More than 50 years ago, three inmates imprisoned for bank robbery chiseled through the wall of Alcatraz prison and sailed into the San Francisco Bay on a raft made of stolen raincoats. The prisoners left papier-mâché heads with real human hair lying in their beds as decoys. The official story was that the prisoners drowned in the escape, letting Alcatraz continue no one ever successfully escaped it. But those escaped prisoners might still be alive, according to relatives and law enforcement experts.
I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Whoa."
The History Channel is airing a special about new evidence in this case Monday, October 12. According to The New York Post, the new evidence is threefold. First, Christmas cards signed with escapees Clarence and John Anglin's names arrived without postage for their mother for several years following their disappearance. Second, a photograph has been discovered that may depict the Anglins in the 1970s. And third, a set of bones that washed up north of San Francisco in 1963 failed to match the DNA of another Anglin brother (who, incidentally, had died of electrocution while attempting to escape a prison in Alabama). The retired lead U.S. Marshal on the case called the evidence "absolutely the best actionable lead we’ve had" in one of the most famous prison escape cases in history. (If they are alive, by the way, that means that the end of the Clint Eastwood movie about the escape is actually on to something. Just saying.)
I have to say that I feel like maybe we should just pardon these men, so that if they're still alive, they can go public with it. At this point, they're folk heroes and old men (they'd be in their 80s). I just want the mystery to be solved! Here are some other daring prison escapes throughout history that I can't help but admire, even though crime is bad. (Seriously, kids. Crime does not pay. Don't do it.)
1. The Escapes Of El Chapo
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a pretty horrific Mexican drug kingpin by any measure, has managed to escape from prison not just once, but twice. The first time he escaped, in 2001, he snuck out in a laundry cart. The second time, earlier this year, he crawled out through a mile-long tunnel coming from the prison's bathroom.
2. John Dillinger's Wooden Gun
Notorious bank robber John Dillinger used a gun he carved out of wood and colored black with shoe polish to break out of prison in 1934. This one is controversial — according to The Chicago Tribune in 1988, Dillinger actually used a real gun that had been smuggled into his cell. However, popular culture and some historians still maintain that the gun was carved out of wood, and a wooden gun claimed to be the one Dillinger used for this escape was sold at auction five years ago for almost $20,000.
3. The "Great Escape" From A Nazi POW Camp
British soldier Roger Bushell helped plan an escape of 76 men from the Nazis' Stalag Luft III camp (though this was a disappointment — he was planning to have 200 people escape). They did this by digging not one but three tunnels simultaneously. Although the escape was successful, almost everyone was recaptured by the Nazis, and most were killed on personal orders from Adolf Hitler himself. This daring plot was later dramatized in the Steve McQueen film The Great Escape. The Polish town in which the camp resided now has a memorial to these 50 men, seen above.
4. The Helicopter Escape
Good god. Frenchman Pascal Payet — a convicted murder, to be clear — managed to escape from prison on two separate occasions via hijacked helicopter. He is currently serving a sentence for the breakouts, but who knows how long the prison will be able to keep him.
Images: Christian Senger/Flickr; Wikimedia Commons (3)