Escape from Alcatraz

Welcome to my new blog. My goal here is to share with you videos I trip across while doing my favorite thing: surfing YouTube. There’s no rhyme or reason to the blog — just neat videos and stories to go with them. Hope you like it. 

Prisons have always fascinated me — in a queasy kind of way. The high walls, the barbed wire, the watchtowers… It’s not quite like peering down into deep, deep water, but it’s close.

This week in 1963, the most famous — and arguably most formidable — prison in the world closed its doors. Just looking at pictures of Alcatraz gives me shivers. Twelve acres of daunting rock set oh-so-close and yet so far (1.5 miles) from the comfortable civilization of San Francisco.


On June 11, 1962, 3 inmates made what is now believed to be the only successful escape from Alcatraz. At the time, authorities were certain the men had drowned in the cold, choppy water of San Francisco Bay — like other escapees before them.

But in 2018, a letter surfaced suggesting that at least one of the men is still alive.

The ’62 escape is thought to be one of the catalysts behind the closing of Alcatraz less than a year later.

YouTube has all kinds of stuff on the Alcatraz escape, and on other prison ‘incidents’. Have a look, and enjoy.

The 3 Alcatraz escapees
Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin

The 1962 escape from Alcatraz   The plotting and planning behind the escape of Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin is borderline genius (Morris had an IQ of 133). The short doc below shows how they escaped, and includes an interview with the daughter of then-prison warden — she was 15 at the time and living on The Rock (as wardens’ families did). She has since written several books on Alcatraz.  (45 min)

The 2018 letter   This CBS news story tells of the letter that surfaced in January 2018, indicating that the 3 inmates survived.  (4.5 min)

Paul Taylor
Inmate Paul Taylor on the roof of Strangeways

The 1990 riot at Strangeways   (Love the name.) On April 1st, 1990, an inmate at Strangeways (now officially H.M.P. Manchester) interrupted the prison chaplain in the middle of a service when he took the microphone and said: “I would like to say, right, that this man [Reverend Noel Proctor] has just talked about blessing of the heart and a hardened heart can be delivered. No it cannot, not with resentment, anger and bitterness and hatred being instilled in people.” Other inmates began to chime in with comments like “Fuck your system, fuck your rules.” And that was it… they were off.

Here is live 1990 news footage of inmates on the roof of Strangeways:  (3 min)

And here’s the 2015 BBC documentary Strangeways: Britain’s Toughest Prison Riot:  (1 hr, 30 min)

The 1971 riot at Attica   On August 21st, 1971, activist George Jackson was shot while serving an armed robbery sentence at California’s San Quentin State Prison. Jackson was a voice for the marginalized and incarcerated alike, and his death had a particularly strong impact on the inmates of Attica State Prison in upper New York State. On September 9th, tensions between Attica’s inmates and guards boiled over, and the rest is a sad bit of history. One of the comments for this video is “This has to be the worst way to handle a riot I’ve ever heard of.” I would agree. Be warned: it’s violent, but as another comment noted, “Please someone tell me why I’m only hearing about this as an adult. Why don’t they teach kids about this in school?”  (15 min)


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