THE audacious prisoners who used spoons to tunnel their way out of an impenetrable fortress and a raft of raincoats to escape have become the stuff of legend.
But just who were the bold bank robbers, how did they get out and could they be alive today? Here's the background to tonight's Draining Alcatraz: The Impossible Escape documentary on Channel 5.
Who were the Alcatraz escapees?
Brothers John, 32, and Clarence Anglin, 33, escaped the fortress-style island with accomplice Frank Morris.
Morris, who was 35 years old when they fled, had a top IQ and headed their exit strategy.
He had a history of prison breakouts, having escape from the Louisiana State Penitentiary while serving a 10-year sentence for bank robbery.
The Anglin brothers were two of 13 children from farming parents in Georgia.
The siblings were inseparable and became skilled swimmers, even swimming in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan as ice still floated on its surface.
Later they became bank robbers, receiving 15-20 year sentences in 1956, when they made repeated attempts to escape from Florida state prison and then Atlanta Pentitentiary.
The pair were transferred to the Alcatraz to prevent further escapes before they made history with their ingenious outbreak.
A fourth man, Allen West, was part of the group but was left behind after a stuck ventilator grill prevented him from leaving his cell.
How did the 1962 jailbreak happen?
The escape on June 11, 1962, is thought to have been the only successful escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in its history.
The three tunneled out of their cells and vanished into the cold, rough waters surrounding the now-defunct island penitentiary in San Francisco.
Along with accomplice Morris, the bank robbing Anglin brothers crept out of their cells via holes dug for months with spoons.
They made papier mache heads out of soap and paper in their own likenesses to slip into their beds and fool the guards.
After breaking out via an unused utility corridor, it's thought they then attempted to paddle to freedom from Alcatraz Island on a raft made from 50 raincoats.
Did the three prisoners survive?
The bodies of the three men were never found, despite a ten-day search operation over the area and a 17-year investigation.
Investigators did find a paddle and a wallet containing names of Anglin relatives just off Angel Island, and what was thought to be remnants of the raft on the beach.
A deflated life jacket made of the same material was also found a day later, but no other physical evidence was ever discovered.
The FBI closed its file on December 31, 1979. Their official finding was that the prisoners most likely drowned in the cold waters of the bay while attempting to reach Angel Island.
A 2015 history channel documentary explored further circumstantial evidence to see if the three had in fact survived.
And in 2018, a letter was published purporting to be from John Anglin – who would now be in his 80s.
Sent to a San Francisco Police Department in 2013, but made public in January 2018, the letter reads:"My name is John Anglin.
"I escaped 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."
The phantom author claims Frank "passed away" in 2008 and his brother John died three years later.
He then aims to strike an astonishing deal with the FBI, writing: "This is no joke.
"If you announce on TV that I'll 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."
The FBI lab analysed the letter for DNA and fingerprints but their results were inconclusive, CBS San Francisco reported.
The mystery remains unsolved.
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