6 Badass Kids Who Ran Away from Home With a Vengeance
Most of you probably thought about doing it at some point: hopping on your Big Wheel and putting plastic to the pavement, throwing off those oppressive kid shackles and jumping headlong into the grownup game -- running away. Maybe you pulled some lightweight stunt and hid out in a treehouse for a day, or headed over to a friend's house a few blocks away, where the people finally understood you.
But there have been a few kids who took running away and made it into an extreme sport you would never want to play.
Barbara McVay Stows Away on a Submarine
In 1966, 17-year-old Barbara McVay decided she really needed to get to the U.K. The only problem? She lived in Maryland, which was tragically not in any way connected to the U.K. In her mind, there was only one option: to run away from home.
"Life isn't worth living without soggy French fries and obscenely expensive cigarettes."
So why'd she do it? And what was her chosen mode of transportation?
Let's see ... it's 1966. The Beatles have achieved a certain amount of success with the teenage girl demographic ... the song "Yellow Submarine" has just come out ... ah, yes, it all makes sense.
It was a long and winding road, so being a day tripper, she got a ticket to ride. (Hey Jude).
"I like English boys," she would later tell police when asked her motive for stowing away inside a 1,600 ton British submarine. "I couldn't go legally, so I had to do it illegally."
She had slipped past officers guarding the sub, which was docked in Baltimore on a goodwill visit, tucking herself away inside a conning tower compartment of the HMS Walrus (yes, even reality couldn't resist adding bad Beatles references to the mix). She stayed in her spot for 12 hours before making her presence known, and then it was only due to the fact that she was on the edge of fainting from carbon monoxide fumes.
English boys prefer the rosy, deoxygenated look.
And it's a good thing she came out, too, because the compartment would have slowly filled with water when the sub fully submerged. As it was, the sub was only four hours into its trip across the Atlantic, heading for Scotland, when the crew found out they had a stowaway. Rather than make the kid swim back, they turned the sub around and dropped her back off at Baltimore.
They apparently couldn't come up with a worse punishment.
For its part, the British Navy was characteristically dry and sarcastic about it all, with Captain Douglas Scobie telling the press:
"Certainly, we can't have that sort of nonsense going on in the British navy. Taking away one of Baltimore's citizens is rather overextending our appreciation of their hospitality."
"Especially one who is already crazier than a cat lady at the age of 17."
Semaj Booker Grand Theft Autos His Way Across the Country
NOTE: DO NOT TRY THIS. Especially if you're a kid.
According to 9-years-old-at-the-time Semaj Booker, he just really wanted to see his grandpa, who lived in Texas. Semaj was in Tacoma, Washington.
There were probably several ways to accomplish this that would not involve stealing a car and leading police on a high-speed chase. Semaj did not choose any of them.
"Grand theft auto is way cheaper than a Greyhound."
This kid really wanted to see Grandpa. We have no idea what the hell this kid's grandpa had going on, but it must have been a lot more than a Werther's Original or 50 birthday bucks, because little Semaj Booker crushed just about every societal obstacle facing the average grandpa-bound 9-year-old beneath his mighty Heelys.
In January 2007, having tired of fourth grade life in his Tacoma suburb, Semaj Booker decided it was time to take matters into his own Elmer's-stained hands and get himself to Dallas by any means possible. He knew he needed to get to the airport. His first obstacle: Mom wouldn't drive him. So, he stole a car and took off for the airport himself, using the skills he'd learned from video games to speed down State Highway 512.
"We've got a report of a car doing sweet stunt jumps off bridges. Get that daredevil a trophy."
It wasn't too long before the police noticed, and a 90 MPH chase ensued. Luckily for everyone, Semaj must have remembered that in video games, high-speed chases start with police cruisers, escalate to helicopters and end with armored vehicles and the FBI buzzing around like angry hornets, and so he eventually pulled over for the cops. Then he remembered that all those things magically disappear if you drive fast and long enough, and so he took off again, kicking off another high-speed chase, which eventually ended in a miraculously non-fatal way when his engine blew.
Someone mixed up the oil with the coolant again, the little scamp.
The very next day, having been derailed but not deterred, the kid decided the quest for Grandpa's house was still on and hopped a bus to Seattle's airport. He soon hit his second great Kid Wall: He didn't have a plane ticket, nor had he existed long enough to fly unaccompanied without a note from Mom. But right at that moment an airline employee made an announcement over the PA system concerning a lost ticket belonging to a "Frank Williams." Semaj thought fast, approached a ticket agent and told him his last name was Williams. "Frank Williams?" the agent asked.
Ticket in hand, Semaj -- all nine years of him -- got through security and boarded a plane bound for Phoenix. He then transferred over to a plane headed for San Antonio. Grandpa was getting close. He then tried to con his way aboard a third plane headed for the promised land of Dallas, before Southwest employees noticed something was up and contacted Mom.
The grownup world may have put an end to that Grandpa crusade, but not for long: Over the next two years, police ended up having to bring Semaj Booker home another 12 times.
Grandpa must have been watching his war movies lying on a hooker mattress.
The Boy With No Name Sets Up House in an Elevator Shaft
The (Mysteriously) Adorable:
Only so much is known about this little fella. His story appeared in The Milwaukee Journal and The Telegraph Herald in 1982. He ran away at the age of 13, and two years later, he decided he'd had enough of being on the road and wanted to go home to Mom.
The papers refused to name him on account of his age, so we've taken the liberty of just making one up:
Lil' Theodore Putin-MacGyver.
"My teacher says I'm bear-taming at a 12th grade level."
Trust us. It's appropriate.
Most of us had the dream, at some point in our childhoods: setting up camp in some kind of hideaway. Just decking the place out with all manner of cool tricked-out kid conveniences. This kid did that, except he was on the run for two years, and he converted a 5-foot pit at the bottom of a Connecticut apartment complex's elevator shaft into his very own Runaway Kid Bat Cave.
His father had reported the boy missing in 1980, and when they found him two years later, it was as a result of phone calls to the police from suspicious residents in the Crown Court apartment complex in New Haven, Connecticut. There had been reports of petty thefts, a quirky elevator and the mysterious aroma of hot dogs wafting through the air.
The calling card of Lil' Bat-Hobo.
Those residents who didn't realize that all of these things can add up only to a badass runaway kid soon learned their lesson when the police raided the Kid Cave and discovered he'd furnished his elevator pit with, among other things, a bed, lights, a stereo, a tape deck and a CB radio.
The hot dog aroma that the residents noticed? The kid had set up a propane stove, too. How'd he power all this awesomeness, you may be wondering? He'd tapped into the building's emergency power system. "What an irresponsible little brat," you may be saying, "the kid could have burned the entire apartment complex down." Well, he also smuggled a fire extinguisher into the lair.
Responsibly removing it from the burning room in apartment 14.
The malfunctioning elevator the residents were complaining about? Three years before the first episode of MacGyver even aired, this kid had that shit down, rewiring the apartment's elevator so as to be able to control it from his room.
The thefts the residents had been reporting came as a result of the kid having picked the deadbolt locks to the building's parking garage, along with his artful activation and deactivation of alarms so as to avoid detection. This kid operated like a runaway ninja shadow in the night; even the Children and Youth Services officials were impressed by it all, with Department Director Robert L. Budney stating:
"He appeals to the Robin Hood in all of us, I think. He's obviously very street wise, very crafty, very intelligent."
Michael McNamee Crosses the Country at Age 11
In 1953, 11-year-old Michael McNamee was scared to go home on account of a bad report card. Most of us have been there. Maybe you take a chance and use a pen to change that D into a B, or run off to your treehouse hideaway until things blow over.
But little Mikey thought bigger.
Bs are for losers.
"I only had 35 cents in my pocket, but I wasn't worried much," Mikey later told police (an unconfirmed cigarette dangling from his lips), speaking in regards to his hopping a train from San Mateo to Oakland, and then crossing the entire freaking country, ducking train conductors all the way to Chicago.
"Weird. Another train full of dead hobos with child-sized finger bruises on their throats."
Thirty-five cents is equivalent to, what, three bucks in today's currency? Most of us would be worried to leave the house with just three bucks, let alone journey 2,000 miles across the country. His goal was to get to his uncle and aunt's house, which we assume was a report card judgment-free zone.
Man, we really didn't take advantage of all our get-out-of-jail-free years.
As soon as he got to Chicago, he sneaked aboard another train to Springfield, Illinois, where he heard that Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy himself, was playing a show. It was an opportunity too good for any 11-year-old boy in 1953 to pass up. But one that 35 cents couldn't cover, even in Ozzie and Harriet money. So what'd Mikey do? As if this game of report card repercussion outrun wasn't already the most epic in history, Mikey decided to seal his place in the Cracked record books by coolly explaining to the police:
"I didn't have a ticket. But I got in."
Damn right you did, Mikey.
