Tags: FBI | Remembers | Alcatraz | Mystery

FBI Remembers Alcatraz Mystery

Friday, 08 June 2007 12:00 AM

In its heyday, it was the ultimate maximum security prison.

Located on a lonely island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz — aka "The Rock" — had held captives since the Civil War. But it was in 1934, the highpoint of a major war on crime, that Alcatraz was re-fortified into the world's most secure prison. Its eventual inmates included dangerous public enemies like Al Capone, criminals who had a history of escapes, and the occasional odd character like the infamous "Birdman of Alcatraz."

In the 1930s, Alcatraz was already a forbidding place, surrounded by the cold, rough waters of the Pacific. The redesign included tougher iron bars, a series of strategically positioned guard towers, and strict rules, including a dozen checks a day of the prisoners. Escape seemed near impossible.

Despite the odds, from 1934 until the prison was closed in 1963, 36 men tried 14 separate escapes. Nearly all were caught or didn't survive the attempt.

The fate of three particular inmates, however, remains a mystery to this day. Here is their story, which played out 45 years ago this month.

On June 12, 1962, the routine early morning bed check turned out to be anything but. Three convicts were not in their cells: John Anglin, his brother Clarence, and Frank Morris. In their beds were cleverly built dummy heads made of plaster, flesh-tone paint, and real human hair that apparently fooled the night guards. The prison went into lock down, and an intensive search began.

We were notified immediately and asked to help. Our office in San Francisco set leads for offices nationwide to check for any records on the missing prisoners and on their previous escape attempts (all three had made them). We also interviewed relatives of the men and compiled all their identification records and asked boat operators in the Bay to be on the lookout for debris. Within two days, a packet of letters sealed in rubber and related to the men was recovered. Later, some paddle-like pieces of wood and bits of rubber inner tube were found in the water. A homemade life-vest was also discovered washed up on Cronkhite Beach, but extensive searches did not turn up any other items in the area.

Piecing together the plan. As the days went by, the FBI, the Coast Guard, Bureau of Prison authorities, and others began to find more evidence and piece together the ingenious escape plan. We were aided by a fourth plotter who didn't make it out of his cell in time and began providing us with information. Here's what we learned.

On the evening of June 11, they were ready to go. The prison informant, though, did not have his ventilator grill completely removed and was left behind. The three others got into the corridor, gathered their gear, climbed up and out through the ventilator, and got on to the prison roof. Then, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack at the rear of the cell house, climbed over the fence, and snuck to the northeast shore of the island and launched their raft.

What happened next remains a mystery. Did they make it across the Bay, get to Angel Island, and then cross Raccoon Straight into Marin County as planned? Or did the wind and waves get the better of them?

Plenty of people have gone to great lengths to prove that the men COULD have survived, but the question remains: did they? Our investigation at the time concluded otherwise, for the following reasons.

Three if by land. The plan, according to our prison informant, was to steal clothes and a car once on land. But we never uncovered any thefts like this despite the high-profile nature of the case.

Family ties. If the escapees had help, we couldn't substantiate it. The families appeared unlikely to even have the financial means to provide any real support.

Missing in action. For the 17 years we worked on the case, no credible evidence emerged to suggest the men were still alive, either in the U.S. or overseas.

We officially closed our case on December 31, 1979, and turned over responsibility to the U.S. Marshals Service, which continues to investigate in the unlikely event the trio is still alive. If you have ANY leads or information to share, please call Deputy U.S. Marshall Michael Dyke of the Northern District of California at (415) 436-7677. It's one mystery we'd all like to solve!

111-111

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
In its heyday, it was the ultimate maximum security prison. Located on a lonely island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz - aka "The Rock" - had held captives since the Civil War. But it was in 1934, the highpoint of a major war on crime, that Alcatraz was...
FBI,Remembers,Alcatraz,Mystery
740
2007-00-08
Friday, 08 June 2007 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved