Heavily guarded and surrounded by water with strong currents and roaming sharks, authorities deemed Alcatraz escape-proof and reserved it for America’s most dangerous criminals
The Devil’s Island and The Rock – two of the nicknames for the most famous prison island on the planet: Alcatraz.
Located about a mile offshore in San Francisco Bay, the once-barren Alcatraz Island was named by Spanish sailors after resident pelicans.
It had started out as a fort and military prison before being converted into a federal prison in 1934.
Heavily guarded and surrounded by water with strong currents and roaming sharks and rugged rocks, authorities deemed Alcatraz escape-proof and reserved it for America’s most dangerous criminals.
But that wasn’t always the case.
In the 29 years of operation, a total of 36 prisoners made 14 attempts to escape, two men tried twice.
Perhaps the most famous attempt took place 60 years ago today – on June 11, 1962.
Inmates Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris stuck papier-mâché heads resembling their own likenesses into their beds, broke out of the main prison building via an unused supply corridor, and left the island aboard an improvised rubber dinghy.
The men are believed to have drowned, but they remain on the FBI’s most wanted list as they were never found.
Her story was filmed – Escape from Alcatrazwith Clint Eastwood.
If they had been caught, you would think they would have been put in the prison’s toughest room: The Hole.
It was a pitch-black solitary cell into which inmates who acted up and caused trouble were thrown. On other occasions it was used to get information from people not following orders.
Some of the most notorious criminals have been thrown into Alcatraz – even Al Capone spent some time there.
Gangster Capone served four years in prison in the 1930s, convicted of tax evasion. He played the banjo in the prison band, but later admitted, “It seems like Alcatraz licked me.”
His spirit is said to haunt the place.
Other famous inmates included mafia boss James “Whitey” Bulger and kidnapper George “Machine Gun” Kelly.
Psychopathic killer Robert Stroud, who once killed a prison guard, spent 17 years inside. Known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz” for his bird hobbies, he was played by Burt Lancaster in a 1962 hit film.
In 29 years, 36 inmates made a total of 14 escape attempts. Of these, 23 were captured, six were shot, two drowned, five were missing and presumed dead.
On May 2, 1946, six inmates led by bank robber Bernard Coy overpowered a guard, gained access to staff weapons, and took over the cell block
But they failed to obtain vital prison keys and attempted to shoot their way out, leading to the infamous “Battle of Alcatraz.”
The siege only ended when US Marines were called in after a 46-hour firefight. Two guards and three escapees died in the fighting with 19 injured. Warden Ed Miller was burned. Two perpetrators were later executed.