You might be innocent, but Podenstein’s Lab is guilty of taking you behind bars in Episode 007. From the lingering mystery of what happened to the real “Escape from Alcatraz” trio, to truly amazing break-outs both artistic and yogatastic, to some truly crazy calabooses across the world. Plus real headlines that are real bizarre. What we have here, is NOT a failure to communicate, in this series of reports from Podenstein’s Lab.
REAL HEADLINES FROM THE INTERWEBS
Woman, 33, who murdered her sister’s boyfriend in sick incest plot so sis could marry their FATHER sentenced to 40 years
I…it…what do you add to that? “The killing took place on February 14, 2019 at a West Virginia home after McGuire was brutally tortured for three days.”
California man who propped dead wife on couch for kids on Christmas convicted of murder
“I remember trying to touch my mom and she was just rock hard, cold and I said, ‘Mommy,’ and she didn’t respond,” the daughter said.:
Ladies, if he’s a hitter- be a quitter. Get him out of your life.
Boston Dynamics robot dog ‘P*** Bot’ taught to ‘wee beer on command’ into a cup
Villagers gather to ‘wake the dead’ in bizarre ritual involving dousing corpse in water.
Odisha, India. The poured water on him pounded on his chest, covered him in different fabrics, and banged pots and pans. Do like what brought my dad back from the dead- turn off the tv.
Police probe reports of monkeys on loose in Ohio cemetery
Might be wild turkeys in the trees, too. Or oranguzombies. Or somebody’s been hitting up the Boone’s Farm a smidge.
THE DEEP DIVES
Alcatraz Island. 22 acres of hell, formerly populated by convicted devils. Impossible to escape from. Well, until….
MARK L. GROVES
But first- a history lesson.
Before the Spanish claimed the island, many Native Americans believed evil spirits inhabited the island. They left it alone for the most part, except when they would – ironically enough- banish tribe members there who had violated their tribal laws. Also, they used the island to gather food- especially bird eggs and sea-life. Evil spirits only go so far when you’re hankering for a bat ray and bacon omelette.
In 1775, the Spanish charted the island, naming it “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which- according to Wikipedia- translats as “The Island of the Gannets.” A gannet is a kind fo sea bird, closely related to boobies. Most people think it meant “The island of the Pelicans” because…you know…pelicans.
When the Spanish started up their Southern California missions, many native Americans hid on the island to get away from the enforcement of Christianity.
In 1848, after the end of the Mexican-American War, the U.S. controlled California- and the island. Soon enough the U.S. Army figured out Alcatraz would work as a defensive site for the San Francisco Bay. Time for a pop-up fortress. Immediate construction began with a temporary wharf, shops, barracks, and offices. Workers dynamited the rock and built steep brick and stone walls around the island. By 1854, a lighthouse was completed and eleven cannons took their positions. Eventually, 100 cannons would face outward, ready for boom time. The island could hold as many as 200 soldiers for as long as 4 months without new provisions.
So when did it become the home of America’s Least Wanted?
Starting in 1859, enlisted men who screwed up were kept in the basement hoosegow. Before long, forts with less secure jails sent their deserters, escapees, and other prisoners out to the island.
The civil war broke out on April 12, 1861- so happy late civil war day. Anyway, the Union used the fort to defend from any confederate actions. And on August 27, 1861- Alacatraz was officially designated as a military prison for the Department of the Pacific- most of the territory west of the Rockies. Think Ft. Leavenworth, but with more squid.
Keep in mind the conditions- no beds, no heat, no running water, a bucket for toilet- if you were lucky.
As the civil war raged, confederates and treasonous civilians were imprisoned on Alcatraz, and the prison part got full. So they build a wooden prison north of it, which was later replaced with buildings that came to be called the Lower Prison. All labor was done by prisoners.
After the war, Alcatraz prison also took in confederate sympathizers caught celebrating Lincoln’s assassination, along with more military convicts, and general riff-raff of society.
Later, more American Indians who refused to comply with mandatory government education program for their kid were imprisoned there.
In the late 1800’s, add Native Americans accused of mutiny to the list, along with the worst murderers, rapists, and criminals in the west.
After the Spanish-American war, the prison population stood at more than 400, so they build another prison complex- the Upper Prison.
In 1902, and oil lantern fire almost destroyed the lower prison- since it was built of wood- and in 1906 when the great earthquake hit, they evacuated 176 city prisoners to Alcatraz because so much of San Francisco had burned. With fire in mind, new concrete barracks were built- again, by prison labor.
