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Alcatraz Prisoners Who Almost Escaped Alcatraz Prison

Updated on October 27, 2019
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Angela is a lover of the supernatural and Greek mythology. Although naturally skeptical, she loves hearing theories of the unknown.

A panoramic view of Alcatraz Island.
A panoramic view of Alcatraz Island. | Source

Alcatraz Island is home to the historical prison most well known for holding many ghost tales and mysteries. Some believe that there are prisoners who attempted to escape that still haunt the island to this day. Although no one will know for sure, we do know that many men sought to escape the prison, and very few who survived such a great feat. Three stories regarding attempted escapes are Arthur 'Doc' Barker, John Paul Scott, and Bernard Coy and his accomplices.

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Alcatraz Prison Photo


Arthur 'Doc" Barker: One of the Inmates of Alcatraz

In 1909, during the original construction of the military prison, they used traditional steel bars. Unfortunately, a saw can cut through steel bars. In 1934, when it became a maximum strength prison, they replaced some of the bars with heat-treated, tool resistant bars. The tool resistant bars would never have allowed a hacksaw to get through. Instead, it would have only ruined the saw without leaving a dent in the bar. Regrettably, due to the Depression, they were not able to upgrade all the bars, there was one segment that did not have the treated metal and had the original flat steel bars.

These bars imprisoned Arthur 'Doc' Barker, and he successfully broke through his bars with a hacksaw. Once he and his five accomplices cut through the bars, they worked on the next segment of their plan. While they devised this plan, Barker and his accomplices hid the cuts they made through their cell walls with paint, so no one would notice they could escape. Unfortunately for the men, there was the treated metal around the windows once released through, but they discovered they could use a bar spreader on these, which would place pressure between the bars bending them apart until they would eventually break. He and four other men finally broke through both sections of bars. Once done, they started building a makeshift raft. Unfortunately for 'Doc' and his gang, the guards caught them. 'Doc' was shot in the head, and the other men surrendered.

Some believe Arthur Barker has never left the island even after his burial. Hmm...

Alcatraz in San Fransisco


John Paul Scott: One of Alcatraz Escapees

Twenty-four years later, John Paul Scott decided to stake his hand at an escape out of his prison near the kitchen basement. There was not as tight security in that area. He and one other man worked on the bars that blocked the windows by using a piece of string dipped in wax and coated with scouring powder. The men methodically sawed at the bars a little every day. It took them over a year using this method but eventually cut through the bars. Once they escaped, they used floats made of rubber gloves. His accomplice did not make it through the sea before being caught, but Scott made it to San Fransisco. Unfortunately, he was hypothermic and barely made it out alive. He was then returned to prison there.

Alcatraz Prison Photos

The three men in the morgue, after their attempted escape.
The three men in the morgue, after their attempted escape. | Source

Coy, Hubbard, and Cretzer: Famous Alcatraz Inmates

Guards learned a way to open the doors away through a sliding door locking system that allowed the correctional officer to open and unlock doors from a secure location, which became a much safer way for both the inmate and officers in charge. Although, despite the new system, there was a key that they would use that was highly secured. But there was one man who unsuccessfully escaped after getting a hold of that key by the name of Bernard Coy, a convicted bank robber. He earns the guard's trust by doing jobs at the prison, delivering library books to the inmates.

One of his jobs was to clean the prison floor. He had his accomplice make a lot of commotion distracting the guards away from the main cell door. When the guard approached Coy's accomplice, Coy's accomplice Marvin Hubbard knocked the guard unconscious. Then Coy stole the key from the guard, released the other two accomplices. Coy stripped down to make it easier to escape. With a bar spreader, he widened the bars so he could get through. He then knocked the guard out that guards the gun gallery, and began stealing their guns. He then passed the guns and the key to another accomplice, by the name Joe Cretzer. He captured guards and locked them in a cell.

Once they arrived at the main door, they went to use the main key, but there were a lot of keys. They tried many of the keys but none of them worked. By the time they found the correct one, the lock was jammed, but it was too late, because the marines were called. The three men decided that they would rather die than be captured and were eventually killed.

Through many of these attempts, our maximum-security prisons learned a lot about what we need to have high security. For one, they now use the heat-treated, tool resistant bars always. They also now have a complete keyless system that is entirely controlled by buttons in a control room, and so guards can never be attacked for the key. Today we also have learned that bars are not always the safest and most secure way to restrain prisoners. Since the time Alcatraz has been active, they have come up with mesh steel walls, as well as bulletproof windows that allow inmates minimal opportunity to escape.

© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz


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