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Author Topic: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ: The Story 7: Did They Make It?  (Read 7647 times)
Matt
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« on: January 30, 2005, 11:35:24 PM »

The last scene of Escape from Alcatraz takes place on Angel Island. A search team of dozens of police and police dogs are searching for the men, or clues to their survival, but nothing has turned up. The Warden notices a yellow chrysanthemum that appears to have been precisely placed on a rock. He picks it up as the associate warden approaches him:

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ASSOC WARDEN: The tides were mild and the fog light, last night. If they left at lights-out, they had a nine-and-a-half hour head start. I wonder if they made it.

WARDEN: (Brings the flower to his nose, smelling it.) They drowned.

ASSOC WARDEN: Yes, sir.

The warden crushes the flower in his fist and then throws it into the bay. The camera follows the flower and then focuses on the bay waters and the search boats as Siegel ends the film with this final title:

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A massive search was conducted for Frank Morris. John and Clarence Anglin. Law enforcement agencies were certain they would find the bodies. They never did. Alcatraz was closed less than a year later.

In contrast to the way the film begins, on a dark, cold, stormy night, the movie ends with a scene showing a bright, sunny, beautiful day. The final credits play over a frame of Morris's dummy head, which had been knocked to the ground and appears to be smiling at us.

The three men were never seen again, and their bodies were never found. No crimes of theft in the area were reported in the twelve days following the escape, and the men would have needed clothing or a means of transportation immediately upon reaching land. All three men had been in and out of prison all their lives, and it was believed they would not have all been able to stay out of trouble in the forty years following the escape. The FBI, after years of investigating, finally decreed that the men had drowned.

Based on all available information, do you believe the men really did make it? Do you think the film wants us to believe they did? Discuss why you think they did, or did not, make it. If only going by the film without additional information on the actual escape, would you think they had survived?
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Brendan
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2005, 01:49:01 AM »

Thing is is that if they had of drowned then they're bodies would surely have washed up somewhere or at least some sort of evidence would shown up. They couldn't have just disappeared.

It's really hard to say because it makes sense what was said:  they were crinimals all their lives. But if they did escape they could still be alive to this day and that makes me wonder... if at least one of them is still alive would they ever come forward? After all this time and if they were on their death bed, would they come forward and admit to it?

This is definitley one of the greatest mysteries ever. I just don't believe that if they did drown that there was no evidence to suggest they did. Noclothes, no body parts, no bodies. But it also makes sense that at least one of them wouldn't have been caught.

Although if they did it right and stuck together they could have fled to Canada and lived their lives out here. No one would have been looking for them here.

I remember "America's Most Wanted" did a special on the escape from Alcatraz many years ago. It was pretty interesting and they gave out as much details as they could.

It's hard to say what happened to them. It's really hard. I don't think I can believe either stories.
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Matt
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2005, 05:31:19 AM »

Here's an interesting bit of information:

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The fact that no bodies were retrieved from San Francisco Bay is not significant. Cold water can sometimes inhibit buoyancy by retarding the formation of body gasses. Clothes and shoes can drag a body down, as well as "snag factors" such as debris, vegetation and rocks. Eventually, marine life closes in and the body cavity is ruptured.

According to FBI investigation at the time, between 1960-62, there were forty-seven suicides and probable suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge (probable suicides are those witnessed by only one person). Five hit land and their bodies were recovered. Of the other forty-two, seventeen were recovered and twenty-five were not. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard in San Francisco is more efficient in searching for bodies falling off the Golden Gate Bridge. A flag on a stanchion is dropped where the body landed, on the theory that the flag will travel in the approximate direction as the body. In about half the cases, the bodies are never recovered.

On June 11, 1962, the same day the three Alcatraz cons went missing, witnesses observed thirty-three year old Seymour Webb jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. In their search for Morris and the Anglins, the coast guard also never found Webb.

On June 19, 1962, eighteen-year-old Robert Paris drowned near Half Moon Bay, about twenty miles south of San Francisco. Although a helicopter observed his body, it sunk and disappeared before a boat could recover it.
(Breaking the Rock: The Great Escape from Alcatraz, Jolene Babyak, p. 235-236)

I'd like to think they made it, but I just don't believe they did. Unfortunately, Morris and the Anglins also entered the Bay at the worst possible time--the tide was going out, and was very strong at that time of night. Here's some more from Babyak's book, for anyone interested:

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Tides sweep in and out of San Francisco Bay every five to six hours, with approximately four tides every twenty-four hours. In each twenty-four-hour period there occurs the lowest tide of the day, as measured by the hourly water level data. That's often followed by the high-high-tide, or the highest tide of the day. In the hours after the high-high tide, the largest volume of water is departing the San Francisco Bay at the fastest velocity.

The low-low tide of 1.13 feet occurred at approximately 1:00 PM on June 11. The high-high tide, reaching a height of 5.23 feet, occurred at approximately 8:00 PM. Within three hours--or at approximately the time when Morris and the Anglins put their handmade raft into the bay--the water level would drop almost two feet to 3.37, meaning that it was a very fast, outgoing tide. Between 11:00 PM and midnight, the water level dropped another half foot, to 2.73.

In other words, Morris and the Anglins entered the bay at exactly the worst moment of that twenty-four-hour period, when the biggest volume of water was going out to the ocean at the fastest velocity--a moment of what engineers call "extreme events."

Predictably, the only other escape attempt from Alcatraz, in which prisoners were never found, also occurred on a high-high tide.

