6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened
What do you get when you take thousands of guys, give them tons of free time, creativity and a healthy portion of desperation? Some freaking awesome prison escapes.
Some of these were badass enough to have had movies made about them, but all of them made Andy from The Shawshank Redemption look like a lazy pile of shit.
Stalag Luft III Escape (aka The Great Escape)
Even with the Geneva Conventions basically turning Salag Luft III into the World War 2 prison equivalent of the Ritz-Carlton, British inmate Roger Bushell felt he had some escaping to do. He and 49 other prisoners devised a plan to dig three tunnels -- codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry -- out of a prison that was specifically designed to piss off tunnelers with its loose yellow subsoil and, in a huge dick move, seismograph microphones buried along the fences. If a shovel made even the slightest vibration the plan was shot, leaving the prisoners to fall back on their untested "It was Sandworms" alibi.
Not as uncommon an alibi as you'd think.
The team found brilliant ways to nullify every problem that popped up:
*The team dug 30 foot deep holes to evade the microphones;
*For faster tunnel traveling, they created a railway system;
*They built what were, essentially, Christmas tree lights that plugged into the camp's grid;
*The crafty escapees even constructed a tunnel ventilation system composed of nearly every piece of junk lying in your garage: bed parts, hockey sticks, ping-pong paddles, knapsacks and flattened tin cans of powdered milk with the ends removed.
When rumors swirled that some of the prisoners may be moved to another prison, they picked up the pace which, finally, caught the attention of the guards who soon discovered the "Tom" tunnel. Just before the completion of Harry, some of the diggers were, indeed, sent off to a newer, Nazier prison and never got the chance to escape.
But the rest started crawling through the tunnels on a moonless March night in 1944. They got 76 men through before, finally, when the 77th inmate gophered his way out someone realized an escape was going down.
The Nazi guards later took count of all of the missing supplies that were used in the escape: 4,000 bed boards, the complete disappearance of 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.
"Do you guys ever think it's weird that we've only got, like, three beds in this whole prison?"
Keep in mind they were able to get all of this stuff while in a Nazi prison camp. Think about that the next time you find yourself bartering like a nomadic goat herder just to get a couple of ballpoints from your office supply manager. Virtually all of the escapees were caught and either killed or re-imprisoned, but we still like to think this was the point the Nazis realized they could not win a war against an army full of MacGyvers.
The Pascal Payet Escapes (aka "Get to the Choppa!")
After killing an armored truck driver, Pascal Payet was arrested and sentenced to a 30-year stint in France's Luynes prison. But Luynes prison had one major flaw in its design that Payet knew how to exploit: it had a sky over it.
By 2001, Payet was probably up to his cheeks in prison rape so he decided to leave... via helicopter that some buddies of his hijacked. Sadly, the details of this glorious break out are scant but we're assuming it involved him leaping in slow motion and grabbing onto the skids of the helicopter in midair.
"And, now, could you point me in the direction he took the helicopter, officer?"
After roaming free for a couple of years, Payet must have figured that if dropping a helicopter into a prison worked once, why wouldn't it work again? In 2003, he hopped in a helicopter, flew back to Luynes prison and busted out three inmates. These men were friends of his, but we're pretty sure he was just having one of those moments where you do something so cool you have to do it again just to make sure.
After breaking out his buddies, Payet was captured and given an additional seven years on his sentence. This time he wasn't placed in just one big-house, but was moved to a different prison every three months or so in a sad attempt to make the process helicopter proof. It remained that way until July of 2007, when a helicopter carrying four masked men landed on the roof of Grasse prison in Southeast France during the start of the night shift.
"Holy shit I can't believe how easy this is."
The men broke Payet out of his isolation ward and flew off him off into the sunset. And just to prove that he knows a thing or two about symbolism, this break-out occurred on Bastille Day, a French holiday that commemorates the storming of a prison. Payet, you glorious son of a bitch...
The Mother of All Break-Outs
What is more powerful than the love of a mother? And it's even more powerful when a mother uses a big rig truck to mow down your chest cavity and ram their love directly into your heart.
