The Mystery on Alcatraz Island

by Gabriel Gross

It is June 1962. Overlooking the chilly waters of the Alcatraz prison on San Francisco Bay, four inmates lie in their beds. From the outside, it appears nothing is amiss. The trick has worked. The four men put dummy heads under their pillows, carefully handcrafted with real hair attached to deceive the guards. They wait until the right moment and then make their move, quickly carving out a wider gap in the vent in the wall. Three make it through: Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin. They are the only people to ever escape Alcatraz. 

This operation had been planned for at least one year. The men had set up a secret workshop, which contained a raft made out of 50 stolen raincoats, a musical instrument called a concertina to inflate the raft, as well as paddles. The inmates needed time to discover a way out from their secret hideout, which was located behind their cells and down a secret unguarded corridor. Its roof was about 30 feet tall. Eventually, the men noticed piping traveling to the ceiling, which they used to get out. There was a vent blocking the men from escape, but this didn’t stop them. They pried the vent open and held it in place with a bar of soap carved into a fake bolt. The men carefully planned their escape and would make their attempt on June 11th. They were able to escape their cells, travel to their secret hideout, climb through a latch in the ceiling and get onto the roof. The inmates then made their way to the beach with their makeshift raft and took off into the frothy waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Now let’s talk about the evidence behind this mystery. Many young risk takers have plunged into the Pacific and made the swim, but the odds were against these brave adventurers. With the sharks and the tough swirling currents, there is a slim chance they made it through. The other option is that the men did make it to land. In planning the escape, their idea had been to steal clothing from a local store. They also planned to steal a car. However, no robberies were reported. Another factor that could have aided their escape attempt was if the inmates’ families provided them supplies or a place to stay. This is extremely unlikely because the prisoners’ families were very poor. The men were never found, and the FBI closed this case on December 31, 1979, after investigating for 17 years.

Nevertheless, in 2013 a strange letter was given to the police. The author wrote, “My name is John Anglin, I escaped from Alcatraz in June 1962. Yes we all made it that night, but barely.” To this day, the Alcatraz escape is one of the top unsolved mysteries in the world. Did they survive the night and make it to the mainland, or did they vanish into the depths of the sea? Whether they made it to land or not is up to your imagination.

About Gabe Gross 

Gabriel Gross is an eighth grader at St. Thomas school in Peoria Heights. He is the Student Council president. He plans to go to Richwoods and apply for the IB program. He loves baseball, basketball, and traveling. He also enjoys learning about history and how much it has changed our lives today.

Art by Ellie Kraemer

Ellie Kraemer is a sophomore and an animation major at Bradley University who lives and breathes her artwork. Becoming a professional artist and animator has been a goal of hers for many years, as various works of digital art and experience have held a pivotal role in her life. Intrigued by the diverse storytelling prowess of interactive media, she aims to get involved in the productions of visuals for video games and animated series after graduation. You can find more of her work at