New technology helps illustrate famous Alcatraz escape

A storied escape from Alcatraz has been the subject of Hollywood movies and countless theories. Now the FBI is using state of the art technology to help visitors understand how three men made it off The Rock and were never seen again.

In its history as a prison only a handful of prisoners on Alcatraz made it off the island and escaped The Rock.

The most brazen and storied escape is that of the Anglin brothers, Clarence and John and Frank Morris; who, with a fourth inmate, crafted heads to put in their beds to fool guards long enough to make their escape.

Those decoys, crafted of cardboard, toilet paper, cement and even human hair from the prison barber shop began showing their age after being returned following the initial investigation.

"After the evidence was turned over it was already determined to be pretty delicate." said Amanda Williford from the National Park Service.  "So, they were out on the island for a short period of time, but because of the conditions they had to be put back into museum storage."

Team members from the operational projects unit at FBI headquarters in Quantico Virginia donated their time and skill duplicating the decoys.

First laser scanning the originals, 3D printing them and recreating them down to the last eyelash. "The hair and the and the paint on here is exactly what the prisoners did. The hair is actually from FBI employees at the laboratory," said John Bennet FBI Special Agent in Charge. "They were kind enough to donate so there's original human hair on here again, and this is what the original masks looked like."

The story of the heads starts, on this prison block on Alcatraz, with Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, leaving those heads behind then making their way out of their cells through these holes. The inmates made it into this cramped utility corridor, climbed to the roof, shimmied down a smoke stack in the back of the hospital and paddled off the island never to be seen again.

The case is still open. "To this day investigators from the US Marshals fugitive task force in San Francisco continue to pursue leads," said Don O'Keefe of the US Marshals Service.

For now, the newly crafted heads will join the originals which are being carefully stored away from the harmful salt air of the Bay.

But, the National Park Service says it hopes to someday put these recreations on display for future generations of visitors to The Rock.