Jay Junior Sigler, an inmate in his eighth year of a 20-year sentence for armed robbery at Everglades Correctional Institution, started out his day just like any other:
11:28 AM: Walk off threat of aggressive anal penetration.
2:03 PM: Artfully dodge a shanking.
2:58 PM: Receive aggressive anal penetration.
3:00 PM: A visit from Mom and some friends.
But unlike most Plexiglas and wired phone visits from loved ones, this one went a bit differently. In broad daylight an 18-wheel truck driven by Sigler's friend, John Beaston (who was accompanied by Christopher Michelson and Kelly Mitchell), rammed though not just one, but four prison fences, immediately followed by a Cutlass Supreme driven by none other then mommy dearest herself, Sandra Sigler.
"The parking lot was full"
When Jay, who was in the courtyard, reached the car, Beaston tossed him a shotgun and together they fired at the oncoming guards. Jay and everyone from the truck jumped into Mrs. Sigler's Cutlass like kids after Karate practice and hightailed it out of there.
They then made a pit stop at local mall and swapped vehicles; Jay and Michelson in one car, Mama Sigler, Beaston and Mitchell in another. Jay and Michelson had made it all the way to Pompano Beach, some 40 miles away from the prison, when they realized they were being followed. In a desperate attempt to flee, they sped into an alley and burst out the other side just in time to blow by a stop sign and slam into an oncoming vehicle, killing the 55-year-old driver.
Michelson, who had recently been released from prison himself, was brought in on charges of first-degree murder along with Sigler. As for Mother Sigler, she and her car mates were arrested at a gas station a few miles from the prison shortly after the car swap. Just goes to show that, holiday or not, a visiting parent will inevitably fuck up your day.
"By all accounts the mother masterminded everything," said Miami-Dade detective Rudy Espinosa. This didn't turn out to be entirely correct as Jay Sigler had actually conceived of the plan some four months earlier. Mama Sigler just handled the small, intricate details of the escape like, for instance, ramming a huge fucking truck through four prison gates.
The Texas Seven
On December 13, 2000, seven inmates at the John Connally Unit -- a prison in Karnes County, Texas -- escaped via an amalgam of brute force and the kind of plan an elementary school child would concoct.
The escape began when inmate Rivas convinced Maintenance Supervisor Patrick Moczygemba to allow him and some fellow inmates to forego lunch in order to wax the floors of the maintenance room. They lured Moczygemba into the warehouse and once there, Rivas duped him by essentially shouting, "Hey! Look over there!" Moczygemba acquiesced and was greeted with an ax handle to the head.
Threatening him with a homemade knife, they undressed Moczygemba, bound him and tossed him into an electrical room, beginning a chain reaction of events more akin to a comedy of errors than a jail break. As new people entered the maintenance room, they were each given a variation of the "Hey! Look over there!" technique, along with a punch in the face and the threat of a stabbing from a new and totally random sharp object. In all, they captured nine supervisors, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates using simple vaudevillian misdirection.
By impersonating various supervisors over the course of three phone calls, the inmates not only made good with one of the 12 daily head counts, but gained access to a gatehouse under the guise of monitor installers. No guards questioned them because a little company is welcomed after hours of trying to decide whether or not masturbating at work is a fireable offense (answer: No).
After entering the gatehouse, some more phone trickery allowed the inmates to headlock the guard into submission and gain entry to the radio tower. In the tower, inmate Halprin snatched a revolver off of a desk and, in a moment that proves that a gun can get you anything you want in life as long as you point it at a human, the guard opened the gate and even told the inmates about the weapons cache at the bottom of the tower.
"Hey, how come Garcia and Harper get to smile like dipshits?"
The Texas Seven drove their way out of the back gate, effectively launching one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history. They were eventually hauled in after appearing on the TV show America's Most Wanted. Some of them actually demanded a television appearance before they would agree to surrender, presumably planning to point at the camera, say "Look behind you!" and then escape once more while all of America had its back turned.