On December 16, 1937, Ralph Roe, AZ 260, and Theodore Cole, AZ 258, escaped at 1:15 PM from the west end of the island--the Golden Gate Bridge side. The high-high tide that day occurred at 10:00 AM. They, too, entered the bay at exactly the worst moment--hour number three of the high-high tide. It's no coincidence that they are also still missing.

Trying to cross a fast moving outgoing tide from Alcatraz is like crossing a river while swimming. You don't cross it--you go with it. Without a rudder to guide the boat, and using only paddles, experts say, Morris and the Anglins would have been in an extremely difficult position to travel north. The strong tendency would have been to float west toward the Pacific Ocean.
(Breaking the Rock: The Great Escape from Alcatraz, Jolene Babyak, p. 237-238)

There's no definite proof, of course, that they didn't make it. It's unlikely, but still within the realm of possibility. I'd like to think they did... but I really doubt it. Besides for the information above, these men were in jail for years, and out for only months at a time, their entire lives. The fact that not even one of them got into trouble again seems the most damning evidence that they didn't make it.

What I find interesting is how Siegel conveys the impression that they did make it. I wonder if he really believed that, or if he did it to make the ending more appealing.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2005, 11:01:22 PM by Matt » Logged
Christopher
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2005, 09:30:06 AM »

I doubt they made it. From all that information above that Matt gave, it sounds like a person would be washed out to sea.

I like the fact the movie makes you want them to make it. In reality, would you really want someone who's been in prison for most of their lives to be able to escape?

But of course, if they did make it, they obviously kept their noses clean. If I broke out of prison, I sure wouldn't want to be caught doing anything else.

Is there anything known about whether or not Morris and the others had a plan about how they would live once they'd escaped? I guess that could be a stupid question, since if someone knew about it, it wouldn't have been a good plan. But I don't see how you could live after escaping from a prison. Where would you go, and how would you get there? If they made it to another country, they'd have to have some means of making a living, and they couldn't have used their own names for anything.

I've always been interested in the Alcatraz escape, going back years since I first saw this movie. I wanted to write a paper on it for a class some years back, but couldn't find enough information about it at the time (no internet access at the time). It's still something I'd love to study.
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Matt
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2005, 05:41:26 PM »


Is there anything known about whether or not Morris and the others had a plan about how they would live once they'd escaped?

They did have plans. The Anglins made a waterproof bag out of raincoats, and placed inside it pictures of their family, as well as a small notebook with the names and phone numbers of people who they could contact for help once they were out. Relatives, and friends of fellow inmates, were all included. The pouch was discovered (although the raft itself never was) and its discovery is more evidence that they didn't make it. This is shown in the film, in this scene on Angel Island where the Police Sergeant brings the bag to the Warden:

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WARDEN: (Looking at the bag's contents) It appears that they drowned.

POLICE SGT: Why?

WARDEN: If that was important enough to take along, they wouldn't have lost it.

POLICE SGT: Maybe they lost it to look like they drowned.

They also planned on breaking into a store and stealing some clothes, then stealing a car and driving away from the area. No robberies were reported in the area in the twelve days following the break out.

I like the fact the movie makes you want them to make it. In reality, would you really want someone who's been in prison for most of their lives to be able to escape?

I agree. But, they were non-violent criminals, which helps you root for them. Also, I think it's just the fact that it was such an impossible situation, and it proves man's ingenuity as well as the need for freedom from oppression. If they made it, it gives us all hope for what we can all accomplish when we really set our minds to it.

I haven't yet finished another book I've been reading, Riddle of the Rock: The Only Successful Escape from Alcatraz by Don DeNevi. As the title implies, the author DOES believe they made it. I may revisit this thread and post any reasons for his conclusion after I'm finished reading it.
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Brendan
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2005, 05:47:03 PM »

Well technically they did escape. They weren't caught and returned to prison so that to me means they did escape. Now whether or not they died while in the water is another story. But they did "break out" and made it to the water and set sail for the shore. So calling it "The Only Successful Escape from Alcatraz" is true.
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Matt
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2005, 05:49:45 PM »

I see what you're saying, Brendan. But, then it wouldn't be the ONLY successful escape from Alcatraz. There were other inmates (before and after this June 11, 1962 escape) who had gotten out, but who died crossing the bay or who were found washed up near the Golden Gate Bridge and returned to the prison. No one has ever made it out, gotten away and survived. The author, Don DeNevi, thinks that Morris and the Anglins did make it out, survived and were never found. Thus, the title.
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Brendan
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2005, 05:54:42 PM »

True. But then there you have it. They were successful in that they've never been found. They've disappeared without a trace. They pulled one over on them. There's no closure to this case. At least the other inmates died trying and were found but these guys... no trace. What if they were picked up by a fishing boat? Is there anything that says otherwise? But then you'd think the fishing boat captain or crew would have come forward afterwards and said something so maybe not.

Hey... if they get that newly purposed Qauntem Leap show going they could make an episode of out it!
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2005, 02:28:13 AM »

When I visited Alcatraz a few years back the tour guide/Bull told us that for many years following the escape the F.B.I recieved postcards from one of the Anglins boasting of how they were still free and that handwriting experts verified it as authentic. Tourist nonsense or fact ?  ;)
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« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2006, 09:08:08 PM »

At the end of the film the way the warden reacts to seeing the flower on the rock.I think deep down he thinks they made it but won't admit to it to the other guard as he doesn't want to be beaten by the criminals.
In real life who knows.As was mentioned earlier these inmates were in and out of prisons all their lives and I think they would have slipped up again if they survived.
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2007, 06:09:16 PM »

Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.
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