He was presumed dead in the ocean, along with his two breakout partners
Imagine if The Shawshank Redemption was real, and Andy actually did escape to live a free life on a beach somewhere, awaiting his friend Red. Well, it seems it kinda/sorta was real. At least, there was a real-life daring breakout from a high-security prison, and at least one of the men may have actually survived.
Whether or not he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit is neither here nor there, this is a feel-good story!
John Anglin was one of three men to “successfully” escape the legendary island prison, Alcatraz, along with his brother Clarence and a man named Frank Morris. The trio fled the prison in June 1962 and was never found or heard from again, leading many to believe that they perished in the Pacific Ocean before reaching shore.
Apparently, John survived, at least according to a letter that was sent to the FBI in 2013. Obtained by KCBS, a CBS News affiliate in San Francisco, the letter reads:
“My name is John Anglin. I escape 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!”
Anglin and his accomplices had used a homemade drill they’d made with a broken vacuum cleaner motor to widen their vents and crawl into a network of tunnels and pipes, eventually making it to the roof and sliding down to a smokestack to a raft they’d assembled with fifty raincoats. Then they promptly drowned and/or got eaten by sharks.
Or so law enforcement assumed.
“The Federal Bureau of Prisons say that they drowned once they got off of Alcatraz and their bodies were swept out to the Pacific Ocean — end of story,” National Park Service Ranger John Cantwell told KCBS.
In the letter, Anglin claims he lived in North Dakota and Seattle before settling in Southern California and had resurfaced because he was suffering from cancer and was willing to serve a year in a jail if the feds would treat his illness.
As exciting as all this sounds, it may not actually be true. Author Jolene Babyak is the daughter of the warden was living on the island at the time of the escape (she still remembers the sirens that night) and has since written several books on Alcatraz. She admits that the letter offers “lots of allegations, no real evidence, nothing you can follow up on,” and U.S. Marshals agree, having dismissed the letter and closed the case.
If Anglin did survive, he would have been 83 at the time of the letter and even older today. Here’s hoping he had some money socked away, and a friend who “knows how to get things” to hang out with.