The Military Facility Hidden Beneath Alcatraz Might Solve The Greatest Alcatraz Escape Ever
Alcatraz Penitentiary is one of the most notorious prisons globally. Alcatraz is also one of the most famous prisons in American history. Alcatraz is located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, and today serves as one of the major tourist sites in San Francisco.
Many claim that ghosts haunt the place at night. However, thanks to the latest technology, it was discovered that there is a mystery, but it’s not ghost-related. Read on to learn what a group of archeologists found beneath the prison’s exercise yard and how it might help the FBI solve one of the biggest mysteries ever.
30. The Island
Did you know that the founder of Alcatraz, named this island “La Isla de Los Alcatraces,” which translates to “Island of the Pelicans?” That was back in 1775 when Juan Manuel de Ayala discovered it.
The island is 22 acres with two high points, one 135 feet above sea level, and the other 138 feet. Between these high points, Alcatraz Penitentiary can be seen from shore.
29. The First Owner
Before Alcatraz was turned into a world-known penitentiary, Alcatraz Island had an owner, Julian Workman. He was the owner in distant 1846. Actually, Pio Pico, Californian governor, gave him the island.
The part of this agreement was for Workman to build a lighthouse. However, Julain couldn’t fulfill his promise because the island was sold to California’s military governor John C. Fremont bought Alcatraz for $5,000.
28. The New Owner
In 1850, an order came from the top, saying that Alcatraz Island must be handed over to the military. From that moment, Alcatraz was known as a military base.
Island basically served as a defense to protect the bay. John C. Fremont, the rightful owner of the land, expected the promised fees. However, things went the wrong turn.
27. Big Fight
Shockingly, the government simply took the land from Fremont. So, Fremont lost the island, and he was given no money in exchange. The government claimed that contact with Fremont wasn’t valid.
However, Fremont wasn’t ready to let it go. He took the case to court. Next three years, Fremont spend on the court fighting the battle that he couldn’t get. The final decision was in favor of the state.
26. Three Years Later
Since the legal battle lasted for three long years, nothing could be done. Then, it took another three years for something to happen.
In 1853, construction finally began, under the watch of Zealous B. Tower. Since the wait was so long, the building process had to be fast. At the same time, hundreds of people rushed to San Francisco.
25. Defending the Bay
By the time the government took over the Alcatraz island, the Gold Rush has already begun. In a period of only a few years, the population boomed from 300 to 30,000.
With so many people coming in, a defensive stronghold was a significant priority. So, the military planned to fortify both Alcatraz and the nearby Fort Point. The Alcatraz project was ended fast. However, at the time, no one had an idea that this island would become one of the most notorious prisons in the world.
24. An Ideal Location
The number one thing that military, engineers, and architects loved about Alcatraz, was its location.
Even the engineer’s reporter: “Nature seems to have provided a redoubt for this [military] purpose in the shape of Alcatraz Island. Situated abreast the entrance directly in the middle of the inner harbor, it covers with its fire the whole of the interior space lying between Angel Island to the north, San Francisco to the south, and the outer batteries to the west.”
23. Nature Blessed
Zealous B. Tower did all he could in a short time. He used mostly what nature has provided already. Together with his team, they took rocks from the island to build up the walls.
Once the walls were done, weapons could easily be placed around the island perimeter. There were also 111 armed cannons on the island.
22. Armed Island
In no time, the island was armed to the teeth. Not only that, cannons were places all around the island, but there were caponiers as well.
After only one year of construction work, the citadel was finished. There were barracks and a lighthouse. The lighthouse was also the first navigational light ever placed on the Pacific Coast of the United States. The citadel was built to accommodate 100 soldiers, and expand to 200 when needed.
21. The End Of The Process
Initially, it was planned for Alcatraz to be a quick process, but it wasn’t finished until 1859. The main reason for this delay? Shortage of skilled labor workers.
At the time, there were thousands of people in San Francisco, but no one was there to build. They all came to find gold and get rich. So, finding skilled workers was difficult.
20. Men Did Nothing
Although the fortress was well guarded, it was never attacked. During the Civil War, 350 men were positioned to defend the island, but they spend their time there doing nothing.
However, in 1863, three-man were detained and arrested in the plot to assault Fort Alcatraz. They were sentenced to 10 years of prison. Once the war was over, Lincoln pardoned them.
19. First Prisoners
Since Alcatraz is known for its prison, little is known about its military background. Interestingly, the first Alcatraz soldiers were soldiers in 1859.
During the Civil War, the building was used to imprison Confederate soldiers. Although Fort Alcatraz wasn’t built to be a prison, the future of the island was clear. It was just a matter of time when Fort Alcatraz would become what it’s most known for today.
18. A Prison Rises
As soon as people realized that Alcatraz could be the perfect prison, the prisoners started coming in. So, in 1934 Alcatraz began holding civilian prisoners far away from the shore. No one could escape this place.
If anyone dared to try, it would be impossible because of the ice-cold water. Surprisingly, there have been 14 escape attempts regardless of these facts. As expected, no one made it to the mainland successfully.
17. A Raising Population
Before holding civilian prisoners, Alcatraz held prisoners of war. However, thirty years later, during the Spanish-American War of 1898, the prison held 450 prisoners.
In the next fifteen years, the prison expanded to large concrete prison cells. In 1933, the entire Alcatraz operation was handed over to the Prisons Bureau.
