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Alcatraz Prisoners Who Almost Escaped Alcatraz Prison

Angela is a lover of the supernatural and Greek mythology. Although naturally skeptical, she loves hearing theories of the unknown.


Alcatraz Island is home to the historical prison most well known for holding many ghost tales and mysteries. Some believe that there are prisoners who attempted to escape that still haunt the island to this day. Although no one will know for sure, we do know that many men sought to escape the prison, and very few survived such an incredible feat. Three stories regarding attempted escapes are Arthur 'Doc' Barker, John Paul Scott, Bernard Coy, and his accomplices.

Alcatraz Prison Photo

Arthur 'Doc" Barker

In 1909, they used traditional steel bars during the original construction of the military prison. Unfortunately, a saw can cut through steel bars. In 1934, when it became a maximum strength prison, they replaced some of the bars with heat-treated, tool-resistant bars. The tool-resistant bars would never have allowed a hacksaw to get through. Instead, it would have only ruined the saw without leaving a dent in the bar. Regrettably, due to the Depression, they could not upgrade all the bars. One segment did not have the treated metal and had the original flat steel bars.

These bars imprisoned Arthur 'Doc' Barker, and he successfully broke through his bars with a hacksaw. Once he and his five accomplices cut through the bars, they worked on the next segment of their plan. While they devised this plan, Barker and his accomplices hid the cuts they made through their cell walls with paint, so no one would notice they could escape. Unfortunately for the men, the treated metal was around the windows. Still, they discovered they could use a bar spreader on these, which would place pressure between the bars bending them apart until they would eventually break. He and four other men finally broke through both sections of bars. Once done, they started building a makeshift raft. Unfortunately for 'Doc' and his gang, the guards caught them. 'Doc' was shot in the head, and the other men surrendered.

Some believe Arthur Barker has never left the island even after his burial. Hmm...


John Paul Scott: One of Alcatraz Escapees

Twenty-four years later, John Paul Scott decided to stake his hand at an escape from his prison near the kitchen basement. There was not as tight security in that area. He and one other man worked on the bars that blocked the windows by using a piece of string dipped in wax and coated with scouring powder. The men methodically sawed at the bars a little every day. Using this method took them over a year but eventually cut through the bars. Once they escaped, they used floats made of rubber gloves. His accomplice did not make it through the sea before being caught, but Scott made it to San Fransisco. Unfortunately, he was hypothermic and barely made it out alive. He was then returned to prison there.

Alcatraz Prison Photos


Coy, Hubbard, and Cretzer: Famous Alcatraz Inmates

Guards learned to open the doors away through a sliding door locking system that allowed the correctional officer to open and unlock doors from a secure location, which became a much safer way for both the inmate and officers in charge. Although, despite the new system, there was a key that they would use that was highly secured. But there was one man who unsuccessfully escaped after getting a hold of that key named Bernard Coy, a convicted bank robber. He earns the guard's trust by doing jobs at the prison delivering library books to the inmates.

One of his jobs was to clean the prison floor. He had his accomplice make a lot of commotion, distracting the guards away from the primary cell door. When the guard approached Coy's accomplice, Coy's accomplice Marvin Hubbard knocked the guard unconscious. Then Coy stole the key from the guard released the other two accomplices. Coy stripped down to make it easier to escape. With a bar spreader, he widened the bars to get through. He then knocked the guard out that guarded the gun gallery and began stealing their guns. He then passed the firearms and the key to another accomplice named Joe Cretzer. He captured guards and locked them in a cell.

Once they arrived at the main door, they went to use the primary key, but there were a lot of keys. They tried many of the keys, but none of them worked. When they found the correct one, the lock was jammed, but it was too late because the marines were called. The three men decided that they would rather die than be captured and were eventually killed.

Through many of these attempts, our maximum-security prisons learned a lot about what we need to have high security. For one, they now use heat-treated, tool-resistant bars always. They also now have a complete keyless system entirely controlled by buttons in a control room, so prisoners can never attack guards for the key. Today, we have learned that bars are not always the safest and most secure way to restrain prisoners. Since the time Alcatraz has been active, they have come up with mesh steel walls and bulletproof windows that allow inmates minimal opportunity to escape.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on April 02, 2012:

I am jealous, I have always wanted to visit San Fransisco, although if I go, Alcatraz would be one of my primary destinations!

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Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 02, 2012:

Interesting story about how they learned from prisoner escapes of how to make our prisons more secure. We have visited San Francisco several times but have yet to visit Alcatraz Island. Voted up and interesting.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on March 07, 2012:

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Amanda Hare from England on March 05, 2012:

Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on February 19, 2012:

MLJDgulley, thank you!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on February 19, 2012:

Marwan, glad to hear it!

mljdgulley354 on February 08, 2012:

I am glad to hear that lessons are learned in these events. Well written hub, easily read and made an impression as to what happens in places that you are not familiar with.

Marwan Asmar from Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2012:

Good read

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on November 20, 2011:

I find Alcatraz absolutely fascinating.

Moira Garcia Gallaga from Lisbon, Portugal on November 14, 2011:

Interesting stories. Alcatraz is quite well known and had quite a reputation. Thanks for sharing this piece of information.

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