Alcatraz: John And Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris Escaped By Body-Surfing Behind Ferry, Started New Life In Brazil, Relatives Claim On History Channel Show

Relatives claim that Alcatraz inmates John and Clarence Anglin and their friend, Frank Morris, made it out of Alcatraz alive in 1962 by body-surfing behind a ferry and did not drown as prison authorities and FBI investigators have believed for decades.

Ken, 54, and David Widner, 48, nephews of the Alcatraz inmates John and Clarence Anglin, claimed in a new History Channel documentary, Alcatraz: Search For The Truth, which aired Monday night, that the two former Georgia bank robbers, along with a third inmate, Frank Morris, escaped by body-surfing behind a ferry and started a new life on a farm in Brazil.

Prison authorities and FBI investigators had concluded in 1979 that following a successful breakout on the night of June 11 or early morning of June 12, 1962, the trio drowned in the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay while attempting to paddle two miles to the mainland on a makeshift inflatable raft.

The theory that the men perished in the waters of the San Francisco Bay before they reached the mainland appeared confirmed when authorities recovered human bones from San Francisco Bay only six months after the men escaped from Alcatraz. Investigators believed that the bones belonged to one of the escapees.

But recently, the Widner brothers allowed investigators to obtain DNA from the exhumed body of Alfred Anglin, the older brother of John and Clarence Anglin. DNA tests proved that the bones did not belong to either of the Anglin brothers. Comparison of the DNA with samples from distant relatives of Morris also suggested that the bones did not belong to Morris either.

Ken and David also gave to investigators photos which they claim prove that the Anglin brothers were still alive as late as 1975 and living on their farm in Brazil. They claim that the brothers could still be alive today.

The Widners said they gave the authorities the evidence after keeping it for decades to refute the claim by prison authorities that no inmate ever made it out of Alcatraz alive.

“We are doing this to prove they actually got off that island and did make that crossing. We want to bury them with their family.”

Forensic experts have analyzed the facial characteristics of the men in the photos and concluded it is “highly likely” that they show the Anglin brothers. One of the photos shows two men, believed to be John and his brother Clarence, posing in sunglasses, supposedly on their farm in Brazil in 1975.

The Widners said they obtained the photos in 1992 from Fred Brizzi, a childhood friend of the Anglins. Brizzi, who smuggled drugs from South America to Florida in the 1970s, said he met the brothers in Rio De Janiero, Brazil.

Alcatraz Island

Brizzi allegedly met one of the brothers at a bar in Rio, and they invited him to their farm and allowed him to take photographs.

Brizzi also relayed the Anglin brothers’ account of how they escaped from Alcatraz.

The new body of evidence — which also includes three Christmas cards the Anglin brothers allegedly sent to their mother in Florida during three consecutive years after their escape from Alcatraz — appears to confirm Brizzi’s account that the Anglins made it out of Alcatraz alive and finally settled in Brazil.

The Christmas cards that the brothers had sent to their mother before they escaped had their prison numbers and stamps indicating they were sent from Alcatraz. But the Christmas cards sent after June 1962 did not have prison numbers or stamps.

The cards were signed by the Anglin brothers in their handwriting, and specialists who have analyzed the handwriting believe it to be authentic.

Commenting on the claim that the Anglins could be alive today in Brazil, New York criminal defense lawyer Arkady Bukh, said, “It’s not far-fetched to accept the theory that the Anglin brothers escaped to South America.The continent has been a haven, for decades, for Americans, and other nationalities, seeking to evade justice. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid escaped to Argentina in 1901, thousands of Nazi’s settled in South America following World War II and every year, we hear of someone who has been hiding out in South America.”

“[South America] has been a haven, for decades, for Americans, and other nationalities, seeking to evade justice.”

The brothers escaped from their cells by chiseling a hole in the wall. They left papier-mâché dummy heads in their bed to deceive guards that they were tucked up safely in bed.

Frank Morris
Dummy Head Found In Frank Morris' Cell

They climbed through the hole in the wall and broke out of the prison building through the roof.

But how did they escape from the island?

The Widners gave investigators a tape recording in which Brizzi narrated how they escaped from the island. According to Brizzi, the Anglin brothers and Morris body-surfed behind a passenger ferry that left Alcatraz just after midnight. They held on to a length of power cable tied to the ferry.

It is believed that an associate picked them up in a boat in the San Francisco Bay and helped them escape to freedom.

Although Brizzi never admitted it, investigators believe he was likely the one who picked up the Anglins in a boat on San Francisco Bay.

John and Clarence Anglin would be 85 and 84-years-old respectively if still alive today in Brazil, and theirs would be the first and only successful escape attempt from the notorious maximum high-security Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which held some of the most notorious criminals in U.S. history, including Al Capone.

According to Bukh, if in truth the Anglins are alive today, “They’d be in their 80s. Even if they were found, and positively identified today, it’s more likely they would die of old age before being extradited. The warrant for their arrest will expire when each of the men turn 100 — unless they’re captured first. While federal prosecutors would have to determine if they put the duo on trial, it’s unlikely they will ever see the inside of a prison again — at least not on the original charges or the escape.”

[Images: YouTube/History; WPPilot/Wikimedia Commons]