They Used Decoy Heads to Flee Alcatraz. Now, FBI Replicas

3D-printed dupes look like the heads used by Frank Morris, Anglin brothers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2018 11:45 AM CST
They Used Decoy Heads to Flee Alcatraz. Now, FBI Replicas
A 3D-printed decoy head used by prisoners to mount their infamous escape in 1962 is on display at Alcatraz Island Thursday in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Half a century after a notorious prison escape from Alcatraz Island, the FBI has created replicas of decoy heads that inmates used to distract guards from a plan that still captivates researchers and tourists. Authorities on Thursday unveiled 3D-printed copies of the decoys that inmates Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin constructed with soap, plaster, and human hair, per the AP. Morris and the Anglin brothers placed the decoys in their beds and climbed through a wall to escape the island prison in San Francisco Bay. The men were never found. Inmate Allen Clayton West also created a head but never made it out of the maximum-security prison that housed dangerous criminals like Al Capone. Authorities say they made the replicas to share with the public as the original decoys are fragile and are evidence in the still-open investigation.

"We understand the original items can't be out here—they've got to be archived," says John F. Bennett, FBI special agent in charge in San Francisco. "But we recognize that those items are also part of the rich and historic fabric and the landmark of this city." Bennett said a team from the FBI's lab in Quantico, Va., traveled to San Francisco to scan the original decoys. Lab workers donated their own hair to accurately re-create the original masks, which included human hair the inmates had collected from the prison barber shop. "The hair and the paint on here is exactly what the prisoners did," Bennett said. The FBI hopes the public will soon be able to view the agency's replicas, unveiled to some media outlets along with "Wanted" signs for the long-escaped inmates. (Did Popular Mechanics help the inmates escape?)

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