At this time, warships had become more powerful, and the fort part of Alcatraz became obsolete. It was pretty much just a prison now.
The upper citadel was torn down, and a massive cell house was built. Finished in 1912, it was the largest reinforced concrete building in the world. 600 cells, each with a toilet and electricity.
During WW1 it housed German p.o.w.’s.
By 1933 the Army didn’t want to shoulder the financial burden of the prison anymore. It was expensive to ship all the necessary supplies out to this rock. Instead, J. Edgar Hoover transferred Alcatraz to the federal Bureau of Prisons. Why? To make it a super-prison, and stick those freakin’ gangsters in there. Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and others. So it came to be known as “Uncle Sam’s Devils Island.” Finally, in 1963, the prison closed, for various reasons- other federal facilities cost less to maintain, and the prison’s buildings were beginning to crumble from the saltwater life. All in all, Alcatraz had housed over 1576 convicts.
But had any escaped? Ah-hah-haaaaah. Let’s see.
Alcatraz sits 1 and ¼ miles from shore. Not that far, but the bay has strong currents and undertow, pulling you out to sea or under it. No sharks worth mentioning, but water at an average 50 to 55 degrees that can cause hypothermia. Oh, sure, some people have proven you can swim to the island. But they weren’t PRISONERS WITH NO TRAINING. Jack Lalanne does NOT count.
When it was a military prison, 80 men attempted 29 separate escapes. 62 were capturef, one may have drowned, and nobody knows what happened to the other 17, so they were presumed drowned.
As a federal penitentiary, there were 14 escape attempts involving 36 men. 23 were caught, 6 were shot and killed during the attempt, and 2 drowned. Officially, no one ever succeeded in escaping from Alcatraz…even the five prisoners listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”
Did they all drown?
John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris had a plan. In 1961, the two brothers and the other inmate were in adjacent cells. They began widening the ventilation ducts in their cells, using spoons and a home-made drill. These ducts opened into an unsupervised utility corridor. They hid their work with fake walls, suitcases, and cardboard. When they got access to the corridor, they snuck onto the roof where they set up a secret workshop. They procured raincoats to form life jackets…and a 6-foot by 14-foot rubber raft. They also created wooden paddles, and adapted a musical instrument to act as an air pump for the raft.
June 11th, 1962, guards discovered the 3 men sleeping in their cells were actually 3 papier-mache heads painted skin color, with real hair glued to them. The brothers and their friend…had vanished.
The FBI reported them presumably drowned. Their bodies were never found.
In 2013, the San Francisco Police Department received a letter from a person claiming to be John Anglin. This is what the letter said:
My name is John Anglin. I escape [sic] from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!
Frank passed away in October 2005. His grave is in Alexandria under another name. My brother died in 2011.
If you announce on T.V. that I will be promised to first go to jail for no more than a year and get medical attention, I will write back to let you know exactly where I am. This is no joke this is for real and honest truth.
I could tell you that for seven years I lived in Minot North Dakota – […] in Fargo – 1990 to 2005!
But too damn cold had to get the hell out. I lived in Seattle for most of my years after the escape.
I’m in Southern California now.
[Illegible] if response!
It was 5 years before this letter was released. US Marshals consider the lead closed with no merit. But actual family members? John Anglin’s nephew David Widner of Atlanta says the family believes they made it.
In a KPIX5 web article, Widner says “My grandmother did receive items in the mail, and of course the roses and Christmas cards that come to her.” According to Widner, John and Clarence’s signatures were on those items.
The FBI never let the family know they had received the letter. A 2015 History Channel special had a picture from Brazil, taken 13 years after the escape, of two men standing next to a boulder. A forensic expert said was highly likely these were the two brothers.
According to the FBI website page on the case:
“The mystery continues. We officially closed our case on December 31, 1979, and turned over responsibility to the U.S. Marshals Service, which continues to investigate in the unlikely event the trio is still alive. If you have ANY leads or information to share, please call Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Dyke of the Northern District of California at (415) 436-7677. It’s one mystery we’d all like to solve.”
Maybe, in 2013, they didn’t want to admit they were wrong, and instead let him die of cancer. Or maybe, he got the help, and in some secret file somewhere, the truth sits gathering dust. We’ll never know, because the truth escaped with them.
UNUSUAL PRISONS ACROSS THE WORLD
WHAT A WAY TO GET OUT: DARING PRISON ESCAPES