A strange letter keeps the mystery of an Alcatraz escape alive

The enduring mystery of Alcatraz: did three men escape this federal penitentiary deemed inescapable, more than 55 years ago, and survive?

The official version is no. It was said that Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin and his brother John Anglin were swallowed by the frigid bay. 

Their bodies were never discovered.

Jolene Babyak of Oakland was 15-years-old living on Alcatraz at the time. She was the daughter of the acting warden at the time.

"It was next to the last day of school and the siren woke me up," said Babyak.

Now a strange letter is surfacing.

It begins: "'My name is John Anglin, I escape (sic) from Alcatraz in June 1962...Yes we all made it that night, but barely."

The letter was sent to the San Francisco Police Department in 2013.  It was never released to the public.

The author says he has cancer and would be willing to serve up to a year in prison in exchange for medical care. He also says in the letter the other two men are dead.

"I don’t believe it was John who wrote it," said Anglin's nephew Ken Widner, who lives in Georgia.

"Do I believe he has to serve a year in prison to get help with cancer? No," he said.

Babyak, who hasn't written a book on the escape, doesn't buy it either.

"The men couldn't have survived on the outside under their real names. He didn't offer their aliases and doesn’t tell us the dates of when or where they died. There is nothing to follow up on," said Babyak.

The U.S. Marshal said in a statement that after comparing handwriting samples the results are inconclusive.

"At this time there are no leads stemming from the 2013 anonymous letter."

The ingenuous escape included making fake heads with real hair to fool the guards into thinking they were in bed while they were digging a big hole around a vent big enough to crawl through.

Relatives believe the men survived, but never contacted the family.

"We know for a fact based on information we have they made it to Mexico the next day. And then they went to Brazil at some point in time," said Widner.

But this most recent letter apparently does nothing to resolve the question.

"In many ways it is the superlative escape attempt from any prison ever. They ended up missing. How can you ask for a better mystery because the story will never die," said Babyak.