West wasn’t going to be a part of the escape. The men had to get the raft and carry it with them up 30 feet of pipes, up to the top of the ventilation shaft. Up to this point, they had never actually opened the shaft, only loosened the rivets holding it in place. When they opened it, the rusted metal made a loud noise. The guards later reported hearing this noise, but because it wasn’t followed by anything else, they didn’t concern themselves with it. Once they were out of the shaft and on the roof, they quietly walked a hundred yards to the edge, then slid down 50 feet of pipes.
That evening was particularly foggy, making their job of getting through the guards who stood post at watchtowers easier. They quietly snuck past the guards, carrying their raft and crudewooden oars, and made their way to the turgid waters of the San Francisco Bay. Yet, that is where the trail goes cold (literally, quite cold). The FBI went on to claim that the inmates had drowned, citing a raincoat like the ones used in the prison as evidence. However, there was nothing more than circumstantial evidence. The men disappeared without a trace.
The letter mailed to the Richmond police in 2013 read, “I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. If you announce on TV that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke.” The investigators declined to announce on television, possibly because they didn’t want to play any games with an Alcatraz escapee. To this day, we do not know who wrote the letter. However, there are clues that Morris and the Anglin brothers were successful in their escape. In December of 1962, John and Clarence Anglin‘s received a Christmas card that said, To Mother, from John. Merry Christmas.” There was no indication as to his whereabouts. However, his brother Robert claimed to be in contact with both John and Clarence, until they eventually lost touch with each other. There are plenty of theories as to what happened to the Anglin brothers, one of which suggests that they went to Brazil. Even though the FBI officially closed the case, the US Marshals are still actively looking for credible evidence as to what happened to them. They will continue searching until the men turn 99 years old, at which point they will be presumeddead.
The mysterious letter to the Richmond police claimed that Frank Morris had died in Argentina in 2008, and he had used an alias for all the years since his escape. It also claimed that Clarence had passed away in 2011. Perhaps, having lost his two brothers in arms, John Anglin had decided that he had nothing left to lose and was ready to come clean. Alternatively, perhaps an amateur was looking to get attention from the FBI and national media. We may not ever know for sure what happened to them once they left the rocky shores of Alcatraz.
Today, there are many clues that theorists point to that indicate that, contrary to the FBI’s statement, the men actually did escape. Though the FBI issued a statement saying that the waters of San Francisco Bay were particularly bad that night, independent Dutch programmers claimed that the bay would have been conducive to an escape. Even if the men did die that night, they have certainly lived on in the imaginations of plenty of armchair historians and conspiracy theorists, as well as the active investigations of the US Marshals.
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