Real Name: Frank Morris, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Escape, Armed Robbery
Missing Since: June 11, 1962
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.
While in Alcatraz, inmate Clarence Carnes, a participant in the infamous Alcatraz Uprising 14 years earlier, befriended Morris and informed him 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. It is also believed that the trio was aided academically with an issue of Sports Illustrated which had been in the prison library, which had contained a section on low-cost ways to enjoy watersports. 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. They were aided by a fourth man Allen West, who helped them carve the tunnels, noting sea spray had weakened the cement compound through the years. Morris and the Anglins had originally intended to escape as a quartet with West, but they were forced to rethink their plans when it was discovered West's tunnel was too small for him to fit through. According to West, one of the Anglins argued that it was an "all or none" deal, but the other two said going back for West could foil the entire flight to freedom.
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 postcard with the message "Gone Fishing", which he had been told he would get from the Anglin brothers and Morris as a code word signaling their success. A paddle was also found on Angel Island leaning against a rock, providing evidence that the men may have survived. Allen West was moved to a lighter security prison and granted an eventual reduction in sentence in exchange for his cooperation with the U.S. Marshals, detailing his participation in the escape plot. 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.
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 having three experienced kayakers 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, footprints leading away from the raft and reports of a car stolen by three men after the escape.
On October 12, 2015, interest in the case was renewed when History Channel premiered a documentary about the 1962 escape, focusing on John and Clarence Anglin and the possibility that their escape was successful. Evidence produced by relatives including photos and Christmas cards seem to suggest the Anglins might have escaped to Brazil. No evidence has been produced to disclose the whereabouts of Frank Morris.
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.
In recent years, there have been several clues to suggest that at least some of the men survived the escape. In 2011, Bud Morris, an elderly man who claimed to be Frank Morris's cousin, came forward and said that he had previously delivered bribes to Alcatraz guards. He also claimed to have met Frank in a San Diego park shortly after the escape. His daughter claimed to have remembered being there as well, meeting with her "father's friend Frank". However, it is not known if Bud's story has been authenticated or not.
In 2012, two of the Anglins' sisters, along with two of their nephews, announced publicly that they believed the brothers had survived the escape attempt. They claimed to have received phone calls and Christmas cards from the brothers in December of 1962. Then, in the 2015 History Channel documentary, it was revealed that handwriting on some of the Christmas cards was found to match one of the brothers. However, it could not be said with certainty if the letters were delivered before or after the escape.
A friend of the brothers also claimed that he had encountered them in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in 1975. He had even taken a photograph of them. Forensic experts concluded that the photograph was "most likely" of the Anglins. Also, shortly before his death, Robert, another Anglin brother, told his family members that he had been in contact with the brothers until around 1987.
In 2018, the FBI revealed that the San Francisco Police Department had received a letter in 2013, allegedly from one of the escapees. It read, in part: My name is John Anglin. I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I'm 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely! The letter also stated that Clarence and Frank had since passed away. Fingerprint, DNA, and handwriting analysis on the letter was inconclusive.
- The Alcatraz Escape on Unsolved.com
- Alcatraz Escape at Wikipedia
- Escape From Alcatraz
- Alcatraz Escape on FBI Website
- 3 May Have Escaped From Alcatraz Alive
- Escape From Alcatraz And A 47-Year Manhunt
- Alcatraz escapees could have made it safely to shore
- 50 years later, new evidence suggests 3 Alcatraz escapees may still be alive
- Relatives have proof Alcatraz escapees are still alive
- Alcatraz inmates survived infamous 1962 escape, letter suggests