THE TRUTH ABOUT ALCATRAZ
Not only has infamous prison ALCATRAZ spawned a new TV show but also a whole lotta baloney. The ENQUIRER gets the inside dope!
“Alcatraz” the Fox TV series about escaped time traveling convicts, has sparked renewed interest in the legendary San Francisco Bay island slammer known as “The Rock.”
Although books and movies depict the prison as America’s “Devil’s Island,” it wasn’t.
The federal penitentiary – which operated from 1934 to 1963 – could only hold 336 inmates and never reached capacity at any given time. Many prisoners actually considered the living conditions (one man to a cell) a luxury and the meals a cut above the food served at other institutions. It wasn’t unusual for convicts to request a transfer to Alcatraz.
Although Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly did time at Alcatraz, the island’s most famous prisoner was arguably Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” In reality, Stroud never had any birds at Alcatraz, nor was he anything like Burt Lancaster who played the con in the 1962 flick, “The Birdman of Alcatraz.”
Stroud was first sent to McNeil prison in Washington in 1911 after he killed a bartender. There he stabbed a hospital orderly. He later wound up at Leavenworth, where he did become an expert on birds, but where he also murdered a prison guard. Transferred to Alcatraz in 1942, Stroud was considered dangerous and spent most of his 17 years there in a segregated unit.
Another Alcatraz myth is that it was escape-proof, since San Francisco Bay was home to man-eating sharks. In fact, there are no man-eaters in the bay. The main obstacles were the cold temperature (averaging 50-55 degrees) and the strong currents. Although the distance to shore – 1-1/4 miles – was probably too much for the prisoners (who didn’t have exercise time in those days), it’s not an impossible task. Just prior to the institution opening in 1934, a teenage girl swam to the island. Then, in 1974, fitness guru Jack LaLanne, 60 at the time, swam from the island to the shore pulling a boat, and several years ago, two 10-year-old children also made the swim.
There were 14 escape attempts involving 34 inmates and officially, every attempt failed. But Frank Lee Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin – made famous in the 1979 Clint Eastwood meller “Escape from Alcatraz” – are still listed as missing.
In 1962, they chiseled through their cell walls, created fake ones to hide their work, left dummies made of soap and concrete powder in their cells and crawled through air vents. They had life vests made from raincoats and pontoon-type rafts. Although it is assumed they drowned, friends and family members reportedly received postcards from the men over the years. Their cases will remain open until their 100th birthdays – 2026 for Morris, 2030 for Clarence and 2031 for John.
While “Alcatraz” the TV show depicts a secret room beneath the prison, there is no such room in real life. Fan addicts of the series have reportedly been straying from guided tours to try and find the blonde super hottie’s secret lair.
Signs are now posted reading: “The TV show ‘Alcatraz’ is fictional, many areas it depicts are NOT real.”
See ya in stir . . .