Inside ‘escape-proof’ Alcatraz Island ‘haunted’ by Al Capone’s ghost
It was the notorious maximum-security prison dubbed Devil's Island or The Rock due to its reputation for being impossible to escape from.
But that didn't stop some lags from trying!
This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the so-called Battle of Alcatraz, the biggest attempted breakout from the US island jail that ended in a bloodbath.
Here Daily Star unlocks 15 facts about the prison including what happened.
The once-barren Alcatraz Island, located 1.25 miles off the coast in San Francisco Bay, was named after resident pelicans by Spanish sailors. It was a fort and military lock-up before becoming a federal prison in 1934.
Heavily guarded and surrounded by water with strong currents and sharks, plus jagged rocks, authorities believed Alcatraz was escape-proof, reserving it for America’s most dangerous criminals.
Over the years it held more than 1,500 male prisoners. Cells measured 9ft x 5ft with a bed, desk, toilet and cold-water sink. A brutal punishment regime included “The Hole”, a pitch-black solitary confinement cell.
Despite harsh conditions, some prisoners requested transfers to Alcatraz because the lags’ individual cells made them feel safer and it had a reputation for good grub.
Gangster Al Capone served four years there in the 1930s, convicted of tax evasion. He played banjo in the prison band but later admitted: “It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked.” His ghost is said to haunt the place.
Other famous inmates included mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger and kidnapper George “Machine Gun” Kelly.
Psychopathic murderer Robert Stroud, who had once killed a prison guard, spent 17 years inside. Known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz” for his avian hobbies, he was played by Burt Lancaster in a hit 1962 movie.
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Over 29 years, 36 inmates made a total of 14 escape attempts. Of these 23 were captured, six were shot dead, two drowned with five missing presumed dead.
On May 2, 1946, six inmates led by bank robber Bernard Coy overpowered a guard, got access to staff guns and took over the cellblock.
But they failed to get hold of vital prison keys and tried to shoot their way out. A 46-hour siege only ended when US Marines were called in.
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Two guards and three escapees died in the battle with 19 injured. Warden Ed Miller was burned. Two culprits were later executed.
In 1962 Frank Morris with brothers John and Clarence Anglin escaped the island by digging through the prison’s rotting concrete wall using sharpened spoons, fooling guards by leaving decoy heads in their beds.
Their possessions were later found floating in the sea, but the bodies never turned up. Some claim the trio survived. The daring bid was made into a 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood.
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Inmate John Paul Scott did successfully swim across in 1962, after squeezing through cell bars covered in lard. But he collapsed, exhausted, on the mainland and was swiftly returned to The Rock.
Spiralling costs saw Alcatraz closed in 1963.
Today it’s a tourist attraction and there is even an Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon in which people swim back to the mainland.
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