Reflecting Through Echoes

Posts Tagged ‘Sherman Calloway

Under Cover

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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