3 Prisoners Escaped Alcatraz in 1962 Thought to Be Dead, Letter Tells a Different Story


A letter made public this week added a new wrinkle to the captivating prison escape that served as inspiration for a hit motion picture.

When three inmates at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary hatched a plot in 1962 to escape the prison island, they made it as far as the waters of the San Francisco Bay and were never heard from again.

Their daring plan was commonly presumed to have ended in the death of all three escapees. Guards insisted at the time that they drown in the cold water surrounding the prison.

According to a letter reportedly handed over to San Francisco police several years ago and obtained recently by KCBS, however, the three men “barely” made it to dry land and went on to live under the radar for decades.

As Fox News reported, the letter was purportedly written by one of the escapees, John Anglin, who staged the plan with his brother, Clarence, and another inmate, Frank Morris.

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“I’m 83 years old and in bad shape,” the author wrote. “I have cancer.”

The letter goes on to detail the supposed fates of the three men involved.

“Yes we all made it that night but barely,” it continued.

According to the author, Morris died in 2008 and Clarence Anglin died a few years later.

Do you believe these prisoners survived their escape?

As for John Anglin, the letter indicated he was looking to make a deal.

“If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am,” the letter read. “This is no joke.”

The author also claimed he spent a number of years living in Seattle after escaping Alcatraz, following by several years in North Dakota and then Southern California, where he lived at the time of writing the letter.

Federal authorities were reportedly unable to obtain conclusive fingerprint evidence from the letter to test against John Anglin.

Rumors about the men’s survival have resurfaced throughout the decades since the escape.

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According to a 2012 statement by U.S. Marshal Michael Dyke, who was in charge of the unsolved case at the time, he had seen evidence that made him consider the possibility that any or all of the escapees survived.

As WDJT reported, a photograph publicized in 2015 allegedly pictured the Anglin brothers together in Brazil in the mid-1970s.

Most official statements, however, indicate the likelihood that they all perished shortly after escaping the island, likely carried off into the Pacific Ocean.

“There is absolutely no reason to believe that any of them would have changed their lifestyle and became completely law abiding citizens after this escape,” the U.S. Marshal Service wrote in response to the letter presented to police.

The trio’s 1962 plot served as the inspiration for the 1979 film “Escape from Alcatraz.”

Serving sentences for bank robbery, they began putting together an elaborate plan that included their escape vehicle — a raft made of at least 50 raincoats. Guards found plaster dummies in their beds the following morning.

Prison operations on Alcatraz ceased the year after their escape.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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