Top Ten Most Notorious Criminals of Alcatraz

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Roy Gardner                                                 

Roy Gardner’s career as a bank robber netted him an estimated $350,000 in cash and securities as lone bandit who would live as an outlaw on the Western Frontier during the great depression.

He also had a $5,000 reward for his head three times in less than a year during his sensational career and was known as the “Smiling Bandit”, the “Mail Train Bandit”, and the “King of the Escape Artists robbing mail trains and banks across the Western Front.

When he was caught and imprisoned he became known as one of the most notorious offenders of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he managed to escape many prisons including the notorious McNeil Island before being taken to Alcatraz in 1934.

It so happened he was incarcerated at the same time as Al Capone and it has been said Gardner saved Capone’s life by pushing him out of the way of a lead sash that was thrown at him by another inmate.

    Al Capone                                  

Al Capone is the most famous of all mafia kingpins.

Known for being a master manipulator, Capone, had continued running his rackets from behind bars by buying off guards. Known for his ability to control other people, when Al Capone arrived on Alcatraz in 1934, the governor made it clear that he would not be receiving any preferential treatment. But still Capone attracted a lot of media attention while on Alcatraz even though he served just four and a half years of his sentence there.

Capone has been portrayed in numerous movies and publications, most notably ‘TheUntouchables’, where he was played by Robert De Niro.

  Robert  Stroud                             

Robert Stroud, who was known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942. 

He spent six of his seventeen years of his stay in segregation in D Block, and the other eleven years in the prison hospital, before being transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri in 1959. Although he was called “the birdman“, Stroud was not allowed to keep birds while incarcerated there because of his reputation for keeping birds and uncleanliness at previous jails.

A film about his life was made starring Burt Lancaster as Stroud, called ‘TheBirdman of Alcatraz’.

 George ”MachineGun’ Kelly

George “Machine Gun” Kelly, so named because of his use of the ‘tommiegun’, was a mobster who arrived on September 4, 1934 at Alcatraz.

It was said that he constantly boasted about several robberies and murders that he was said to have never committed. Although this wrangled with fellow prisoners, the warden at the time thought well of him and he was returned to Leavenworth penitentiary in 1951.


James Joseph Bulger was transferred from Atlanta to Alcatraz in 1959, where he became a close friend of fellow inmate Clarence “The Choctaw Kid” Carnes.

In November 1962, he was transferred to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary (1962–63), and in the following year to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary (1963–65). He was released after serving nine years in prison, but still continues to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list.

  Bumpy Johnson

Bumpy Johnson was an American gangster born October 31, 1905 from New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.

After being indicted for conspiracy to sell heroin he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He served the majority of his prison time at Alcatraz, and it has been said that he helped three fellow inmates escape by arranging to have a boat pick them up once they broke out and made it to the San Francisco Bay.

Bumpy was released from prison in 1963 and returned to Harlem, where he was greeted with an impromptu parade.

   Mickey Cohen                             

Mickey Cohen was sentenced to 15 years in Alcatraz Island for tax evasion. He had also worked for the Mafia’s gambling rackets and was a kingpin within the New York Mafia. Cohen was left partially paralyzed, two years into his sentence when an inmate struck him with a lead pipe.

Mickey Cohen was finally released from prison in 1972.

Arthur R ‘doc’ Barker         

Arthur R ‘doc’ Barker was a key member of the Barker-Karpis gang along with Alvin Karpis. He was sent to Alcatraz Island on conspiracy to kidnap charges.

He led a famous escape attempt on the night of January 13, 1939, with Henri Young and Rufus McCain, but the attempt failed and Barker was shot dead by prison guards.

      Alvin Karpis                                

Alvin Francis “Creepy KarpisKarpowicz better known as Alvin Karpis and nicknamed “Creepy” for his sinister smile, was an American criminal known for his alliance with the Barker gang in the 1930s, and was the last “public enemy” to be taken.

He arrived in 1936, with the worst convictions of any inmate sent there, and was not a model inmate. Karpis constantly fought with other inmates and he spent the longest time on Alcatraz island, serving nearly 26 years.

He was portrayed by Giovanni Ribisi in the recent movie ‘PublicEnemies’.

    Frank Morris           

Frank Morris is the organizer of the one and only ‘unofficially’ successful escape from Alcatraz. He was transferred to Alcatraz in 1960, and was a master at escaping from jails. He spent two years planning his escape, and finally in June 1962, carried out the intricate and highly detailed escape with John Anglin and Clarence Anglin.

It is not known whether he made it to the mainland as the three were never seen again.

Morris was portrayed in the movie ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ by Clint Eastwood.

All images courtesy of Wikipedia


About Author

Leave A Reply