Antonio Ferrara Goes Commando
Antonio Ferrara was the personification of the classic movie gangster: He was a part of a group of veteran bank robbers -- nicknamed the "Dream Team" - that was labeled the "most dangerous gang in Europe" by Interpol. He was also famous in the French underworld for his remarkable ability to create the perfect explosive concoction that could blow open a safe and leave the cash within unharmed. At the age of 29 he was sentenced to serve an eight-year prison term for two armed robberies and had been suspected of at least 15 more.
And to top it all off, he looks like a total douche.
Five years into his prison career, he decides to call it quits and escape the only way an explosives expert knows how (hint: explosives). At 4:30 AM on March 12, 2003, six men drove up to the front gate of Fresnes Prison in fake police cars, clothed in police uniforms and ski masks. Some fired AK-47s at the two adjacent guard towers, while the other group blew open the front gates with rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Yes, someone came up with a plan even less subtle than the truck-driving mom up there.
With all of this going down, Ferrara was presumably awoken by the sound of gun fire and explosions outside. He must have figured that he needed to take the initiative and check it out himself, so he blew open his cell door with a stick of dynamite that is believed to have been given to him by a guard (either the guard was a co-conspirator or Ferrara is one hell of a smooth talker).
"Come on, just let me borrow it, don't be a dick."
Once out of his cell, he joined up with his clan of fellow Michael Bay enthusiasts and fled. It all took 10 minutes.
After being on the loose for four months (and being declared France's most wanted man by President Nicolas Sarkozy) Ferrara was recaptured in a Paris bar during a massive undercover operation. When Ferrara came face to face with the arresting officer, he was quoted as saying only one thing: "You again?".
No surprise here. When most people think "prison escape," they think Alcatraz.
Frank Morris's long history of jail breaks prompted the move to a more inescapable place. So how about the San Francisco prison with tough iron bars, twelve cell checks per day and, oh yeah, is surrounded by the frigid waters of the Pacific.
Frank and his fellow inmates Allen West and Clarence and John Anglin realized there just so happened to be an unguarded utility corridor just behind their cells. The corridor housed a ventilation shaft, which led to the roof. In need of digging tools, West placed stolen drill bits and a vacuum cleaner motor under a napkin, waved his hand and poof, out came a drill somehow.
Made of a toothbrush, drill bits and magic!
The drill (the sound of which was masked by an equally ear-grating accordion) loosened the air vents at the back of their cells by making closely spaced holes around the cover so the entire section of the wall could be removed.
After they gained access to the corridor everything else just fell in line: The Anglin brothers fabricated crude paper mache replicas of the their own heads, with real human hair from the prison barber shop. Over fifty prison-issued rain coats were either donated by or stolen from fellow inmates and were meticulously glued together to form a six-by-fourteen foot inflatable raft. Morris even modified one of the ear-grating accordions into an air pump for inflation.
On June 11, 1962, after two years of planning, Morris decided that it was time to make with the breaking out. Allen West, who was so bogged down with making life preservers and rowing paddles, had yet to finish the holes in his cell's air vent. Morris didn't give a shit and went ahead with the plans. They placed their dummy heads in their beds and set off through the air vent holes. They were going to break out West, but they opted to flip him off, laugh and high-five instead. They scaled 30-feet of plumbing to the roof and shimmied down 50-feet of piping to the freedom fortified dirt below.
In an interview, West later said that the rest of the plan would have involved paddling to nearby Angel Island, resting and then riding the tides to shore where they would go their separate ways. No one knows if Morris and the Anglin's completed that portion of the plan, but many experts pretty much agree that they did. Why?
Because before they came along every escapee that had made it to the waters of around Alcatraz was later found with a bad case of the deads. The bodies of Morris and the Anglin's, however, were never found. Also because the story becomes kind of pointless if they just sank like rocks after all that effort.
And check out Cracked.com's Top Picks to see what we look at since we aren't creative enough to escape our own office.