As scary as the thought of prison can be, people are still fascinated with the notion of going to the slammer. Some people think spending a little time in prison gives a person an edge, but that’s just the “glamorous” way it’s portrayed in the movies, for the most part.
Not even criminals who deserve to be locked up for life for their crimes want to go to prison. No one likes confinement, which is why it has been used as a form of punishment for centuries. That’s why, every once in a while, you hear a shocking story about a prisoner who broke free.
While a story like this may catch the public’s attention due to the sensational nature of the escape, a prison break could also mean that people are in danger. It’s impossible to always know what criminals are capable of, and some prison escapees want to get revenge on the people who got them arrested in the first place. Escaping from prison takes a frightening combination of guts and skill, and the stories can be quite entertaining sometimes. If you’re a fan of prison escape tales, here are 10 of the most fascinating you may read all day.
10. The Colditz Escape
Colditiz was a German prisoner of war camp for officers that was used in WWII. The camp overlooked the town of Colditz in Saxony, and several prisoners were able to make it out of the prison successfully. One of the most interesting escapes involved building a glider. This was the idea of two British pilots, Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best. The two men had been sent to Colditz after escaping from another prison camp. The men built in the basement of the chapel, and the men intended to fly the glider off the roof and fly it across the river Mulde. The men built the glider out of stolen pieces of wood. The glider never flew for escape purposes, since the men were freed when the camp was relieved by allies just before the aircraft was finished. However, a replica of the plane was built in 2000 for the Escape from Colditz documentary. Best and Goldfinch were in attendance for the emotional launch.
9. Roger Bushell’s Great Escape
The prison break at Stalag Luft III is known as The Great Escape. Stalag Luft III was a German prisoner of war camp, and Roger Bushell, a prisoner there, was the mastermind behind The Great Escape. He proposed that three tunnels be created with the code names Tom, Dick and Harry. Each of the entrances to the tunnel was carefully created so that prison guards could not detect them. The tunnels were dug 30 feet below the surface of the prison, and pieces of wood were used to stabilize the sandy walls of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the escape didn’t go as planned. The “Harry” tunnel was supposed to lead to a forest, but the first man came out of the tunnel just short of a tree line. During an air raid, the tunnel’s lights were shut off. The prisoners were discovered, and out of the 79 men who escaped, only 3 men remained free. Fifty of the prisoners were killed and the rest were captured and sent back to Stalag Luft III.
8. The Pascal Payet Escape
Payet is known for escaping twice from high-security prisons in France. Each time, he used a helicopter that he hijacked. He also used his preferred method of escape to help three other prisoners get out of confinement. Pascal Payet was originally sentenced to 30 years in prison for a murder that occurred during a security van robbery. After his first escape from prison (which occurred in 2001), he was captured in 2007 and sentenced to seven more years in prison for his second escape, which occurred in 2003. One of his helicopter escapes even involved four masked men who took the plane from the Cannes-Mandelieu airport. He fled to Barcelona, and even though he’d had plastic surgery, the Spanish police were still able to identify and capture him.
7. Libby Prison Escape
The escape at Libby Prison is one of the most famous prison breaks of the American Civil War. The prison, which was located in Virginia, had Union soldiers as captives. In 1864, more than 100 of these soldiers escaped. Fifty-nine of the soldiers were able to get to Union lines, but 48 of them were captured. Two of the soldiers drowned in the James River while trying to escape. The three-story prison included a basement, and living conditions for prisoners was terrible. The soldiers broke into the basement, which was no longer being used because it had been overtaken by rats. They spent 17 days digging a tunnel, starting in the basement, and escaped from the prison in groups of two or three during the nights of February 9 and 10, in 1864.
6. Escape from Alcatraz
Alcatraz has been in operation for more than 30 years, and there have been about 14 escape attempts, involving 34 inmates. Every escape eventually failed, since the inmates were either recaptured or killed. However, there were inmates who escaped in 1937 and 1962 who were presumed dead and disappeared. This leads many to believe that these two escapes were successful. In 1962, the Anglin Brothers and Frank Morris burrowed cut through their cell bars to escape through an air vent in the ceiling. They assembled a raft when they got to shore, then vanished. The three convicts are believed to have drowned in the San Francisco Bay.
