11 Incredible and Unbelievable Prison Break Attempts
Over the centuries thousands of prisoners attempted to break the prison. They engineered brilliant plans to dodge the high security of the jails. Some luckily succeeded whereas some lost their lives. They tunneled, dug, disguised themselves, swam through the violent ocean waves and traveled through the drain pipes in order to escape. This list comprises of 10 such real prison break attempts.
11. Clovis, New Mexico Jail Break
Seven Clovis Escapees
8 inmates escaped from the Curry County Adult Detention Center on August 24, 2008. The escape began with a key accidentally left in a door lock by the guards doing the plumbing repairs. They gained access to the pipes by using this key. After several days of planning and seven hours of continuous efforts, they broke out of the Clovis, New Mexico jail by climbing up plumbing pipes in a narrow space inside a wall and using handmade instruments to cut a hole in the roof near a skylight. 3 were recaptured the very next day and a 4th escapee was caught on August 28. This prison break was the topic of September 6th’s episode of America’s Most Wanted.
10. Berlin Escape Via a Hot Air Balloon
The Berlin Wall Balloon
Barbed wires, dogs, guard towers, and execution if you were caught escaping made the entire East Berlin a prison during the Soviet occupation. Many attempted escape. Some were successful whereas some were not. Some built tunnels or crammed themselves into tiny compartments of cars. The Wetzel and Strlzyck families chose a very interesting option. They bought nylon cloth in small batches and constructed their own hot air balloon. It took them several months to create a balloon which led to their rescue. The balloon successfully flew them over the wall and landed in West Berlin. After this the Soviets made it impossible for the locals to purchase lightweight cloth in East Berlin.
9. Pascal Payet
Pascal Payet escaped twice from the prison using a hijacked helicopter. He also organized the escape of three prisoners again using a helicopter. Payet was sentenced to a 30 year jail term in France’s Luynes prison for a murder committed during the robbery of a security van. He made his first prison break in 2001 via a helicopter which took him from the yard of the prison. After being recaptured in 2003, he escaped from Grasse prison for the second time using a helicopter that was hijacked by four of his friends from Cannes-Mandelieu airport. This time his prison was changed every 3 month to avoid escape. Payet was re-captured on September 21, 2007, in Mataró, Spain, about 18 miles northeast of Barcelona. He had undergone cosmetic surgery, but was still identified by Spanish police.
8. The Texas Seven
On December 13, 2000, 7 prisoners known as “The Texas Seven” escaped from a maximum security prison near the southern Texas town of Kennedy. They derived an elaborate plan to escape from the prison. The seven overpowered and restrained nine civilian maintenance supervisors, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates. They subdued them and wore their clothes. They stole their credit cards and identification. All this was done at lunch time. Three wore civilian’s dress and pretended to be there to install video monitors. They raided the guard tower and stole numerous weapons. In the end, they stole a prison maintenance pick-up truck, which drove them away from the prison. A year later they were caught, as a direct result of the television show America’s Most Wanted.
7. John Dillinger
The inspiration of the famous film “Public Enemies”, John Dillinger was a bank robber in America’s Midwest during the early 1930s. He robbed at least two dozen banks and four police stations and escaped from jail twice. His first prison break was in 1933 when he and his gang engineered a daring escape from a prison in Lima, Ohio after they used smuggled rifles and gunned down two guards. His most famous escape of all came in 1934, after he was arrested on the heels of a number of famous bank heists. He was put in the “escape-proof” Lake County Jail, a prison that was guarded by an army of policeman and National Guard troops. He invented his own way of prison escape involving no digging or tunneling, climbing or going through drain pipes. He designed a phony gun out of a bar of soap and shoe polish and used it to force his way out of the jail on March 3, 1934. He then stole the Sheriff’s brand new Ford and made his escape to Illinois.
6. 150 Prisoners Escaped From a Prison in New Mexico
Prison in New Mexico
Nearly 150 prisoners escaped from a state prison on the border of the northern Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo either late on Thursday night or on the morning of Friday, 17th December 2010. This massive prison break remained unnoticed until a routine headcount on Friday. The area is suffering from serious drug smuggling and trafficking. Based on preliminarily investigations, it is believed that they were helped by prison staff and a prison warden is now listed as missing. The public safety department of Tamaulipas state, Texas, said 141 inmates got out through a service entrance used by vehicles, “presumably with the assistance of the prison staff.” Eighty-three of the prisoners were being held for trial, while 58 were being held on federal charges, which include weapons possession and drug trafficking. Investigations are in process.
5. Billy Hayes – Escaped from a Turkish Prison
Billy Hayes, the famous writer of “Midnight Express” was sentenced for 30 years in a Turkish jail for drug smuggling in 1970. He was 22 years old at the time of his arrest. Initially he was jailed for 4 years. But soon he learnt that his punishment was extended to 30 years and decided to escape. He had an adventurous journey to freedom. After six months of planning, he fought a prison guard, stole his uniform, and escaped from the prison. His father had smuggled him $2,000 into the prison in a photo album. He stole a rowboat and made to the shore. To change his appearance, he dyed his blond hair black and began traveling towards the border. He swam across a river and walked for miles. Hayes wrote an autobiographical book called Midnight Express about his experiences in prison and his escape from it after reaching U.S safely.
