Escape Artist – The Amazing Craftsmanship of the most Famous Fugitives
I always been fascinated by the adventurous and amazing escape from the Alcatraz Prison by Frank Lee Morris, and the brothers Clarence and John William Anglin on 12 june 1962. A fourth man Allen Clyton West failed the escape.
The film starring Clint Eastwood has often accompanied my thoughts to imagine the emotions and sufferings of the men who have succeeded in a purpose deemed impossible by many peoples. Everyone of us knows the story in detail but it is so surprising to find photographs of the work that they have improvised searching to get the freedom.
I am especially fascinated discovering the details of the dummy’s faces that they have placed into their beds during the nights to simulate their presence to the guards. During night time they working at the opening of the air intake of the cells, which would run away. The plaster heads deceived the guard thought they was sleeping. They organized the escape with makeshift tracking materials fee. The heads were made with very little equipment and materials, I think that one could not do better. They was not sculptors as well as people with artistic skills, but their handmade heads were modeled and painted so effectively that the guards never discovered during preparations of the prison break. The photo on the right was taken in the Clarence Anglin’s cell the morning of discovery. In this way have fooled the guards during the turn.
Frank Lee Morris fake head, 1962 ca.
Wire, cotton bandage, human hair and plaster painted.
H 25, W 25, D 17. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GOGA 407.
Two images of Clarence Anglin’s fake head, 1962 ca.
Wire, cotton bandage, soap, human hair and plaster painted. H 23, W 21, D 14. The head was restored in 1981 when was added the cement on the back.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GOGA 405.
John Anglin’s fake head, 1962 ca.
Wire, cotton bandage, human hair and plaster painted. H 23, W 21, D 14.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GOGA 406.
Allen Clayton West’s fake head, 1962 ca.
Wire, cotton bandage, human hair and plaster painted. H 23, W 13, D 11.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GOGA 404.
If they taken the cotton bandages in the infirmary, is more likely have used plaster for plaster casts or dental cast. On sixties there were boxes of quick-setting Plaster of Paris for medical use such as the Gypsona. Also is interesting to note that to simplified the work they have modeled only half of the heads, in one case only the part sticking out of the blankets. This also demonstrates the limited time for escape and the economy of the materials obtained corrupting and paying other inmates. The half heads gave the impression of its weight in the pillow. The ears are modeled separately and then applied, in this way the work was much easier.
Original photo of the four fake heads.
Nothing was ignored and everything was prepared with care and detail. In the photos below are show the secure place chosen as workshop where the inmates assembled their materials which they used to escape from the prison walls and the sea crossing to reach the mainland. The tools that inmates made from readily available objects. It’s amazing how the spoon handles (bottom centre) are very similar to sculptor’s spatulas.
The escape remains one of the mysteries of the history of Alcatraz Prison. No one has ever seen or sighted Morris and the Anglin brothers, although the sightings all over the country were so many.
The case was closed on 31 Dec. 1979.
Recently, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of evasion have appeared in newspaper articles and interviews that have strengthened the hypothesis of the success of the escape. I have always believed in this.