Reflecting Through Echoes

The Thorns of Glory pt 2

leave a comment »

Liveblogging the book, “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.

While in New York Jack Dempsey took many beatings in the ring to earn his bread. Most fights only paid out somewhere between ten and twenty dollars. That wouldn’t be nearly enough for me to want to get into the ring. Times were tough indeed!

p. 17.  Ned Brown of the Morning World wrote: “Dempsey is a great young fighter. There is one thing wrong with him, however. He looks like he needs a square meal.” 

Jack was offered a fight with the great Sam Langford in England but turned it down. You see, Sam Langford began fighting in 1902 when Dempsey was age 6. Sam would have killed Dempsey, he was at the top of his game.  Dempsey was smart to realize that he needed more experience. His manager at the time managed both fighters so he figured he couldn’t lose. He would have gotten a cut of both fights.

A side note about Sam Langford, probably the most over-looked fighter of all time. The man was talented.

Apparently he lost to Jack Johnson, according to the Johnson’s official boxing stats. The thing is though, whomever called the papers first after a fight usually got credit with the win. So the fight between Jack Johnson and Sam Langford are BOTH recorded as wins for both of them. Huh? Who knows who really won but consider this, Jack Johnson would not fight Sam Langford ever again. He wanted nothing to do with him. Sam Langford never got his shot for the heavyweight championship. His official stats are 200 wins (with 130 of those being KO’s) and over 300 total fights. He died broke, alone and blind. It was a tragedy. Maybe Hollywood will rediscover his story someday.

Jack Dempsey’s manager (John the Barber) arranged another fighter for Jack. A black fighter slightly below the quality of Sam Langford, his name John Lester Johnson. The night before the fight, Jack slept in Central Park. Win or lose, he was at least excited for a chance for a real payday. To sleep in an actual bed.

P. 18. In the second round Johnson hit Dempsey with “the hardest punch I ever took,” a right hook into the body. The blow fractured three ribs. 

Johnson won the bout in a decision but the sports writers took note of this kid. He was definitely a up and comer. Afterwards, Dempsey was expecting a payday of somewhere around $500. John the Barber handed him $35 dollars and said good job. Disillusioned with the scams of the big city, Jack Dempsey headed back out West towards Salt Lake City.

He worked for awhile as a coal miner and married a prostitute named Maxine. When you have nothing you just settle for what’s right in front of you. Reality has a way of realigning your expectations.

P. 19. Decades later, he explained, “They told me Maxine had another business. I didn’t want to believe them. I married Maxine, the piano player. I knew I loved her, or I thought I did. Up till then, Maxine was the sexiest woman I’d ever met. 

Jack Dempsey was’t even twenty yet. He was racking up those adventures, riding the rails, fighting across different cities, marring young and I reckon living moment to moment.

This is one of the only picutres I could find of Maxine. She doesn’t look all that to me. Dempsey – What were you thinking?


Written by Mr. Lake

April 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

The Thorns of Glory pt 1

leave a comment »

Liveblogging the book, “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.


More than any other individual, Jack Dempsey created big-time sports in America. The time frame here ran roughly from 1919, when Prohibition began, until 1929, when the stock market crashed and “the era of wonderful nonsense” came to a shattering conclusion.

P. xii. When Dempsey won the championship on July 4, 1919, his fight with mountainous Jess Willard drew 19,650 fans. Dempsey’s purse was $27,500. For his final championship fight, September 22, 1927, the crowd numbered 104,943 and Dempsey and Gene Tunney split $1,540,445.

Book One – The Thorns of Glory

P. 4. He was a natural man, but he took the ring name of an earlier boxer, from County Kildare, a dashing, tragic character who called himself Jack Dempsey and who died in terrible poverty on a raw autumn day in 1895.

Inspiring hope. Growing up at the beginning of the 1900’s often meant that life was rough and brutal. Childhoods ended quickly. People needed heroes to give them hope and people are always attracted to the extremes examples. The first fighter to use the name Jack Dempsey was a man by the name of John Kelly. He became Heavyweight Champion in 1884. During his climb to the top he had won forty-one consecutive fights.

He became the idol of boys everywhere. I think the logic was, here was a man who had nothing but worked his way up to the very top. He became the best at what he does and gained the respect and wealth that everybody dreamed about. It was the American Dream. However, John Kelly was also an alcoholic and died at the ago of thirty-three, broke. Kids still wanted to BE him though, they wanted to be THE Jack Dempsey.

