Braving armed guards, bone-chilling water, and a mythical one-finned shark named Bruce, Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe take advantage of the heaviest fog on record to escape from the escape-proof prison island of Alcatraz.
The two were incorrigible criminals -- and escape artists. Roe had once broken out of an Oklahoma pen by stuffing himself into a shipping crate, and Cole had successfully used the old "laundry bag" routine in Texas. Garbage cans, hacksaws, guns carved from wood -- they'd tried them all.
That's why they ended up on the Rock .
Here's a condensed version of their legendary escape: Under cover of fog, the two used heavy tools to cut through the bars of a blacksmith shop and break a padlock on the prison fence. They clambered down to the water's edge ... and were never seen again.
Alarms were sounded, a massive manhunt was launched, but that fog made chances of spotting the two unlikely -- and frankly, not a soul thought they'd survive that cold, cold water. The warden summed up the official attitude this way:
"Serving terms tantamount to life imprisonment, it is my belief they decided to take a desperate chance and that they had no outside aid. I believe they drowned and that their bodies were swept toward the Golden Gate by the strong ebb tide."
Though the FBI stated that the hunt for Roe and Cole would "go on until they are found—dead or alive”, the invulnerability of the Rock remained officially unbroken.
That's more or less how things stood until 1941, when an article in the Chronicle busted the case open again: