Written by Paul McGee and narrated by Rebecca Roberts
Copyright ©2017 by Paul McGee
More than half a century has passed since Frank Lee Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin dug their way out of their cells and escaped from US Penitentiary Alcatraz, disappearing into the waters of San Francisco Bay.
It’s a well-told story, shrouded in mystery, replete with speculation.
Like most people, I’ve wondered whether the trio lived to begin a new life somewhere, or succumbed to the mighty currents of the Bay. But sitting in front of the TV with a beer one Friday evening, something piqued my interest: the rug which covers my sitting room floor. It measures six feet across, and almost fourteen feet in length. I’d not taken its dimensions before, but I’d recently read about the Alcatraz escape and somewhere in my curious cerebral functions, absorbed the fact that the raft used by the fleeing convicts that night in 1962 measured – yes, six feet by fourteen. Frowning at my rug, I wondered if it might be about the same size, so got out a tape measure and took its dimensions. It was – roughly.
The point of this? My sitting room might not be palatial, but the rug is what guests politely if banally refer to as ‘a good size’. Suddenly I was picturing it in green rubber with inflated sides and it hit me: that was a huge raft. More like a boat. Far bigger than four men could ever need.
And that’s when my own digging started. I wondered why they might have conceived of a vessel on such an impressive scale. Presumably to sustain them on either a long journey or potentially tumultuous waters. Or both.
Two years ago, Dutch scientists from Deltares, a non-profit research institute, presented their hydraulic model of the effects the tidal flows would have on a raft in San Francisco Bay. They used historical tidal data from the night of the escape, and showed what would have happened to a raft in the bay at the trio’s various possible times of departure from Alcatraz Island. The model shows a very plausible tidal route which would carry a raft to Angel Island, but not quickly. Hours would pass as the waters carried a vessel right out of the bay to the waiting Pacific Ocean, then dragged it back in under the Golden Gate Bridge and steered it north to Angel Island.
In addition, I discovered that while officially only fragments of the raft and lifejackets had been found in the week following the escape, there is a report filed by the Stanislaus County Sherriff’s Office which states that on June 12, the morning after the escape, a raft was found on Angel Island with footprints leading away from it.
Furthermore, it has long been established that no cars were reported stolen on the night of the escape and, according to the one member of the party left behind in his cell, Allen West, the plan had been to steal a vehicle and leave the area before they were discovered missing. What always struck me was that surely, on most nights in most cities, a car is stolen somewhere in the area. Sure enough, again as cited by the Stanislaus County Sherriff’s Office, a 1955 Chevrolet, blue, was reported missing at an unspecified time during the night of June 11/12. In addition, at 11.30am on June 12, an unnamed complainant reported to the California Highway Patrol that he had been run off the road by three men in a 1955 Chevrolet, blue, in the town of Stockton, some 100 miles west of the nearest landfall to Angel Island.
These lesser-known pieces of evidence, together with all the facts known about the escape, have been used in the telling of Angel Footprints.
Whether or not the FBI subsequently concealed this evidence is conjecture, and all the characters involved in the story hailing from that agency are fictitious.
What is true is that in 1965 a memorandum to J Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, states that the Bureau was pursuing a lead that at least one of the Anglin bothers was potentially residing in Brazil at that time. In addition, a photograph taken in the 1970s was recently released by Anglin family members purporting to show the brothers alive and well in Brazil.
To think, it all started with a floor rug. That and the statistic that for every three bodies lost to the waters of San Francisco Bay, two of them will be recovered. Statistically at least two of the escapees survived. The rest of the story became clearer as I dug through the plethora of reports and found that some of them linked up rather neatly.
The author has indicated this work contains some adult content. This is how we advise authors about adult content.
about the author
You’ll find me wandering the avenues and boulevards of Bibliophone from time to time…
about the narrator
Rebecca is a great friend of ours here at Bibliophone and was the first guest narrator-judge in our original 1000 Words Heard competition. I am truly honoured that she said yes when I asked if she’d be kind enough to speak my written words.
The many testimonials written of Rebecca’s talents range from, ‘Fast, professional, with a great understanding of tone, pacing, and inflection’, to her ability ‘to portray a more mature journey of self-discovery that included denial, confusion, and ultimate acceptance of truth’. She is ‘compelling, dramatic’ and perhaps most importantly of all, ‘easy to listen to.’