Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2011

The Escape from Alcatraz

Alcatraz was supposed to be America's only escape-proof prison. Which is why, 50 years after three men vanished from inside its walls on June 11, 1962, the act still fascinates. The Rock, an island set in the middle of San Francisco Bay, held the worst of the worst, including Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin (who were all serving life sentences for robbery, among other crimes). The men allegedly dug through the concrete fortress using a metal spoon (strengthened with silver from a dime) and an improvised drill crafted from a stolen vacuum cleaner. Adding to the intrigue, they smartly muffled the sound of their drilling with accordions played during music hour and left behind papier-mâché dummies — whose heads they topped with hair stolen from the prison barber shop — in their place. Though the prison claimed the men drowned at sea (which would thus maintain the belief that the penitentiary had no successful escapees in its 29 years of operation), their remains have never been found and the U.S. Marshal Service maintains an active case file on the trio. The break was the basis for the 1979 movie Escape from Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood.