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Who Escaped from Alcatraz Prison? Examining the Legendary 1962 Breakout

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was once America’s most dreaded maximum security prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay. Its cold waters and fierce currents supposedly made Alcatraz “escape-proof.” But on June 11, 1962, three inmates did achieve the near-impossible – successfully escaping the inescapable prison.

Decades later, the details of exactly who escaped Alcatraz and how they managed to breakout remains hotly debated. Examining the key inmates behind the infamous 1962 escape plot provides fascinating insights into one of history’s greatest prison breaks.

The June 11, 1962 Alcatraz Escapees

On that fateful night in 1962, three men – Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin – accomplished what no others could by successfully fleeing Alcatraz and vanishing into thin air:

Frank Morris – The brilliant mastermind of the Alcatraz escape. Already a highly skilled and experienced escape artist.

John Anglin – Bank robber who joined Alcatraz in 1960 along with his brother Clarence. Trusted by Frank Morris.

Clarence Anglin – Younger sibling to John. Assisted in acquiring tools and resources needed for the escape.

This unlikely trio pooled their skills to achieve what many thought impossible. Eluding initial capture, they disappeared and triggered a decades-long mystery.

Profile of Escape Ringleader Frank Morris

Full Name: Frank Lee Morris

Born: 1926

Background: Exceptionally bright inmate who had already escaped other prisons. Known as “The Creep” for his sly manner. Used an IQ of 133 to mastermind Alcatraz escape. Possessed meticulous patience and persistence to slowly implement complex plan.

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Convictions: First jailed at age 13. Long criminal career included armed robbery and burglary. Sent to Alcatraz in 1960 with 10 year sentence for bank robbery.

Escape Role: Mastermind and driving force behind entire plot. Coordinated efforts, assigned tasks, problem-solved issues.

Post-Escape: Presumably drowned during escape, but body was never recovered. Remains a fugitive in the unlikely event he survived.

Morris was indispensable as the brilliant strategist who envisioned and engineered the bold prison break. His laser focus and mastery of details managed to successfully exploit Alcatraz’s few weaknesses.

Profile of Anglin Brothers

John Anglin

  • Born: 1930 in Donalsonville, Georgia
  • Served in US Army before turning to bank robberies
  • Known as “Cool Hand Luke” for composure during heists
  • Arrived at Alcatraz in 1960 with brother Clarence
  • Helped gather materials for escape
  • Assisted in digging escape routes
  • Provided strength to scale walls and inflate raft

Clarence Anglin

  • Born: 1931 in Donalsonville, Georgia
  • Younger brother of John Anglin
  • Worked with brother committing bank robberies
  • Sent to Alcatraz in 1960 along with John
  • Helped gather tools for the plot
  • Assisted in digging and setting up decoys
  • Inflated raft the night of the escape

Together, the brave, loyal Anglin brothers provided crucial hands-on skills and muscle vital to realizing Morris’ ambitious plan.

How Did They Escape?

Morris and the Anglins spent over a year silently laying the foundations and acquiring the tools needed to make their risky breakout on the night of June 11, 1962:

  • Digging: Using stolen and makeshift tools, they slowly dug through their cell walls, eventually creating openings to a utility corridor behind the cells.
  • Decoys: The escapees created dummy heads to place in their beds to fool guards.
  • Raft: Stolen raincoats were stitched together to fabricate a life raft for the crossing.
  • Life Vests: Over 50 stolen rubber prison raincoats were turned into personal flotation devices.

After climbing through their cells into the utility corridor, they ascended 30 feet to the roof via a ventilation shaft. From there, they climbed down 50 feet to the ground using a homemade rope and scaled the perimeter fences.

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At the northeast shore, they inflated the raft and launched around 10pm under cover of heavy fog. Their disappearance triggered one of the largest US manhunts in history.

Theories on the Escapees’ Fate

No conclusive evidence ever surfaced indicating whether the men successfully reached land or perished in the cold waters:

  • Some investigators believe the escapees likely drowned or succumbed to hypothermia during the treacherous crossing. Their make-shift raft and vests were far from ideal.
  • However, other officials maintain that the men’s ingenious scheme and preparation suggest they did in fact reach land and went into hiding.
  • Supposed findings of fingerprints, car thefts, and grave sites over the years suggest the men, or at least some of them, survived after the escape. But nothing has ever been proven.
  • Relatives of the Anglin brothers received Christmas cards signed by the brothers for three years after the escape.
  • If any did survive, they would be well into their 90s today, making their current status difficult to determine so long after.

The full truth of what happened after that fateful night in 1962 remains an intriguing mystery lost to time.

Frank MorrisPresumed drowned during escape
John AnglinUnknown, circumstantial evidence suggests possible survival
Clarence AnglinUnknown, circumstantial evidence suggests possible survival

Regardless of their ultimate fate, the escapees’ brilliant strategy and execution in achieving the seemingly impossible prison break from Alcatraz stands as an enduring legend.


The June 1962 escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary remains one of history’s greatest tales of mystery and determination. Ringleader Frank Morris and accomplices John and Clarence Anglin have cemented their names in legend for beating unbeatable odds.

Their successful flight and disappearance has inspired numerous theories, films, books and debates for decades. Though their fate is uncertain, the sheer ingenuity and audacity of their plan transcends time and captivates imagination. Against all odds, for one night they flew free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Alcatraz prison located?

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco, California. The prison operated from 1934 to 1963.

How many inmates escaped from Alcatraz in 1962?

A total of three inmates – Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin successfully escaped from Alcatraz on the night of June 11, 1962 and were never caught.

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What were some key tools the inmates used to escape?

Some tools they exploited included spoons stolen from the cafeteria, a homemade drill, stolen wall picks, and stolen raincoats they turned into life vests and a raft.

How did the inmates escape undetected?

They slowly dug exit holes in their cells over many months, climbed to the roof through a ventilation shaft, went down to ground with a makeshift rope, and inflated a raft at the shore to sail across from the northwest side of the island.

How long did it take after the escape for guards to notice?

It wasn’t until the morning headcount on June 12, over 12 hours after the escape, that guards noticed the beds contained dummy heads instead of the actual prisoners.

Were there any other attempted escapes from Alcatraz?

There were 14 known attempts by 36 inmates over the prison’s history. The 1962 escape was the only known successful escape from Alcatraz.

Did they leave any evidence on the island after escaping?

Some evidence found included grills missing in the cells, an inflatable life vest, pieces of raincoat material, and part of the makeshift wooden raft they used to sail away.

Where did they get the idea to make decoy heads to fool the guards?

Morris got the idea from a popular paint-by-numbers kit that had used the same technique of papier-mâché heads with real hair to illustrate painting techniques.

Were there previous successful escapes by the inmates at other prisons?

Frank Morris had escaped from another prison at age 15, while Clarence and John Anglin escaped various other facilities multiple times before being sent to Alcatraz, which was known for being inescapable.

What are some theories on whether or not they survived the escape?

Main theories suggest they either drowned or reached land. Some claim Christmas cards received by relatives prove John and Clarence survived. Officials largely believe they likely drowned due to the extreme conditions during the escape.

Imran Khan

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