Alcatraz inmates and bank robbers Frank Lee Morris, Clarence Anglin, and John Anglin spent a year tunneling out of their cells using sharpened spoons. The flimsy raincoat raft they used to escape from "The Rock" eventually washed up on a nearby shore, but no trace of the prisoners was ever found.
Photograph by Benlechlitner, courtesy Wikimedia. This image has been released into the public domain.

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  • On June 12, 1962, guards discovered three prisoners had escaped from their cells on the infamous island prison of Alcatraz, California. The men were the only prisoners ever to have escaped from Alcatraz, although there is no evidence they escaped the turbulent, icy waters of the San Francisco Bay.
    The three bank robbers (Frank Lee Morris, Clarence Anglin, and John Anglin) had planned their escape in precise detail. They collected hair from the prison barbershop, and kept soap and toilet paper. With these materials, they created masks of their own faces. The crude masks were realistic enough to fool guards checking the bunks at night.
    The prisoners had spent a year tunneling through their concrete cells using sharpened spoons. The tunnels led to a ventilation shaft, which then led to the roof. The men climbed down a pipe to the rugged shore of “The Rock.” They made a flimsy, homemade raft out of raincoats and either driftwood or quick-dry cement.
    The raincoat raft eventually washed up on nearby Angel Island, but no trace of the prisoners was ever found.  Although Alcatraz is just over a kilometer (nearly a mile) from the city of San Francisco, the cold currents of San Francisco Bay are strong and dangerous. Few historians think the men could have survived.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    cement Noun

    hard material used as a building material or a binding agent for stronger building materials such as concrete.

    concrete Noun

    hard building material made from mixing cement with rock and water.

    crude Adjective

    basic or raw.

    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    driftwood Noun

    pieces of wood that have traveled on currents in a body of water and drifted on shore.

    escape Verb

    to get away.

    eventually Adverb

    at some point in the future.

    evidence Noun

    data that can be measured, observed, examined, and analyzed to support a conclusion.

    flimsy Adjective

    weak or ineffective.

    infamous Adjective

    having a very bad reputation.

    precise Adjective


    prison Noun

    buildings that house convicted criminals and people accused of a crime and awaiting trial.

    rugged Adjective

    having an irregular or jagged surface.

    shaft Noun

    underground tunnel.

    shore Noun


    survive Verb

    to live.

    turbulent Adjective

    violent or chaotic.

    ventilation Noun

    movement or circulation of fresh air in a closed environment. Also called air circulation.