At 13, Bobby Stap Sails to Europe (More than Once)
It's 1938, and 13-year-old New Yorker Bobby Stap just wants to be a sailor man, like his dad, who was a chef for the American Merchant transatlantic steamship line. This kid wants it so bad he can feel the ship rocking: He even has his bedroom decked out like a ship's berth so he can go to sleep at night, visions of seafaring drifting through his head. It's safe to assume his mother had to tell him at least a few times to be patient; there would be plenty of time for sailing once he grew up.
Big mistake. Because one morning, Yvonne Stap woke up to find her little Bobby's bunk was empty.
See, nobody tells Bobby Stap when he can or can't embark on an ocean voyage.
Not even Mom.
"Fuck you, Mom ... blupblupblup."
For a brief period in U.S. history, little Bobby was a actually a celebrity, "America's Kid Stowaway #1-- Bobby Stap, the Incorrigible," and he definitely earned the title. In March of 1938, Bobby slipped away from his home in Queens and onto the Normandie, headed for France. He made it there and back, probably showing back up on his parents' doorstep with a crappy Eiffel Tower souvenir in hand for a peace offering on account of the whole "Look Ma, I ran away to another continent last month, but I'm back now!" thing. But Bobby didn't stop there.
He also got a silly hat and a disdainful attitude.
Almost as soon as he returned from his France jaunt, he ran away again and boarded the Georgic, due for England. The crew found their stowaway midway through that voyage, sending him back to NYC aboard the Queen Mary as soon as they docked. So you'd think that Bobby's wanderlust would have been sated at that point, right? Or at the very least, maybe he'd take a couple days off?
Not little Bobby Stap, who stepped off the Queen Mary's gangplank and greeted his waiting mother with:
"This isn't completely about your terrible nurturing skills, but yeah, you're an awful mother."
And he did: Within 24 hours he was headed for Savannah, Georgia, stowed away aboard the ship City of Chattanooga. When the crew found him that time, they locked him in the ship's brig and began sailing back, contacting the missing persons bureau after docking. Soon after that, he stowed away a fourth time on a Caribbean cruise. At this point, the question on most everybody's mind was: "What the hell do we do with this kid? Besides latch ourselves onto him and see if he can get us to the moon 30 years early." Newspaper columnists were actually weighing in on the Bobby issue in editorials, with at least one making the suggestion that the parents hook the kid up with the Navy and call it a day.
The Navy: We don't card.
After a judge waived the age requirement, Bobby was sent to the New York Merchant Marine School, where he was the youngest of the students preparing for life in the Navy. "This sea business is my second nature," Bobby told a reporter on the cusp of his graduation in September of 1940. "I will be captain of a ship one day. Why, I can be a quartermaster in eight months if we go to war!"
It seemed as though the mini-mariner menace had undergone a magical makeover; his mother was beaming with pride, and little did Bobby know, it wouldn't be much longer before he'd get to actually try his hand at that war thing.
"You know what this war needs more of? Child soldiers."
But the champ stowaway's makeover, like most makeovers, apparently didn't stick for very long: The final mention of Bobby in the papers comes in a July 1942 article reporting his rescue from a torpedoed ship, labeling him an annoyance to the Navy.
Phillip Davidson Traveled the World Before He Could Drive
Though we can't confirm it, we suspect that toddler leashes were inspired by Phillip Davidson. His first runaway attempt was in 1960, at the age of six. Though that first escape bid probably didn't see him getting much farther than the backyard fence, little Phillip wasn't deterred; on the contrary, it only inspired the beginning of a long, long list of voyage objectives.
Doodled in crayon.
In 1971, officials found 16-year-old Phillip Davidson wandering around Tampa International Airport. Which wouldn't be a big deal, if it weren't for the fact that his home was in Coventry.
Immigration authorities didn't know what to make of it. He had no airline ticket; he must have been a stowaway. They questioned him as to how the hell he'd gotten there, but it didn't do much good: The kid told him four different stories. Finally, they gave up and got in contact with his father, who proceeded to explain the entirety of the situation. Since his first escape as a tyke, Phillip Davidson had run away a total of 46 times. Now, we know what you're thinking. "His father must have been the absolute worst person in the world."
Or Harry Houdini.
Well, not exactly. It turned out Phillip's father had recently spent $1,000 to retrieve little Phillip from a land and sea excursion to Switzerland he'd decided to take on a whim. The kid was just a natural born rolling stone, or as Phillip himself eventually confessed to immigration authorities, in what were perhaps the baddest-ass words ever uttered by a runaway kid in the latter half of the 20th century:
"I'm going to flip off a redback."
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For more children that could own you, check out 8 Child Prodigies So Amazing They'll Ruin Your Day and 5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see how else children are making you insignificant.
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