Lonely Planet Images/Michael Coyne/Getty Images
Jandamarra, an Aborigine in the 19th century, had himself a pretty sweet gig working as a tracker for the local police. If that doesn't sound "pretty sweet" to you, keep in mind that the only other occupations available to 19th century Aborigines were "guy who just got shot by a bunch of white people" and "guy about to be shot by a bunch of white people."
To be fair, not everything was shooting. We also had several open opportunities in the growing field of "getting raped."
By all accounts, Jandamarra was pretty good pals with his white bossman -- whitey supposedly even looked the other way when Jandamarra once refused to arrest a local tribal elder. A few years later, the elder was arrested again (he was charged with multiple counts of being an Aborigine; a classic repeat offender), and this time there was no compromise. Jandamarra was ordered to take the elder to be executed or face the full weight of the law himself. Instead, he shot his boss, escaped, and started a mini-rebellion -- rocketing him up to Australia's public enemy number one. At one point Jandamarra and his rebels were being hunted by a quarter of the entire Western Australian police force. How he thought he could escape four drunk shepherds and three (probably drunk) sheep, we'll never know.
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Russ' crippling alcoholism would prevent him from ever reaching sergeant.
But escape he did.
Authorities were amazed by Jandamarra's ability to vanish into the Outback at will, and to walk barefoot over terrain that shredded their boots to pieces. Jandamarra was basically an old-timey, race-flipped Crocodile Dundee, complete with mythical powers and wacky antics.
In one famous incident, the police believed they had finally cornered Jandamarra in a series of caves. As they systematically explored the caverns and staked out the entrances, Jandamarra had actually slipped out the back and was already several miles away ... looting their police station.
He belongs to the ages, now.
He was eventually caught and killed, of course, but we'll skip that tragic ending and leave you to mentally substitute that scene in Crocodile Dundee where Mick walks over the New Yorkers' heads to get to Sue on the subway platform. Gets us right here, every time.
#1. The Great Papago Escape
In 1944, a murder of German U-boat sailors (well, what would you call them? A flock?) tunneled out of the Papago Park prisoner-of-war camp in Arizona. Their plan wasn't exactly movie material, but it was daring enough to make even Steve McQueen crap in disbelief. The U.S. government launched the largest manhunt in Arizona history to round up the POWs, but they were fairly sure of their success from the start. The camp was located in the middle of the Arizona desert -- God's great and endless garbage can -- for a reason. With nowhere to run and only Arizona to run to even if they got away, most of the escapees either gave up or were quickly apprehended.
But after an entire month of searching, three prisoners, including one NCO named Johann Kremer, were nowhere to be found.
Artist's rendition of Japanese Internment Camp in Poston, Arizona in 1942
So did they hightail it to Mexico? Get a neck tattoo and a job at 7-Eleven to try to blend in with the rest of the Arizonans? Nope: Turns out they got away by never leaving in the first place. Kremer and his pals enacted a daring escape and immediately settled in a cave near the prison. When they needed food, Kremer would just sneak out to one of the labor details that had been sent out of the camp, wait until the guards were distracted, and then switch places with one of the prisoners. The prisoner would spend the night in the cave while Kremer would march back into the camp unnoticed by the guards, who were presumably either face-blind or just really racist against white people (we do all kind of look the same, with our hair, and teeth).
Phoenix New Times
And the eerie blue hue that blankets us every waking hour.
Once back inside the camp, Kremer ate dinner with the other prisoners, loaded up on all the food he could lay hands on, and got a good night's worth of non-cave sleepin'. The next day he'd march right back out with the labor party, switch places with another prisoner, and head back to his cave with the pilfered supplies.
So to recap: Johann Kremer successfully broke out of prison ... by repeatedly breaking into prison.
Related Reading: Speaking of badass fugitives, have you heard about the naked time traveler who (sorta) terrorized Indianapolis? Or the serial killer who escaped DURING HIS TRIAL by asking to use the library? We've got plenty more daring tales of unbelievable escapes where those came from.