Why not call the Alcatraz Letter writer’s bluff?

To recap (and how did I miss this?): in 2018 a letter surfaced that was allegedly sent to the FBI in 2017 by a man named John Anglin. Anglin was one of the three people who disappeared after breaking out of Alcatraz in 1962; they got out of their cells, got on a homemade raft that they had made in a homemade workshop, and promptly disappeared. The FBI’s official verdict is that the three prisoners promptly drowned in San Franscisco Bay, which is both boring and boringly likely; but the US Marshals always want to see the bodies first before they close a case.  Which kind of tells you a lot about both organizations’ internal landscaping, honestly.

Anyway, said letter said that John Anglin, his brother Clarence, and fellow prisoner Frank Morris all did escape.  The letter also claimed that the other two died of old age, John himself was in his eighties now, and he had got cancer; so if the FBI agreed to only put John in jail for a year at most and got him some medical care, he’d turn himself in.  The FBI instead said that the letter was ‘inconclusive,’ which is fine — but they still could have tested it easily enough.  How? By taking the deal.

Think about it for a moment.  Either the letter is real, or it’s fake. If it was fake, accepting the offer would have revealed it to be fake.  Problem solved.  But if the letter was real, then accepting the offer would have finally allowed them to capture the famous fugitive John Anglin. Sure, for only a year — but a guy in his eighties with cancer isn’t exactly likely to start a second crime career*. Besides, if it’s true than these three managed to keep out of trouble for fifty years.  Guess that time in Alcatraz scared them straight, huh?

You may safely assume that I am mostly thinking of the spectacle of it all.  I freely admit it.  Aesthetically speaking, the FBI should have rolled those bones.

Moe Lane

*Yes, I am explicitly saying that it would be all right to let John Anglin get away with it, just this once.  I don’t propose it as a general rule.  Merely that this specific case makes enough of a hell of a great way to end the story that I’m willing to pay out a little something for it.


  • Belcatar says:

    Or they could agree to take the deal, find out where the guy is, and show up a day early. Poor John Anglin sees a flash, goes to sleep, and wakes up in sunny Cuba. No one’s the wiser.

    I don’t know if enhanced interrogation methods would be warranted against a guy in his 80s stricken with cancer, but then again, I don’t have a grudge against the guy.

  • UnmovingGreatLibrary says:

    If this is real, he’s missing a better opportunity by not just going to the press directly. If he’s in his 80s and needs cancer treatment that he’ll only get if he goes back to prison, why not? He’d probably be in a better position to get what he wants if he did. As it is, the FBI can just sit back, do nothing, and let him die.

  • BigGator5 says:

    Better yet, what if this guy is not the real John Anglin. No, the Alcatraz boys drowned. Even trained athletes with wetsuits find that swim really hard, three men couped-up in a prison would find it impossible. There is a reason why it is called the “Alcatraz Sharkfest Race”. US Marshals and The FBI likely sniffed him out as a fraud long before they even stopped laughing.

  • Luke says:

    The FBI admitting that it might have been wrong?
    Not to delve into current events, but…

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