P. 6. When we were kids around Colorado mining camps, all of us wanted to be the new Jack Dempsey…

William Harrison Dempsey was born June 24, 1895 in Manassa, Colorado. At the age of eight he was expected to start earning money for the family. At the age of sixteen he left the home in order to try and better himself. He took jobs wherever he could find them. Working in mining camps, a dangerous profession even today, was what William started out doing. He would even take amateur boxing matches with his fellow workers to earn a little extra pay. Idolizing the first Jack Dempsey, he took the name of Henry Dempsey. He figured that if he was able to get good enough then maybe he could become the real Jack Dempsey.

P. 12. During World War I, Jack Dempsey had an uneven time. He was barely nineteen when the guns of August broke the peace in 1914. He had been boxing as “Kid Blackie,” the name he used in the ring until his twentieth birthday.

Remember America would not enter the first World War until 1917. As his reputation grew. It was becoming harder and harder for him to get fights. No one wanted any part of him. Not with his one punch knockouts. He set his sights on New York City.  To give it a shot for the title, taking fights along the way to help pay for the trip.


Written by Mr. Lake

April 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

Posted in Jack Dempsey

Tagged with ,

The one and only…

leave a comment »

First off I like to thank all the readers that have come across this blog. It has blown away any expectations I had. When I started this it was with the idea that I could take my time with a subject and really delve in and think about things.

I never would have thought that a blog whose only subject, which so far has been the the Alcatraz escape, would have this many views.

Well I’m about to change things up. I’m moving from the swinging 60’s to the roaring 20’s. To a time when alcohol was outlawed, where women did not have the right to vote and the biggest movie stars of the day were those in the silent pictures. That’s the setting.

The subject however is one of the most influential athletes of any era. He defined what being a champion was about.

He was even more popular than Babe Ruth.

The one and only Jack Dempsey.

Jack Dempsey has fascinated me for close to twenty years now. I’ve seen several of his fights on old time dvd’s and youtube clips. The man could throw one hell of a punch. Dempsey was simply awesome. They say that legends never die but some…can be forgotten. The roles have somewhat reversed. The Babe is firmly intrenched into America’s psyche while Dempsey has largely been reduced to a footnote. Maybe that’s the fault of the decline of boxing in America.

So starting next week I will bring you “A Flame of Pure Fire – Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.

Written by Mr. Lake

April 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Escape From Alcatraz (film review)

leave a comment »

Review of Escape from Alcatraz

I’ve been looking forward to seeing “Escape From Alcatraz” ever since I started reading “Breaking the Rock” by Jolene Babyak. I can’t wait to see what Hollywood got right, what they got wrong and what they left out.

The movie begins with Frank Morris (portrayed by Clint Eastwood) arriving on Alcatraz in 1960. He arrives alone, meaning no other prisoners are with him and it’s during a storm. Mostly this is correct. It was 1960 when Frank Morris hit Alcatraz, other prisoners were with him though.

Next we see how the prison system worked. Basically they mug shot you, strip you of your clothes, do an extremely invasive cavity search and send you to your cell. In the movie they have Frank Morris walk naked down the corridor where all the other inmates can see him, probably for humiliation purposes. I don’t think the author of “Breaking the Rock” ever mentions this so I’m inclined that the director included it because it was more dramatic. Effective for setting a somber mood and it does linger throughout the film. Even during the escape attempt their isn’t much optimism.

There is a whole subplot with another prisoner named Wolf who for some reason thinks he’s looking for a new punk and claims Frank Morris is her. Silly and distracting. I didn’t buy it. Wolf is nothing but a caricature and a plot device. Because of Wolf, Frank is thrown in solitary confinement for a couple of days. Never happened in real life, maybe they thought it would be helpful in setting up the warden as the bad guy but because it was a fabrication, I hated it.

The real story is so much better, that the warden and others were under great financial pressure to cut cost and because of this, holes opened up in their security. Morris and the others simply just took advantage.

This brings me to my biggest grip with the film. The character of Charlie Butts. A dim witted idiot who first believes that another prisoner is Al Capone (whose been dead for a few years) and then later just sort of tags along on Morris’s coattails. Charlie Butts was supposed to be Allen West. Maybe they felt that he was a braggart and didn’t want to give him his due. Maybe the filmmakers felt that West was simply wrong for trying to take credit for the actions of Morris and the Anglin brothers. Whatever the case, they really botched this character.

In reading Jolene’s book, “Breaking the Rock” one thing becomes very clear. That without Allen West then there would be no escape attempt. It was West who conned the guards into putting up blankets above B block, (another thing the film glosses over). In the actual escape, West was painting above B block and kicking dust all over the pristine floor of Alcatraz. The guards liked to keep things spotless, you could practically eat off the floors there. Anyway, West due to all his dusty accidents, convinced the right people to let him hang up some 30 odd blankets above the B block.  At night, when they would sneak out of their cell, Morris and the Anglins had a great work area provided by West. They used this area to work on getting through the vent, building the raft and making wooden paddles, ect.

It was West who kept the plan moving forward and silencing other prisoners who were thinking of talking. I want to be clear that I’m not sticking up for West here because I think he deserved the credit. The facts are this. West was not a nice guy. He was brutal and a racist and I can say that I didn’t like him very much. But without him, the real story of what happened might never have been known. His story has been remarkably consistent over the years. I would prefer a story that kept to the facts as close as possible without having to cheat the viewer. Most people, if they only see the film, will go away thinking that Frank Morris was the mastermind and architect of the whole thing while Charlie Butts was a loser. The film also reduces the Anglin brothers, John and Clarence, to bit players as well.

For what it is, “Escape From Alcatraz” is a good movie and Clint Eastwood gives a great performance. That being said, I was really disappointed. When I first heard of the story I was fascinated by the details of the escape such as: the building of a raft, tunneling out of their cells, making a drill, constructing fake dummies and doing this all the while under the guards noses. The movie I was expecting to see was more of a exciting thriller but like I hinted at before, the movie I got was a slow methodical study of life in prison that also featured an escape.

The ending is another thing that bugs me about the movie. ** Spoiler Alert ** In the film their is this whole subplot about the Warden breaking the spirit of a inmate by taking away his paintings. Before that this inmate always carried with him a yellow chrysanthemum and throughout the film it symbolizes defiant struggle of hope.  At the end of the film the warden is on Angel Island and he finds this flower and the viewer is left thinking that they made it. That they left that flower there as a final f you to the warden since chrysanthemum’s aren’t native to Angel Island. Never happened.

Jolene Babyak’s book, “Breaking the Rock” was exactly what I was looking for in the story. I felt like I got to know, as much as I could, the real Frank Morris, the real Anglin brothers, and the Real Allen West. Their story was fun and full of mystery.

I still like to think that they made it.

Written by Mr. Lake

April 1, 2011 at 10:46 am


with one comment

Live blogging the book “Breaking the Rock: the Great Escape From Alcatraz” by Jolene Babyak

PART 7 – Discovery

P. 219. Holding up his fake grill and beating it with his fist, he said, “You may as well lock me up too. I planned the entire escape!”

By seven o’clock in the morning, West had his story ready to go. By the time the guards did the morning count and couldn’t arouse Clarence Anglin, the sh*t more or less hit the fan. The guards quickly found THREE empty cells. And here was Allen West, banging on his fake grill rubbing their noses in it, it being the biggest prison breakout in modern history. By 7:15 the escape siren was blaring. I wonder if the mood with the prisoners was one of triumphant? I’d kinda like to think so. Maybe other convicts hated Morris and the Anglins but maybe they felt some sort of pride in them as well. Pride in the fact that some of their fellow cellmates stuck it to the man and escaped.

I think that the fifteen minute delay from seven to seven-fifteen (when the siren was finally turned on) was due to the guards discovery of a plethora of evidence that this was no ordinary incident; artifacts such as a periscope, glue, paint cans, raincoats and a life jacket! I would have loved to see their faces. A day later someone pried open a can of paint and discovered the small electric motor used as a drill.

P. 224. Officers went about their search quietly, but their silence spoke volumes.

They knew that someone was going to pay for this and unfortunately it looked like everybody was complacent at least on some level. They had to feel guilty about it.

P. 224. But the most damning evidence was the least discussed: the scores of blankets that hung around the top of the block.

Jolene writes that their was almost a slight cover-up about this part of the escape. If it wasn’t for two FBI photos that noted what they are, they would have practically vanished. All reports from the guards and lieutenants on duty (about the escape) neglected to mention those damn blankets. Heads were going to roll.

P. 225. His [West] story, even after repeated tellings, remained mostly consistent.

West is described here as shaking and bubbling with energy. He was proud of what he helped put together. There was no doubt that he was depressed that he was left behind but going through all the detailing of their planning must have a been a reward onto itself.

P. 228. That night, June 12, at 10:15 pm., a homemade paddle matching the one found on top of the roof, was found floating off the northwest side of Angel Island.

Since this was near the intended target of Morris and the Anglins, the FBI initially suspected that they had made it to land.

P. 228. Two days later, on Thursday, June 14, the double-wrapped bags made of raincoat material was plucked out of water halfway between Alcatraz and Angel Island by the U.S. Corp of Engineer debris boat, Coyote.

I think this is where the story begins to change, from a successful escape attempt to a watery grave for the three. That bag contained precious photographs and as well as contacts of people who might have helped them. They wouldn’t have let go of that unless things were going horrible wrong. Unless…they wanted it to be found so people would assume they were dead.

P. 229. The raft was never found. In fact, no physical evidence, directly linked to the three men, ever surfaced on land or sea again.

There were plenty of sightings of the men of course but it produced no definitive proof. A postcard was mailed from Brazil (I think) saying that they had made it but officials determined that it was a hoax. Like so many times in famous cases, hoaxers love to send items to the police or newspapers. They do nothing but add a little more fuel to the fire.

P. 232. On June 20, BOP Assistant Director Wilkinson, speculated for reporters that the raft may have sunk, and if it did, “I’d know who’d go overboard first.” …This was the origin of the rumors that continue until today, that the Anglins killed Morris and escaped without him.

Who knows for sure, it’s entirely possible that if a raft was sinking one might try to lighten the load by forcing a man off. Hopefully they all were wearing their life-vests but if they weren’t they might not had enough time to put them on. Depending on how quickly the raft sank as well, they might not have had time to try and gang up on Morris. Fighting would only have made the situation worse.

P. 233. More than a month after the attempt, On July 17, 1962, a Norwegian ship named the S.S. Norefjell,…about twenty miles west-northwest beyond the Golden Gate Bridge…saw a body floating in the ocean.

Interesting. The body could have been one of the three that escaped. It also could have been one of the many suicides that jump for the Golden Gate Bridge every year. We won’t ever know because the S.S. Norefjell did not attempt to reclaim the body. If they had it could have ended the mystery right there. Instead they left the body floating and reported it days later. The body would have been unrecognizable anyway but with the proper forensic equipment they could have deduces who it belonged to.

Throughout the rest of the sixties, sightings were reported all over the globe. Just like with Elvis’s death, people saw them everywhere. Not in any hugh numbers like Elvis but similar.

P. 234. In 1979, Clint Eastwood’s “Escape From Alcatraz” was released.

My next post will feature a review of the film and detail the inaccuracies between what’s on screen and what really happened.

P. 235. The fact that no bodies were ever retrieved from San Francisco Bay is not significant.

Jolene tells that during 1960 and 1961 there were around forty-seven suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge.

P. 235. Five hit land and their bodies were recovered. Of the other forty-two, seventeen were recovered and twenty-five were not.

Let me repeat that to make sure it syncs in,an amazing twenty-five out of forty-seven bodies were unable to be found.

P. 235. On June 11, 1962, the same day the three Alcatraz cons went missing, witnesses observed thirty-three year old Seymour Webb jump form the Golden Gate Bridge. In their search for Morris and the Anglins, the coast guard also never found Webb.

P. 235. The fact that no evidence was found on land, is more significant.

I would think that if they did make it to shore, they would be extremely cold and hungry. Yet there were no reports of any stolen cars or break-ins immediately following their escape. Those types of actions would leave a perfect trail for the police to follow. The simple fact is that they had no money and no resources. If they did make it, how could they have just disappeared?

P. 238. In other words, Morris and the Anglins entered the bay at exactly the worst moment of that twenty-four hour period, when the biggest volume of water was going out to the ocean at the fastest velocity…

Jolene makes the point that these guys pushed off in their raft when the currents would have been at the harshest of the day. Paddling to Angel Island or to the mainland would already have been exhausting, now add in faster currents just below them.  One can theorize that if they were paddling towards Angel Island and the currents heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge in the opposite direction, they could have paddle for hours and not made any actual progress. It would have been better to use the currents to let it take you to just below the Golden Gate Bridge. On one of the episodes of the “Mythbusters”, this is exactly what the hosts did. They quickly came to the conclusion that trying for Angel Island, although closer, was just too difficult a job to reach. So they used the currents to do half the work for them. They proved that paddling in a handmade raft carrying three people across the bay was possible but only if they used the currents. Allen West has always stated that Angel Island was the intended target, if that’s the case then that may explain why the three were lost and never seen again.

P. 239. Based on the evidence, the most likely scenario goes something like this: somewhere, maybe even close to the island, the raft begins to sink. It is unknown if the three men had their shoes on, but if they did, their shoes would have immediately filled with water and pulled them down. It’s unknown if they were wearing their navy pier coats, but if they were, the woolen jackets would have quickly become lead weights. It’s also unknown if they were forced to quickly put on their life jackets, fumbling to inflate them while thrashing around in extremely cold water, all while drifting in an direction that lead them to the ocean.

It is known that once they were bobbing around in water that was between forty-eight and fifty-four degrees Fahrenheit, that they could last only one to two hours before losing consciousness. The cold would have an immediate numbing effect. Interestingly, thrashing around trying to build up body heat, a natural inclination, would have had the opposite effect of expending heat.

In the immediate aftermath of the escape it was announced that Alcatraz would close. It was simply too costly to operate. With the latest escape attempt it only highlighted the budget cutbacks that were being forced upon them. It all resulted in fewer guards, fewer shifts and somewhat relaxed rules.

P. 244. No one was faulted or punished for allowing blankets to be hung around the top of the block for almost six weeks.  Since the blankets were never revealed in official reports, no one could be blamed.

I guess it was hard to single any one individual since they were all an accomplices in this. They simply saw the blankets hanging their and ignored them. Embarrassing for sure but they should not have been left out of the official report. After all they were a key ingredient to the escape.

Glenn May died under mysterious circumstances. Some of the evidence in the escape pointed directly at him, electric drill for example. West never ratted him out but if must have been obvious to the guards. Many think that prison guards took out their embarrassment on poor Glenn May. Nothing could really be proofed one one way or another though. Basically Glenn died a year later, due to anorexia nervosa, at the age of forty-four. I have no idea how common it is for a forty year old man to suddenly develop anorexia but apparently that was the case. Did the guards have anything to do with that? Seems like an unusual form of torture if that was the case but I doubt the guards had anything to do with it. They were being sent packing along with the inmates with the closing of the prison. At most they could have made Glenn feel guilty by constantly arousing suspicion on him.

P. 250. Few believed that West couldn’t get out of his cell that night.

Most officials and even the warden branded him a coward. They reckoned that he simply chickened out. That underneath all that posturing was a scared individual. Those feelings about West continued to be passed down throughout the years. So nearly fifteen years later, when Hollywood had a desire to tell the story of escape they turned West into a joke. They renamed his character Charlie Butts and portrayed him as a idiot who was just a follower.

Here we are, thirty-two years after that film, “Escape From Alcatraz” had come out. Nearly forty-nine years after the escape attempt itself. With new books like Jolene’s, “Breaking the Rock”, shows like “Mythbusters” and “The Real Story”, the story of these four men continues to live on. It is rumored that J.J. (mystery box) Abrams is even currently developing a prime time tv show about these men who escaped. I can not wait for that.

As the years roll on and more and more information about the escape attempt becomes more well known, I believe Allen West may have the last laugh. He helped plan and execute it, yet he was the only one to survive. He had bragging rights for the rest of his life. And it was a brilliant plan.

P. 251. He had broken the rock.


Written by Mr. Lake

March 23, 2011 at 8:05 am


leave a comment »

Live blogging the book “Breaking the Rock: the Great Escape From Alcatraz” by Jolene Babyak

Part 6 – Countdown

The final two days before Frank Morris, John Anglin & Clarence Anglin escape from Alcatraz, June 10 & June 11.

P. 193. Although they may not have realized it, they were now doing the one great thing for which they would always be remembered.

It was the evening of June 10, after lights out. Morris and both the Anglins were above B block. Morris was working on the final rivet while the Anglin’s were working on the raft.

P. 194. Something wasn’t right….

Morris finally broke through the last rivet and stopped to check on the progress of the raft. His line of thinking was that since there were four people, the raft should be more of a rectangle, in order to balance out the raft. What he saw was a raft that was a triangle.

P. 195. Cons on the B third tier were awakened by the furious on-rush of angered whispering.

Clarence had changed the design of the raft and hadn’t bothered to tell Morris or West. Morris was very clearly upset.

P. 195. This is my life your screwin’ with…

Clarence and Morris came close to blows when Clarence accidentally kicked a wrench. West, who was three floors below, heard this and quickly jumped up and flushed his toilet.  They didn’t have the time to start over on another raft. The idea of ditching one of the men surely must have entered their minds.

P. 197. Six tiny screws. That was all that remained between him and freedom.

Morris calmed himself down and climbed through the vent and made his way to the top. Morris had handmade a periscope using mirrors to check the roof for guards. The top of the vent was a cakewalk. Six screws that he could unscrew with his fingers were all that remained. Tomorrow would be the day…

P. 208. West had waited until this moment to try and break open the rest of his wall.

West had actually broken through his wall much earlier but he was too aggressive with it. He was sure the guards would notice so he actually built his hole back up a little with cement. Weeks went by without West working on it. He was preparing life jackets and such in his cell but he forgot to continue to work on his hole. Either that or he figured he could get through it the night of the escape fairly easy. Whatever the real reason was, it cost him his chance to escape.

P. 210. It sounded like a person hitting the end of an empty fifty gallon oil drum…

It was the evening of June 11, Morris and the Anglins had already set up their cells with the fake masks and entered the vent. West was frantically working on his hole in the cell. He was making no progress. When exactly the group decided to abandon West no one knows for sure but the reality was that if you can’t pull your own weight you were dead weight. Morris quickly unscrewed the top of the vent and lifted it off onto the roof. It was a loud heavy bang. Cons and guards both heard this, even poor West.

Morris and the Anglins quickly climbed out of the vent and stood up looking out at the stars. They had made it. A sense of triumphant joy must have washed over them. If one of the guard towers were actually manned then a simple radio call from one of the guards who reported the noise could have quickly ended this escape attempt. Budget cuts and lack of man power was the secret ingredient to making this successful.

P. 212. He [Morris] grabbed the bakery exhaust pipe, swung himself over and began shimmying down the side of the building.

A forty-five foot long, twelve inch thick, pipe which was held up by only two bolts. I guess if one goes this far, you’ve got to take another leap of faith. All in all this was probably the least scary thing they had to do. I would rather do this a hundred times than try to paddle to Angel Island.

P. 215. By 11:00 pm., Morris and the Anglins were probably down at the shoreline, out of breath, sucking in the smell of seaweed and salt water.

It’s not known how big the raft was, nor how well it survived being flown over a barbed wire and down the hills, nor how many inches in diameter the air baffles were, nor how tightly sealed the seams were. It’s unknown how long it took to inflate it, using a little seven-by-seven inch musical instrument made into a bellows. …. It’s not known if the Anglins ganged up on Morris and pushed him out of the raft.

P. 217. The bastards had left him behind.

Sometime around 1:44 am. West had finally made it through his hole in his cell. He quickly climbed up above B block and made his way up through the vent to the roof. They did leave him a life jacket but West could see no traces of them. Dejected, West slowly made his way back down through the vent and down back into his cell. Had to be the longest night of West’s life.


Written by Mr. Lake

March 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Under Cover

leave a comment »

Live blogging the book “Breaking the Rock: the Great Escape From Alcatraz” by Jolene Babyak

Under Cover

Before I just jump in I’d like to begin by setting up this chapter. Chapter 5 is titled ‘Under Cover’ which is a direct reference to West, Morris and the Anglin Brothers working over B Block under blankets put up by West. Remember that West was allowed to hang them up due to the amount of painting and cleaning he had to do up above B block. The guys could work practically in plain sight but they couldn’t make any noise or they risk being busted. They had to limit their activities to the so called ‘music hour’ where inmates were allowed to take out their instruments and play. During this time the noise level was so high they could work and actually run a drill. Damn.

P. 163. West began sneaking up supplies during the day: painting tarps, gloves, a long pole, several types of glue, wooden planks and a long white cord.

It still is remarkable that these guys were able to maneuver throughout Alcatraz, basically getting all the tools and supplies they needed and all under the guards noses. West kept his cool though, constantly moving the gang forward.

P. 166. He [John Anglin] had managed to wear several raincoats from the clothing room without officers realizing it.

I wonder how many raincoats it takes before it looks suspicious? Meanwhile Morris had finally finished his hole in his cell and began climbing the pole to B Block. Morris fastened a long cord (that West had brought up previously) and dangled it behind John Anglin’s cell. This allowed them to bring stuff up much quicker but served also as a alert as well. John or Clarence would need to give the cord just a tug to get West or Morris’s attention. Signal for them be quite, that perhaps a guard was coming.

The problem they kept encountering was of time, they had to be quick. Music hour was over so quick that by the time they climbed atop B block and removed all of the equipment that very little work was actually done on removing the bars in front of the vent, that and it was dark, they could hardly see anything at all.

P. 168 The Next day Morris got someone to put together a battery-operated light.




Someone took a small box with a hole big enough to squeeze a tiny light bulb into and used a pen light battery held in place with paper and plaster. Presto instant portable light for Morris to use. Morris also created a bar spreading which he hoped to use on the  vent.

The best one’s are made of short hollow tubes which are threaded inside both ends. Then you find a couple of bolts, and nuts, and screw them deep inside the tube. Turn the nuts, and the bolts extend, pushing everything out of the way.

A slow and painful process but one that worked. Morris was able to bend the bars far enough that he was able to fit through them in only three days.

P. 176. Dead silence hit the cell house.

After Morris had gotten though the first set of bars with the vent, his next obstacle was the iron bracket covering the vent which lead to the roof. This iron bracket was different from the previous bars. These were riveted and the bar spreader would not work. Morris decided that maybe attacking with a screwdriver against the connecting legs of the iron bracket would be effecting. Morris must have been in the zone working when he suddenly realized that everything had gotten quite. He had worked passed music hour. He had made a little progress on the rivet, able to free up a tiny space between it and the wall when he made a a monumental mistake. Morris dropped the screwdriver, which proceeded to crash in a vent blower and tumble three stories before finally hitting the floor. Opps!

West once again came to the rescue. He started making a commotion in his cell and other inmates joined in. Morris had just dodged it big time.

P. 177. Broadway cons in B-137, 139, 141, 143, 145, 147, 149, 151 and 153 knew exactly what Morris and Clarence were doing every night.

So at least nine cons knew what was going on but West and Morris had lots of help. So maybe as many as twenty knew what was really going on. For a plan this elaborate to remain quite was in itself another stroke of luck. All it would take is one guy to open his mouth and boom, it’s game over. Speaking of which….

P. 178. ”one sick individual,”… “one of the most disturbed men on Alcatraz”.








Sherman Calloway, AZ 1219, was in Alcatraz for kidnapping a seventy year old man while in a drunken haze. His prison files notes that he was a hyperactive and fussy homosexual. Calloway was all alone, ostracized by fellow inmates due to his reputation as an informant. He stayed in his cell, fearing to go out into the yard for what might happen to him. Because of this his skin was ice-white. Gave people the creeps. Calloway approached a guard and told him, “something was going on over on B.” The guard said he would look into it.

P. 180. In the middle of the melee, West smuggled out the motor.




You might remember from a previous post a fellow by the name of Glenn May, he was Mr. Fix-It at Alcatraz when it came to electronics. One day a guard had trouble with his vacuum cleaner and asked May to look at it for him. May did and took apart the vacuum, noticing that there were two motors, one for the suction and one for the brush. Glenn told West about this and as luck would have it, was there a few days later when a melee broke out among several inmates. In all the distraction, West took one of the motors from the vacuum and planned to use it as a drill to work on those rivets, hoping that this would speed up their process. After-all they couldn’t just leave those blankets above B block forever. Sooner or later, they would need to come down.

P. 182. They began discussing remaining up top longer.

Time was running out. West was having trouble stalling with his painting above B block, they needed to move faster. The Anglin brothers, John and Clarence both wanted to stay up top throughout the night and continue working. Morris didn’t think it was a good idea but eventually they compromised in that John and Morris would go up. John would work o the raft while Morris would continued to work on those rivets. Those dummy masks would now have to pass the test.












Next chapter…countdown.

Written by Mr. Lake

March 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm