Alcatraz’s security came from its island location, that made it almost impossible to escape from. However, that did not stop 36 prisoners from attempting it. Although they’re all believed to have failed, three of them got extremely close to managing it in 1962.
Brothers Frank Morris, John and Clarence Anglin, managed to escape by working tirelessly for more than six months to widen the ventilation ducts in their cells by using discarded saw blades, stolen spoons, as well as a drill created from a vacuum cleaner motor.
The smart trio disguised all the noise they made with Morris’ accordion playing. They also hid their tracks by covering the ducts with paint and cardboard. Once they managed to get out of their cells, they set to work building a raft to get off the island.
That involved creating life jackets and a raft from 50 raincoats, that they stitched together using steam from the pipes. They finally made a set of paddles from scrap wood before attempting what seemed to be an unsuccessful great escape.
They even made dummy heads to place in their beds with real human hair taken from the prison barber.
The heads were constructed from a paper-mâché-like mix of soap and toilet paper, and paint.
Once the dummy heads were in place, the brothers descended 50 feet out of Alcatraz by sliding down a pipe before they jumped the fence at the prison guard’s searchlights blind spot. They then inflated their raft and made their bid for freedom.
After that point, it isn’t known what happened to the men. While searching for them, the FBI discovered remnants of the raft and concluded that they had all drowned.
However, hints have trickled in over the years indicate that they did achieve the impossible and escaped.
In 2012, the Anglins’ family said they had all survived, although they had “cut ties” with them.
One sibling revealed their existence on his deathbed saying he had been in touch with them from 1963 until 1987. He even provided the picture below which he said shows them alive in 1975.
Maybe more tellingly, John Anglin sent a letter to the FBI 50 years after his escape in 2013, explaining he’d hand himself over for a small prison sentence on the condition that he was provided with the medical treatment he needed at the time.
Despite being received in 2013, the letter has only recently been released to the public.