16. A Very Tough Warden
Alcatraz welcomed the first group of prisoners on August 11, 1934. This group was specially chosen by authorities to make the journey to the island.
The very first warden, responsible for monitoring this group was, James A. Johnston. Because of his strict personality, he was considered to be the perfect fit. He also had 155 guards to help him keep the discipline and order.
15. Famous Alcatraz Prisoners
In no time, Alcatraz becomes home to most notorious criminals. Most famous prisoners were Al Capone and George Kelly. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis was also Alcatraz’s resident.
The FBI labeled Alvin as the “Public Enemy Number One.” At the time, Alcatraz was the only place safe enough to keep these notorious criminals inside. What happened to those who tried to escape?
14. Famous Alcatraz Escapes
There were escapes. A total of 14 escape attempts from 36 prisoners happened. As expected, no one made it alive to the shore. Six died, 23 were captured alive, two drowned, and fine are listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”
Still, although there no evidence of someone reaching the shore, it’s possible. Again, considering the location of the island, it’s highly unlikely that anyone ever made it to the coast.
13. The 13th Escape
Of all the escape attempt, the 13th is the most famous. This escape involved three men: John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris. They even successfully made it to the ocean.
Their attempt was even turned into a movie: 1979’s Escape from Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood. Did they survive this famous escape?
12. Major Tourist Attraction
Once Alcatraz Penitentiary shut down, in a short period, it became a huge tourist attraction. Tourism is what brought archeologists from the beginning of the story of famous Alcatraz.
They were eager to discover what was beneath the well-known Alcatraz area. To do this, they needed a good team and the right technology. It was also crucial not to produce any type of damage to the existing area.
The archaeological team used lasers to pierce the layers of concrete. This was the best way to explore the underground without causing any harm to the existing location.
Tnkas to their technology, the team was able to see what was underneath from the military days. They also discovered a tunnel in perfect condition, with ventilation shafts that were lost in time.
10. Huge Discovery
Timothy de Smet had no idea what to expect when he and his team started exploring Alcatraz. He hoped to find additional construction, but he had no idea that they are so well preserved.
Timothy’s non-invasive approach to exploration could pave the way for an entirely different kind of archeological investigation: none-invasive one. But, could it be that the prisoners used these shafts to escape?
9. An Alcatraz Escapee Is Still Alive?
Between December 1937 and June 1962, five inmates escaped. That’s not unusual. Unusual is that they were never found.
Experts believe that they probably died of drowning, but their family members think otherwise. They believe that at least one man survived and successfully escaped.
8. John Anglin’s Family Believes He Got Away
John Anglin escaped Alcatraz, together with Frank Morris, and Clarence Anglin. Their bodies were never found. However, in 2013 police received a strange note.
The note stated: “My name is John Anglin. I escaped 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. This is no joke.”
7. Bank Robbery
During the 1950s, John and his brother Clarence tried to rob a bank. They were born in Georgia, and they spend summers working and swimming in the cold water of Lake Michigan. Needless to say, that the duo had fantastic swimming skills.
During their robberies, bothers only used once a gun once, and it was a toy gun. When they were finally arrested, they were given a 15 – 20-year sentences. They served their time in various prisons and tried to escape from prison. Eventually, they were escorted to Alcatraz.
6. The Biggest Plan Ever
John and Clarence were ready to escape Alcatraz as well. So, they teamed up with Frank Lee Morris. In turns out that Frank had extremely high IQ. Moreover, he also had a prison-break-out history.
They also met Allen West, and new best friends started working on their master plan. So, they started digging. Literally. Now, the central part of the scheme could begin.
5. Next Six Months
Each day for the next six months, they were digging around their cells’ ventilation duct openings. They used different blades and spoons. They even made a drill from vacuum cleaner parts.
They also hid the holes using paint and cardboard. Also, Bostom crime boss Whitey Bulger told Algin’s nephew about navigating the currents in San Fransisco Bay. He also shared with them some tips about life on the run.
4. Handmade Mannequins
They actually used handmade mannequins to fool the guards, and buy themself some time. In those six months, they dug holes big enough to lead into a utility corridor. They also used soap and toilet paper to create a paper-mâché-like substance that they sculpted into dummy heads.
They even used the pint from the maintenance shop to make them look more real. As the final touch, they stuffed blankets and towels under the sheets to make it looked as they were asleep.
3. Their Bodies Were Never Found
The holes led to the utility corridor, and the West couldn’t escape because the ventilator grill in his cell got stuck. The rest of the team climbed to an area inside the building, where they had hand-made life preserves and a rubber raft.
They used scrap wood to create paddles. After this night, the authorities found the evidence of escape, but no bodies. According to the letter that the police had received, the truth was finally out.
2. Happily Ever After
In his letter, ‘John’ claims that together with his brother and Morris escaped Alcatraz and much more. He also said that Morris passed away in 2008, while Clarence died in 2011.
John’s family learned about the letter years after it was sent. The family also claimed that they had a pretty good idea of where their relatives are. Moreover, they had proof.
1. No Bones Match
John’s nephew submitted a photo to authorities in 2016, claiming that the picture shows John and Clarence from 1975. They also shared that the photo was taken in Brazil.
There is a considerable resemblance to inmates, and even some experts claim that the photo is legit. Still, it can’t be confirmed for sure. However, one thing is for sure – bones found on San Francisco shore didn’t match the Anglin brothers.