The utility corridor was unguarded and full of bars like a jungle gym. If the prisoners opened the holes in their cells wide enough to get through, they could easily use the bars to climb the three stories to the roof. After that, they would just have to hope for the best.
At the top of the building, they needed to use one of the large shafts for roof access. They were shocked to discover that many shafts were sealed off with cement. After a panicked search, they found an unsealed shaft and used their homemade wrench to pry it open.
The gang was quite fortunate that the prison was already old and in bad shape, with weak, crumbly walls. If this were a new building, the escape plan would be almost impossible to execute. The saltwater that ran through the pipes for showering and washing dishes was slowly destroying the pipes and leaking into the prison walls.
Over the years, the salt wore down the cement and eventually caused it to crumble. The prison authorities also kept the water slightly warm to keep prisoners from getting used to the cold temperatures out in the icy waters of San Francisco Bay.
You are probably wondering how so much banging and chipping could be going on without anyone being the wiser. The truth is that the escapees cleverly used prison reform to their advantage. In the 1960s, it was decided that inmates should be allowed an hour of music each day. Nothing could be heard over the disharmony that ensued.
Morris also played his accordion as loudly as possible whenever he could, and the racket was enough to conceal any noises made by banging or the chipping of cement. The holes in the back of the cells led to an unguarded utility corridor full of pipes that were going up and down.
The Anglin brothers and Morris managed to break through the walls of their cells by May of 1962. The holes they made were barely large enough for them to fit through, but they managed to squeeze their way out. The gang made their life vests and the raft by stitching and gluing raincoats together.
They used more than 50 raincoats for the job. These were a vital part of the plan, without which they would most certainly drown in the cold bay waters. They thought of everything as there was no way this project could fall because of a simple thing like deep water.
The gang was all set, and all that was left was to wait for Allen West to finish carving out his escape hole. Then, they would be ready to move when the right moment arrived. In June 1962, the signal to begin the escape finally arrived, but things did not go as planned.
Allen West finally finished digging an escape hole large enough for him to go through on June 11, 1962. He let the other gang members know, but no one could have predicted what would happen next. This was not the end of the story, nor was it the beginning.