Between 1934 and 1963, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary housed America’s most harmful prisoners. Subsequent to the loss of life penalty, a ticket to Alcatraz was essentially the most extreme punishment for hardened criminals.

Within the Nineteen Thirties, crime was uncontrolled in the USA. In 1932, for instance, there have been 631 financial institution robberies. Gangsters would rob a financial institution, maintain a teller hostage, blow up the secure, and make their getaway. Within the rural Midwest, the Barker-Karpis gang robbed dozens of banks. They killed anybody who acquired of their approach. In Chicago, Al Capone led an enormous crime ring.

Not solely have been these criminals robbing individuals blind, however they have been getting away with it. Gangsters devised new methods to flee prisons. Inmates began riots and attacked guards. So, federal authorities rounded up the worst gangsters, troublemakers, and escape artists from prisons round the USA. Alcatraz Island could be their new house.

10 Al Capone

Al Capone made thousands and thousands of {dollars} promoting unlawful liquor. He cherished fame, and he sought out reporters and boasted about his exploits. Everybody knew about Al Capone. He was making $60 million a yr. He wore double-breasted fits and flashed a diamond ring the dimensions of a golf ball. He drove a 1928 Cadillac City Sedan protected by 1,360 kilograms (3,000 lb) of metal armor and bulletproof home windows.

Many individuals noticed him as a hero. He reminded them of Robin Hood, who stole from the wealthy and gave to the poor. Capone cultivated this popularity. He would donate his crime cash to charity and as soon as opened a soup kitchen in Chicago.

Authorities officers suspected Capone was hiring hit males to homicide his enemies. On February 14, 1929, seven members of Bugs Malone’s gang have been lured to a storage in Chicago. After they arrived, a number of males disguised as police gunned them down. This grew to become referred to as the St. Valentine’s Day Bloodbath.

Unable to show extra critical expenses, the authorities lastly arrested Capone for tax evasion and despatched him to the Atlanta Penitentiary. In Atlanta, Capone efficiently bribed guards and public officers and acquired particular therapy.

As soon as at Alcatraz, Al Capone was not well-known. He acquired no particular therapy. He performed banjo within the Rock Islanders Band after they gave common Sunday live shows, and he labored within the laundry room and the library. He mentioned, “Alcatraz has acquired me licked.”[1]

9 Machine Gun Kelly

George “Machine Gun” Kelly got here from a rich household in Tennessee and attended school. Many individuals believed his spouse, Kathryn, pushed him into a lifetime of crime. Earlier than assembly Kathryn, he had minor skirmishes with the regulation. She purchased him a machine gun and launched him to infamous gangsters. After their marriage, he grew to become public enemy primary.

Kelly robbed banks. The FBI’s wished posters described him as an “knowledgeable machine gunner.” After kidnapping a rich oil tycoon, he was despatched to Leavenworth Jail in Kansas. After he boasted that he would break himself and his spouse out of jail in time for Christmas, authorities took him critically and shipped him to Alcatraz.

On the Rock, he was thought of a mannequin prisoner. Though Kelly was identified for bragging about crimes he didn’t commit, he served his time quietly, with out conflicts or time in solitary. He additionally served as an altar boy within the jail chapel and labored within the laundry room.[2]

8 Roy Gardner

Not like many criminals of his day, Gardner normally labored alone. He gained fame for robbing trains and was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Nicknamed “The King of the Escape Artists,” he as soon as escaped from a transferring practice. He additionally escaped McNeil Island Jail by chopping a gap within the fence and swimming to shore.

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At Alcatraz, all his makes an attempt to flee have been thwarted, however he nonetheless managed to be a significant ache to the guards. Whereas there, he wrote most of his memoir Hellcatraz: The Rock of Despair. It was one of many first accounts of life contained in the jail. He claimed that the Leavenworth and Atlanta prisons have been summer time resorts in comparison with Alcatraz.[3]

7 Robert Luke

Robert Luke, prisoner #1118, was despatched to Alcatraz in 1954 after a number of fights and an tried escape from Leavenworth Jail. Not lengthy after arriving, he couldn’t deal with being there, so he flooded his cell and tried to set his mattress on hearth. Guards rapidly eliminated Luke from his cell, stripped him bare, and positioned him in solitary confinement. He believes he was held there for about 29 days, primarily based on what he ate. He was given bread and water day-after-day and a “meal” of potato, onion, and peas each three days.

Luke wrote an autobiography about his time at Alcatraz titled Entombed in Alcatraz in 2010. He additionally returned to the Rock for a reunion between guards and inmates. From that time, Luke continued to offer lectures and excursions at Alcatraz. In speaking about his expertise in jail, he mentioned he grew to become decided to get out of there. “From then on I used to be on my greatest conduct, so I acquired out early. I used to be one in all solely six convicts to ever depart Alcatraz immediately [without transfer to another prison].” He was launched in 1959.

Luke’s neighboring cellmate was the well-known Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Luke died in 2017 after having spent greater than 50 years free from the famed jail.[4]

6 Arthur ‘Doc’ Barker

Barker was a member of the notorious Barker household. All through the Nineteen Twenties and Nineteen Thirties, Barker and his brother dedicated innumerable crimes, together with theft, kidnapping, and homicide.

In 1939, Barker and three inmates tried to flee Alcatraz. They sawed via 4 units of jail bars, concealing the harm with putty. Ultimately, they climbed over the excessive partitions of the jail on a foggy evening and escaped to the seashore. The guards noticed them and ordered them to place their fingers within the air. After they didn’t obey, the guards opened hearth, hitting them within the legs. One other shot from a patrol boat hit Barker within the head.

Barker was recaptured however died of his wounds lower than 24 hours later.[5]

5 Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis


Karpis spent 26 years on Alcatraz, extra time than every other prisoner. He started his lifetime of crime at age ten, helping bootleggers.

Karpis was a part of the notorious Barker-Karpis Gang, who robbed banks and disrupted mail deliveries. The Barker brothers, Doc and Fred, gunned down harmless bystanders, whereas Karpis, with a close to-genius IQ, was the brains behind the operation. Fellow gang member Fred Hunter described him as “tremendous-good.” He had a photographic reminiscence.

Karpis was not nicely-preferred at Alcatraz. Officer Al Bloomquist referred to as him a nuisance, and Karpis complained often and fought with different inmates. He learn excessively. They referred to as him “Creepy” due to his sinister smile.[6]

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4 Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud grew to become well-known when Hollywood made a film referred to as The Birdman of Alcatraz. Within the movie, he was portrayed as a sort, light soul who raised birds in his cell. Truly, he by no means had birds in his cell at Alcatraz. He studied birds in his cell at Leavenworth Jail in Kansas.

Whereas at Leavenworth, Stroud found a hen’s nest with child canaries and took the birds again to his cell to nurse them again to well being. Jail authorities granted him permission to boost birds in his cell. At one level, he had 300 of them residing in cigar bins. He created a makeshift lab to develop do-it-yourself medicines for them, which he bought via mail order. He additionally wrote two books about canaries.

At Alcatraz, prisoners and guards feared and hated Robert Stroud. Lawyer Basic Biddle mentioned, “Stroud loves birds and hates males.”[7] When The Birdman of Alcatraz got here out, many individuals begged for Stroud’s launch. When an officer requested him what he’d do if he have been let out, Stroud replied that he had a listing of individuals to kill.

3 Morton Sobell

Morton Sobell, together with Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, was convicted on espionage expenses. The jury believed all three had provided a Russian undercover agent with labeled info on nuclear weapons throughout the Chilly Struggle. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover referred to as it “the crime of the century.”[8] The Rosenbergs have been electrocuted at Sing Sing Jail in New York State. Sobell was sentenced to 30 years, and Hoover insisted that Sobell be despatched to Alcatraz.

Sobell appeared to regulate to Alcatraz higher than different inmates. He spent his time studying books from the jail library. He was finally moved to cell C-342 on the highest tier. This cell was hotter than others and had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sobell was in style with different inmates at Alcatraz, probably as a result of J. Edgar Hoover thought of him his archenemy. He was finally launched from jail in 1969.