5. The Slavomir Rawicz Escape
Slavomir Rawicz was a military lieutenant from Poland. After the German-Soviet invasion from Poland, he was arrested by Soviet occupation troops. The military officer claimed that even though he was tortured in order to draw a confession out of him, he never revealed the information that was asked of him. Slavomir Rawicz was sentenced to 25 years for spying and had to serve his time doing hard labor at a Serbian Prison Camp. He, along with thousands of other prisoners, had to build the camp from the ground up. Two years after his arrest, 1941, Rawicz claimed that he escaped in the middle of a blizzard along with six other prisoners. They met a few other fugitives along the way, and everyone did not survive (one man died in his sleep, another fell into a crevice and disappeared). The group made it to India in March of 1942.
4. The Alfred Wetzler Escape
Alfred Wetzler is one of the few Jewish people who escaped from the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. He and his partner, Rudoph Vrba, wrote a report detailing the outline of the camp, which came to be known as the Vrba-Wetzler Report. This report was one of the first that Jewish allies considered credible, and led to the bombing of government buildings in Hungary. The bombings killed a number of Nazi officials. This action halted the deportation of Jewish people to the concentration camp and saved up to 120,000 Jews from Hungary. Vrba and Wetzler escaped by climbing through a hollowed-out pile of wood that was being used to build the new “Mexico” section of Auschwitz.
3. Maze Escape
The Maze Prison Escape is the biggest escape in the history of Britain. In September of 1983, 38 soldiers of the Irish Republican Army escaped from H-Block 7. The soldiers had been convicted of several crimes, including causing explosions and murder. A prison officer died from a heart attack due to the stress he sustained during the escape. Twenty other officers were injured, two of which were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the facility. The soldiers held the prison guards in H-Block 7 at gunpoint, and some of the prisoners took the guards’ clothing and keys to make for a more expedient escape. Over the next few days, 19 of the 38 men were caught. Some escaped to the United States but were later extradited, and some were given hiding places by the Irish Republican Army. Some of the escapees have been issued amnesties, and due to Irish politics, none of the remaining escapees are being sought. Maze was considered one of the hardest prisons to escape from, and currently has wires on the roof to prevent helicopters from landing—which could lead to another escape.
2. The Texas Seven
The Texas Seven were a group of prisoners who escaped from the John Connally Unit in the Kennedy, Texas area. They made the escape in December of 2000, but were found January 21-23, 2001, thanks to America’s Most Wanted. The group used seven ploys to overpower civilian supervisors working at the maximum-security prison. The Texas Seven also restrained four prison guards and three inmates who were not involved in the escape while carrying out their plan. The escape happened around 11:20 in the morning, a time when security was not as strict. The guards and security officers were gagged and placed in the electrical room, behind a locked door. The offenders stole cash and credit cards from the guards as well. The seven even posed as prison guards and made up stories to ward off authorities. Five of the Texas Seven are currently on death row. One committed suicide and the other has already been executed.
1. The Alfie Hinds Escape
Alfie Hinds was a criminal from Britain who was known for escaping from high-security facilities. Hinds served time for 12 years in Nottingham Prison on robbery charges, and successfully broke out by getting through the locked doors and climbing a 20-foot wall. Six months later, the jewel thief was found and arrested again. Due to Hinds’ knowledge of the British legal system, Alfie Hinds was able to charge the commissioners of the prison with illegal arrest. He then had a padlock smuggled into the prison, and when two guards escorted him to the restroom, he locked them in a cubicle and made his second escape. He disappeared into the crowd on Fleet Street, but was captured five hours later at an airport. Less than a year later, Hinds escaped from a third facility, Chelmsford Prison. After several appeals and technicalities, including the notion that prison escape is not a misdemeanor, Alfie Hinds was sentenced to serve six years in Parkhurst Prison.