft. No other evidence ever turned up, until 2013.
A man claiming to be John Anglin sent a letter to the FBI that year, revealing his identity and the success of their escape. Apparently, the other two had passed in recent years, but all three managed to escape. John included a photo of two of the three escapees enjoying their freedom together to prove it.
John described how he now had cancer and asked for medical treatment in exchange for a prison sentence of, “less than a year.”
The letter was tested for the DNA that was left in the prison cells, but the results were reported as, “inconclusive.” This generally means that the test couldn’t be verified one way or another, meaning that this certainly could be the real John Anglin.
The FBI last reported in 2018 that they did, in fact, receive the letter and had reopened the investigation into the escape. But there has never been any follow up with the supposed, “John Anglin,” who presumably has passed from his illness in the years since.
Clearly there is much more to this story, and hopefully, the FBI will release all the information we need to clear up the ending. For now, all we can do is wonder whether these three men managed to pull off the most impossible prison escape of all time.
Do you think the letter was written by the real John Anglin? Share your thoughts in the comments!