In 2011, he admitted that he helped copy hundred of pages of secret Air Pressure paperwork. He had beforehand admitted in 2008 to spying for the Soviet Union in World Struggle II. Martin Sobell died in December 2018 on the age of 101.

2 James ‘Whitey’ Bulger

For “Whitey” Bulger, his crimes earlier than Alcatraz have been only the start. Convicted of armed theft, his first lengthy-time period jail sentence was on the Atlanta Penitentiary, the place he volunteered for MKULTRA, an experimental CIA drug program. Inmates got LSD and different medicine.

After plotting a jail escape, he was shipped to Alcatraz in 1959. In keeping with Bulger, Alcatraz was his greatest jail expertise.[9] In a letter to Alcatraz historian Michael Esslinger, he acknowledged, “If I might select my epitaph on my tombstone, it will be ‘I’d slightly be in Alcatraz.’”

When Alcatraz was closed in 1962, Bulger was transferred to Leavenworth. After his launch in 1965, he returned to South Boston and labored with the Winter Hill Gang. He and his accomplice, Stephen J. Flemmi, began their very own felony racket. In addition they labored undercover for the FBI as TEIs (Prime Echelon Informants). When Agent John Connolly warned him of the pending arrest in 1994, Bulger fled.

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Bulger remained a fugitive from 1995 to 2011. In 2000, the FBI’s Boston department established a unit to deal with discovering Bulger, who rose to the highest of the Most Needed checklist after the loss of life of Osama bin Laden. After searches via Europe, South America, and Asia, they discovered Bulger residing beneath an alias in Santa Monica, California. He was convicted of 11 murders and given two life sentences.

In October 2018, Bulger was transferred to the USA Penitentiary, Hazelton, in West Virginia. Two days later, he was discovered lifeless after being crushed by fellow inmates.

1 John And Clarence Anglin
#1476 And #1485

When the Anglin brothers turned to crime, they tried to not damage anyone. After they robbed a enterprise, they selected a time when the enterprise was closed in order that nobody would get damage. They robbed banks with solely a toy gun.

In 1958, they robbed the Columbia Financial savings Financial institution in Alabama. After getting caught, John (left above) tried to flee the state penitentiary and acquired shipped to Alcatraz. After his personal escape try, Clarence (proper above) joined his brother at Alcatraz.

On the evening of June 11, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers escaped Alcatraz. That they had deliberate this escape for 9 months. Each evening for 5 months, they used discarded noticed blades and smuggled cafeteria spoons to burrow into the rotting cement behind their cells. They might work from 5:30 pm, after they entered the cell, till 9:00 pm, not lengthy earlier than lights out. They used pretend vents to hide their work from the guards.

In the meantime, they stole 50 raincoats and constructed a raft. They sewed the raincoats collectively and sealed them with warmth from the steam pipes under their cells. They deliberate to paddle to close by Angel Island, steal a ship, after which enhance a automotive.

Since they knew the guards would test their cell each hour throughout the evening, the brothers created pretend heads from cleaning soap, rest room paper, and a do-it-yourself cement combine. They painted the heads and adorned them with human hair from the barbershop. They named the decoys Oink and Oscar.

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers crawled out of the again of their cells. They gathered the raft and carried it as much as the roof. Then they climbed down the wall and into the bay. That was the final time anybody noticed these three males. When the guards acquired no reply throughout the morning wake-up name, they pulled again the sheets and found the decoys.

It’s unlikely that the lads survived. The water temperature was 12 levels Celsius (54 °F). The tide was 13 kilometers per hour (8 mph). Items of the lads’s raft have been discovered within the bay. No boats or vehicles have been reported stolen. City legends about their survival proceed to at the present time, although.[10]

Lou Hunley has loved sharing books with youngsters as a trainer and youngsters’s librarian. She created Librarian Lou, a weblog about youngsters and younger grownup books. When she’s not studying or writing, she enjoys taking part in pickleball, biking, and zip-lining.


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