Alcatraz was the world’s most impregnable prison: insurmountable walls, one guard for every three prisoners, a gun gallery at the end of every cell block, frequent inmate counts, constant search lights
Alcatraz was the world’s most impregnable prison: insurmountable walls, one guard for every three prisoners, a gun gallery at the end of every cell block, frequent inmate counts, constant search lights and the freezing waters of San Francisco Bay. But three prisoners believed they could achieve the impossible.
The brains behind the escape bid was Frank Lee Morris, known to have a very impressive IQ (played in the movie by Clint Eastwood). From the moment he arrived in Alcrataz, he began plotting his escape. Two and a half years later, three prisoners removed the grids in the rear of their cells, carefully replacing them with papier-mâché replicas. After many manoeuvres the men scaled a 15-foot fence, and hurried down to the island shore where they inflated rafts and life vests and ventured out into the Bay waters.
Back at the cell house, during the routine morning count, a guard probed his club into one of the inmates' cells, and the dummy head rolled off the bed and onto the floor. The alarm was raised. But despite the authorities’ strenuous efforts to track them down, none of the escapees have ever been found. For years the FBI continued to try to find them, but to no avail. So did the men escape?
Bits of raft, life preservers and wooden paddles were later found in the bay.
In this episode of The True Story, we use remnants of the raft, and the knowledge of what materials were available to the prisoners at the time to recreate their escape. Placing three men on board who would have been the same weight as the escapes, will the raft survive the choppy waters? Will the men make it ashore? Or will they have to admit defeat and be picked up by the support boat?
Amongst various key interviewees, we speak with a fellow inmate, Darwin Coon, who was in Alcatraz during the time of the escape and helped provide the materials for it. We also speak to the wardens who were foiled by the escape and the FBI agents who tried to tack down the prisoners.