4. Frank Morris, Clarence and John Anglin – Escaped from Alcatraz
Alcatraz prison of San Francisco was considered the hardest to break because of it’s tough iron bars, high security, twelve cell checks per day and the best part is that it is surrounded by the Pacific. 34 prisoners tried to escape but none managed to reach the shores safely. Frank Morris and his friends Allen West, Clarence and John Anglin broke this prison. The planning began when they figured out an unguarded utility corridor just behind their cells. The corridor housed a ventilation shaft, which led to the roof. They used stolen drill bits and a vacuum cleaner motor to drill. On June 11, 1962, after two years of planning, Morris decided that it was time to make with the breaking out. They placed their dummy heads in their beds and set off through the air vent holes. The trio betrayed West and continued with the escape. They scaled 30-feet of plumbing to the roof and climbed down a drain pipe. From there, they went to the shore, assembled a pontoon-type raft and then vanished.
3. Maze Prison Escape
Maze Prison Escape
The Maze Prison escape took place on 25th September 1983 in County Down, Northern Ireland when 38 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners escaped from the prison. All these prisoners were jailed after being charged on serious offenses like murder and bombing. HM Prison Maze was a maximum security prison. The prison was considered to be an escape proof prison and held prisoners with serious crimes. In addition to 15-foot (4.6 m) fences, each H-Block was encompassed by an 18-foot (5.5 m) concrete wall topped with barbed wire. All gates on the complex were made of solid steel. The gates were electronically operated. Bobby Storey and Gerry Kelly identified the weaknesses in the security systems. Six handguns were smuggled into the prison. After extensive planning, the mission to escape began on 25th September. Shortly after 2:30, the prisoners took control of the H-block holding the prison guards hostage at gunpoint. They took guards uniform and car keys in order to help with their escape. At 3:25, a truck bringing food supplies arrived which they used to escape. At 3:50 the truck left the prison, carrying all 38 men. Over the next few days, 19 escapees were caught. The escape resulted in the death of a prison officer (died of heart attack). Twenty others were injured, including two who were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the prison.
2. Libby Prison Escape
Libby Prison Break
Richmond, Virginia’s Libby Prison was a site of one of the most daring and successful prison escapes. In 1864, a group of 15 Union soldiers tunneled through the prison’s basement to a nearby vacant lot under the guidance of Col. Thomas E. Rose and Major A.G Hamilton. This dark and vermin-infested cellar was famous as “Rat Hell”. It took them seventeen days to dig and reach a nearby tobacco shed. On the night between 9th and 10th February, 109 soldiers managed to escape into the city of Richmond. Only 59 reached the Federal army safely as 48 of the men were recaptured, and 2 drowned in river James.
1. Stalag Luft III Escape (The Great Escape)
Tunnel Harry, The Great Escape
Stalag Luft III Escape also known as “The Great Escape” was an incredible prison escape from the Nazi Prisoner of War Camp, led by a British Auxiliary Air Force pilot Squadron Leader Roger Joyce Bushell. He and 49 other prisoners plotted a major escape from the camp in January 1943. The plan was to dig three deep tunnels, codenamed “Tom,” “Dick,” and “Harry.” They dug 30ft below the surface to avoid getting detected by perimeter microphones. The sandy walls of the tunnels were shored up with pieces of wood carefully collected from all over the camp to avoid suspicion. They constructed meticulous tunnels with a railway system for faster traveling. These rails were key to moving 130 tons of material in a five-month period. The tunnel was lit with Christmas tree lights. They used bed parts, hockey sticks, ping-pong paddles, knapsacks and flattened tin cans. Tom was discovered by guards and some of the prisoners were shifted to another prison before the completion of the tunnel named harry. After painstaking efforts the escape finally took place on March 25 at 5 AM. The 77th man was seen emerging from the tunnel by one of the guards. Out of the 76 men only 3 evaded capture. Fifty men were killed and the rest were captured and sent back. Roger and his partner Bernard Scheidhauer were among the first few to leave the tunnel, and successfully boarded a train at Sagan railway station. They were caught the next day at Saarbrücken railway station awaiting a train to Alsace in France. Bushell and Scheidhauer were murdered three days later by Emil Schulz of the Gestapo, helped by others. Later a count by the Nazi’s revealed that they had used 4,000 bed boards, 90 beds, 52 tables, 34 chairs, 10 single tables, 76 benches, 1,219 knives, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 69 lamps, 246 water cans, 30 shovels, 1,000 feet of electric wire, 600 feet of rope, 3,424 towels, 1,700 blankets and more than 1,400 milk cans in their mission. Based on this escape, a very famous movie, “The Great Escape” was released in 1963.