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Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers

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Alcatraz escape1

Alcatraz

Real Name: Frank Morris, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Escape, Armed Robbery
Missing Since: June 11, 1962

Alcatraz escape2 frank morris

Frank Morris

Case

Details: In 1960, Frank Morris was a former foster child who had committed his first crime at the age of thirteen, later graduating to possession of narcotics and armed robbery. He was believed to have been of superior intelligence with an I.Q. of 133 when he was finally arrested and sent to Alcatraz. While there, he met John and Clarence Anglin, brothers arrested for a string of robberies in 1956, who were transferred to Alcatraz after a failed escape from another prison.

Anglin brothers

Anglin Brothers

While in Alcatraz, inmate Clarence Carnes informed Morris of the access tunnel behind their cells, and Morris used the information to develop a means of escape. With inmate Allen West's help, Morris discovered ventilation shafts giving access to the roof and freedom. Morris and his collaborators studiously planned the escape for eight months, using spoons to dig access into the corridor, leaving hair and plaster heads in their beds to cover their activities, cutting access to the roof with a stolen saw, fashioning a raft made of rain coats and altering a concertina to act as a pump to inflate their raft. On June 11th 1962, they made their way up to the roof, down into the yard, over the perimeter fence and out onto the San Francisco Bay. There they pumped up their raft, put it in the water, jumped in and disappeared. It was quite possibly the most thoroughly researched and complex successful escape in criminal justice history. When the plaster heads were discovered in the morning, authorities had no way to tell how much of a head start they had. Allen West, who had worked so hard to prepare for the quest for freedom was left behind to explain how the others escaped after he was unable to fit through the hole to the corridor up to the roof.

ClarenceCarnes

Clarence Carnes

The escape sparked the largest full scale search at the time. Police found remains of the broken up raft in San Francisco Bay and one of their handmade oars at nearby Angel Island along with a personal packet from one of the men. Although the authorities never found any bodies, they were certain the men must have drowned, but sightings of the three men after the escape suggested that Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers had managed to escape. Indeed, someone claiming to be John Anglin called a local attorney before the escape became public. Clarence Carnes even received a post card from Morris and The Anglins with the message "Gone Fishing," a prearranged message to send news of their success. A paddle was also found On Angel island leaning against a rock, providing evidence that the men may have survived. As the search went on, Harlem crime boss, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, claimed he had arranged a boat to pick up the men from the bay, whereupon Johnson claimed his boat then deposited the three men at Hunter's Point. However "Bumpy's" claim had no credibility given his prior background of lying to gain favor, plan deals or to look important in the underworld. Nor can it be accurately pieced together what help Morris and the Anglins expected to get from Johnson, or vice versa. To date, the FBI believe all three men drowned in the bay. There were no crimes committed in the area after the escape unless they had truly been helped by Johnson. Given the circumstantial evidence surrounding their escape off the "Rock," no one is quite sure if they truly made it to shore.

AllenWest

Allen West

Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 8, 1989 episode which devoted the entire episode to Alcatraz, including history of the failed escape attempts and the 1946 Alcatraz prisoner revolt before getting into the specifics on the 1962 escape. Two theories were tested, one by having a triathlete swim from Alcatraz to the mainland and the other hiring three experienced kayaks paddle the same route in a replica of the makeshift raft used by the Anglins and Morris. While the rafters failed due to their raft being unseaworthy and had to be rescued by a motorboat that was shadowing their progress, the swimmer succeeded at making it to shore. Unsolved Mysteries speculated that the odds were likely the three fugitives survived. This case was also examined in the Discovery Channel series Mythbusters and re-investigated on America's Most Wanted. The Mythbusters proved it was certainly possible they used the currents to reach the Marin Headlands instead of Angel Island where the oar was found, AMW revealed reported sightings of Morris and the Anglin Brothers after the escape. Other TV-series have focused more on the ghosts of Alcatraz. The escape inspired the 1979 movie Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris.
The TV-Series America Declassified revealed a few more details on this case not revealed in other programs, such as evidence of the raft on Angel Island and reports of a car stolen after the escape.
Results: Wanted. Despite public belief that Morris and the Anglins drowned in San Francisco bay, all three men still have open arrest warrants on them. The U.S. Marshals Office has continued the search going for each man individually until the date of each man's 100th birthday.
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