Fifty years ago, on the night of June 11, 1962, the three convicts were locked down as usual. Guards walking the tier outside their cells saw them at 9:30 and checked on them periodically all night, looking in at the sleeping faces, hearing nothing strange. But by morning, the inmates had vanished, Houdini-like.

It seemed wildly improbable that they escaped. “The Rock” where Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and other infamous criminals were held was thought to be escape-proof. In its 29 years as a federal prison, from 1934 to 1963, no one is known to have made it out alive. Forty-one inmates tried. Of those, 26 were recaptured, 7 were shot dead, 3 drowned and 2 besides Mr. Morris and the Anglin brothers were never found.

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