If it wasn’t for freezing-cold temperatures of the water and being exhausted from an adrenaline-fueled escape to the other side, one man could have had a great story to tell of making it out of Alcatraz. In this article, you will learn about him and other inmates that dared to flee.
The 1945 Escape Attempt
John Giles was an inmate at Alcatraz that seemed to be working on the docks, but over the years, he managed to put together a full U.S. Army staff sergeant uniform. His plan was to blend in on a prison launch after changing into the uniform and boarding the launch. He did so on July 31, 1945. However, shortly after the launch departed for Angel Island, the guards learned that Giles was missing during one of the unscheduled head counts at the prison. When the boat reached Angel Island, he was greeted by prison officers, who returned the convict back to Alcatraz.
The 1956 Escape Attempt
A short-lived attempt to escape from Alcatraz came from Floyd Wilson on July 23, 1956, who was a no-show at his job at the dock. However, he was found after he had been hiding for several hours among large rocks along the shoreline.
The 1958 Escape Attempt
While working on the garbage detail, Aaron Burgett and Clyde Johnson overpowered a guard on September 29, 1958 and managed to jump into the waters. They tried to swim off of the island, but a police launch was sent. First, Johnson was recaptured, but Burgett disappeared. His body was uncovered floating in the bay two weeks later.
The 1962 Escape Attempt
On December 16, 1962, John Paul Scott and Darl Parker were the last two inmates on Alcatraz Island to attempt an escape. Scott used banjo strings and a makeshift saw as a way to cut through the bars on a window in the cell house. The inmates then bent the bars of a window and used a rope to lower themselves down to the ground, where they made their way to the shore.
Parker was found 100 yards from the main island on the rock formation nicknamed ‘Little Alcatraz.’ He had only escaped for 20 minutes. Scott was able to reach Fort Point on the mainland where he was discovered by a group of teenagers that found an unconscious man beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. He showed the signs of hypothermia and exhaustion, and was sent to a hospital. When he recovered from the cold, he was returned to the Rock. Scott is the only escapee documented to have reached the shore by swimming. His success in reaching the other side of freedom poked holes in the scare tactics used by the prison. Legend had it that the waters were filled with man-eating sharks or that swimmers would bleed to death by hitting razor-sharp rocks. But since a prisoner was able to swim about three miles to the shore, they not only started to disbelief the rumors, but also held onto the thought that Morris and the Anglin brothers might have really survived their previous attempt. Their bodies have never been found and depending on whom you talk to , they were cited as missing persons or dead by drowning.
Even though Alcatraz had shut down and Scott transferred to Leavenworth and then later to a jail in Illinois, he did not give up his dreams of escape. He made another attempt in Marion, but wound up dying in jail at the Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee, Florida in 1986.
John Paul Scott was sent to Alcatraz after being convicted of bank robbery and the possession of unregistered firearms in Lexington. He was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison. He was sent to the Island in 1959.
Darl Parker was a convicted bank robber and hijacker that was given a sentence of 52 years.