Escape from Anglins to Alcatraz is part of new History Channel series

December 11 – ALBANY – They called Alcatraz prison “The Rock”. They said it was a must see, located on an island in the San Francisco Bay Area, a mile and a quarter off the California coast.

That all changed, however, when two brothers from southwest Georgia – Clarence and John Anglin – and another inmate, Frank Morris, implemented an elaborate plan that got them off the island and engraved their names in American folklore. The escape took place in June 1962, and now, almost 60 years later, there is a seemingly unquenchable thirst to uncover all the details of the trio’s daring escape and unravel the mystery of what happened to the escaped in the decades following their escape. the impossible.

David Widner of Leesburg, whose mother, Marie, is one of 12 siblings of the Anglin brothers, and, to a lesser extent, his brother, Ken, have become the de facto custodians of the Anglin heritage. The Widners have appeared in no less than four documentaries on the miraculous escape from prison, and David Widner has co-authored a book, “Escaping Alcatraz: The Untold Story of the Greatest Prison Break in American History,” with biographer Michael Esslinger. And Widner said he remained amazed at the interest in his uncles’ story.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “We hear from people all over the world. People are so fascinated by this story; they want to know all they can about ‘these guys who did what they said was impossible.'”

David Widner appeared on the recent History Channel series “The Great Escapes”, created for the network by the production company of renowned actor Morgan Freeman. Freeman tells the series that takes an inside look at eight of the greatest escapes in American history. The history of the Anglins was used to start the series.

“They did a really good job telling the story,” said Widner, who was interviewed for the series in Albany during the height of the COVID lockdown. “Morgan walks the audience through the breakouts and talks about how they happened. It’s a good show, but it doesn’t add anything new to the story.”

Indeed, virtually all of the information used in the “Great Escapes” series has been extensively covered in a previous History Channel documentary, “Alcatraz: The Search for the Truth” and Widner’s Book with Esslinger. There was also another pair of documentaries: “The Lost Evidence,” which focused on the files of the San Francisco Police Department, and a third hosted by William Shatner which attempted to add a paranormal touch. (“I wish we didn’t do this one,” Widner said.)

“I think the new series will expand audiences and broaden the interest in the escape for my uncles (and Morris),” Widner said. “My brother and I come up with a different kind of project, maybe a series that tells the story of the brothers’ early days through escape and examines what happened afterward.”

What happened after the Anglins’ escape is another mystery clouded by rumors, speculation and the United Family’s refusal to release information that could put law enforcement on the trail of the escapees.

“No one in our family is going to say anything about what might have happened after the escape,” Widner said. “The last time I remember the FBI came to our house – they would come all the time, hoping for information – my mom and I were raking pine straw. Four guys in black suits got out of a black car and approached my mother. She said what she always said: “I haven’t heard from them, and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.

“My mom always told us, ‘I’ll tell you everything I know someday.’ Our uncle Robert, brother of John and Clarence, confessed on his deathbed that he had been in contact with them several times. “

Some eyewitnesses, including family friend Fred Brizzi, a known drug trafficker, said the Anglins had settled in Brazil. Brizzi presented the family with a photo which was reviewed by facial recognition experts who said the photo was indeed John and Clarence Anglin.

“This is the kind of thing that we are planning to do, go to Brazil to determine if there is any evidence that my uncles have been living there since their escape,” Widner said. “There is so much information that has been released – and so much that I’m really not ready to talk about at the moment – that keeps people interested in this story.

“I feel like it’s my job to keep the faces (of the Anglins) there, to keep that interest through memories. I also have some of the items associated with their escape: the wallets Clarence made, two paintings, letters from (notorious gangster) James “Whitey” Bulger (who allegedly played a key role in the escape). If we can keep the interest going, maybe we can get someone to take this story from the beginning and follow it to a point. where we can prove what happened. “