6 Brilliant Ways Hostages Outwitted Their Captors
Let's face it: As much as we like to pretend that we're all Bruce Willis, if faced with a real-life kidnapper, most of us would react by soiling ourselves, begging for our lives and soiling ourselves some more. Since stories about people continuously pissing their pants aren't that unique or interesting, here are the tales of six real badass hostages who not only kept their cool but managed to foil their kidnappings in awesome ways. Like ...
Telling Passengers to Take Down Their Hijacker (Right in Front of Him)
In 2007, a commercial flight from Mauritania in northern Africa to the Canary Islands was hijacked by a man who barged into the cockpit with two loaded handguns soon after taking off. His objective? Turning the plane over to France, where he planned to request political asylum for unknown reasons.
Piloting an airplane is hard enough under non-crazy conditions, so imagine having to do it with a gun pointed at your head and 71 panicking passengers behind you. As if that wasn't enough, at this point the crew informed the pilot that they didn't actually have enough fuel to get to France like the hijacker wanted. Uh-oh.
"And if you look directly behind me, you'll see a man in sore need of an ass-whupping."
But Then ...
As the pilot tried to explain to the hijacker that they couldn't make it to his intended destination, he realized something: The guy didn't speak a word of French. Turning this small fact to his advantage, the pilot took the PA system and calmly informed the passengers, in French, that they would be making a rough landing ... and that as soon as the hijacker lost his balance from the impact, they should feel free to come into the cockpit and beat the shit out of him. As the pilot said this, the hijacker stood right next to him, assuming that he was just relaying his demands or talking about normal airplane stuff.
"Nah, I was just telling them how honored I am to be hijacked by a man as cool and awesome as you."
Women and children were instructed to move to the seats in the back, partly for their own safety, and partly so that those who could deal the most damage were closer to the front. And then the pilot did exactly what he said: Upon landing the plane, he slammed on the brakes and abruptly sped up, causing the hijacker to fall down and drop his guns. Then about 10 passengers immediately rushed in and overpowered him as crew members poured boiling hot water over his body.
Eventually, after the passengers were done using him as a hacky sack, the hijacker was handed over to Spanish authorities. Why the genius chose France above all other countries when he didn't even have a basic understanding of the language, we may never know.
Probably because of all the weird French sex.
Retired Tarzan Actor Disarms Cuban Rebels by Doing the Yell
In 1958, a group of Americans staying at the Hilton Havana in Cuba were playing a golf tournament when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by rebel soldiers pointing guns at them. As you probably know, Cuba was in the middle of a bloody anti-imperialist revolution, but apparently the golfers never got the memo.
Obviously, the rebels didn't exactly look kindly on a bunch of wealthy capitalists who still thought of Cuba as America's playground, and began interrogating the golfers one by one, with their guns still very much pointed at their decadent captives.
Hey, if you have to pick some people to blame for the problems of the West, golfers aren't a bad place to start.
But Then ...
What the rebels didn't know was that one of those golfers was 54-year-old actor Johnny Weissmuller, best known for dressing in nothing but loincloths and swinging on vines. In the '30s and '40s, Weissmuller starred as Tarzan in 12 films and is to this day the best known actor to have played the role. When the hostile soldiers approached him, Weissmuller confidently said, "Me Tarzan" ... to which the rebels responded, "Huh?" Turns out that "Tarzan" is pronounced completely differently in Spanish (it's more like "Tar-zaan").
"Taar-zan," meanwhile, means "Screw your mother with a blowtorch, you commie piece of shit."
Since they clearly weren't getting the message, and for some reason still convinced that his celebrity status could save him from captivity or death, Weissmuller stood up to his full height, beat his chest with his fists and let out the trademarked Tarzan yell that he single-handedly popularized. In the middle of a golf course, with Cuban rebels pointing guns at him. At which point the rebels collectively shat their pants.
Seriously. Star struck, the rebels put down their guns and proceeded to freak the hell out, yelling "Tarzan! Tarzan!" and "Welcome to Cuba!" Apparently their anti-capitalist sentiment stopped at Hollywood movies. They not only released Weissmuller and his fellow golfers completely unharmed, but actually escorted them back to their hotel.
We like to imagine that Weissmuller was doing this the entire ride back.
Of course none of that would have worked if the bad guys had been intentionally trying to capture a celebrity, as in this next example ...
Kidnapped Supremes Singer Says "Screw This," Jumps Out of Speeding Car
If it's the '60s and you're gonna kidnap a member of Motown sensation the Supremes, the obvious choice would be Diana Ross, since we're pretty sure she's the only one the average person could name (the others were replaced more often than the drummer in Spinal Tap). Kidnapper Charles Collier apparently decided that that would take way too much work and instead went for the much lesser known but awesomely named Cindy Birdsong.
On December 2, 1969, Birdsong was opening the door to her Hollywood apartment when a crazed Collier jumped on her with a butcher knife and shoved her into the passenger seat of her car. Collier then took her on a terrifying joyride along the Long Beach Freeway -- Birdsong knew she had to get away from him as fast as possible, but what the hell could she do, jump out?
We try to base most of our life decisions on what would make a better metal album cover.
But Then ...
Well, yeah. After being forced to spend 30 minutes in the man's company, Birdsong couldn't take one more second of it and reached for his knife, cutting her hands in the process. Since this clearly wasn't working out, she went to plan B: She unlocked the car door, opened it and jumped out of a speeding vehicle in the middle of a freeway. As a general rule, if you do that and the impact doesn't kill you, the other cars probably will (it was nighttime by now, by the way).
And they were all traveling at the speed of light.
Birdsong survived the fall, coming to a stop at the end of a ditch. Injured and bloodied, she got up and did her third crazy thing in less than a minute: She headed back to the freeway and started running in the opposite direction of the cars, determined to make it as hard as possible for Collier to circle back and collect her. She waved at the coming cars, but none of them stopped once they got a close enough look to see she that wasn't Diana Ross. Luckily, two highway patrolmen happened to be passing by, and they sort of have to stop in these situations.
"Ma'am, do you know how fast you were running?"
After all that, Birdsong was only treated for minor cuts and bruises. Figuring she had to be some sort of supernatural being for walking away from that, the kidnapper turned himself in a few days later.
Hostage Escapes from Kidnappers by Dragging an Entire Bed Down the Street
In January of 1986, Mohammed Sadiq al Tajir was walking to his home in London when he was taken hostage by four guys. Turns out Tajir was the brother of billionaire Mohammed Mahdi al Tajir, the Arab ambassador in London, and the son of two people who are really into the name Mohammed. The kidnappers asked $71.5 million for Tajir's return, and in the meantime chained him by his arms and legs to a bed in a windowless room.
After being kept drugged and blindfolded for 10 days, Tajir woke up one morning to find a note that promised he would be released soon, but also that they would totally kill him if he screamed for help. Tajir, still chained to the bed, obeyed his kidnappers' orders and just laid there in silence. He'd waited almost two weeks to be released, what difference did one more day make?
And the cuffs were comfortable enough, if a bit sticky.
But Then ...
A few hours later, Tajir said, "OK, screw this," and just got up and walked out of the room ... with the bed still behind him. Completely ignoring the "We're gonna kill you if you make any noise" part of the letter, Tajir managed to drag the bed down the stairs, through the front door of the house and down the streets of the South London suburb where he was being kept. Tajir knocked on the door of the nearest house: The woman who lived there later said, "To my astonishment when I opened the door, I saw a fine-looking gentleman in pajamas padlocked to a bed."
We don't actually care what it really looked like -- this is how it appears in our heads.
Once the cops freed him from the bed, Tajir found out that his brother, one of the richest men in the world, had spent the past week talking down his ransom from $71.5 million to $3 million, which he'd paid to the kidnappers the day before ... so, apparently, they were being honest when they said they'd release him soon, and he'd risked his life for nothing. Still, at least he had the satisfaction of depriving them of a perfectly good bed.
Canopy and all.
Kidnapped Bus Driver Hulks Out, Saves 26 Schoolchildren
Kidnapping a bus full of schoolchildren sounds like something that could only happen in movies, because who would be horrible (and cliched) enough to actually do it? The answer is Frederick Woods, James Schoenfeld and Richard Schoenfeld, three armed men who in 1976 stopped a school bus in Chowchilla, California, and took 26 children and one driver as hostages. Also, this happened in the middle of July, which means that on top of everything, these kids were being forced to go to summer school.
Forever remembered by the kids as "Oh This Is Some Bullshit Right Here" Day.
As the kidnappers tried to figure out what to do next and how to spend the $5 million they planned to demand from the 26 families, they forced the kids and the driver into a moving van buried in the middle of nowhere, closing off the top with no way for them to get out.
But Then ...
Even though the kidnappers had threatened him with guns, bus driver Ed Ray wasn't impressed. He had more pressing matters on his mind: It was his job to get these 26 children back home, and he wasn't gonna let being buried in some damn hole several miles away from the middle of nowhere stop him from doing that. Ray looked around: The only thing he had to work with as a means of escape were a pile of (hopefully unsoiled) mattresses inside the cramped van.
It was either using them to escape or eating them over the next week.
Ray and some of the older kids stacked the mattresses up and reached the top ... only to find the entrance blocked by a few hundred-pound car batteries the kidnappers had dickishly put there as extra insurance. Through sheer force of will, the 55-year-old driver managed to lift off the batteries while balancing himself on an unstable pile of 14 mattresses, then helped the kids exit their underground prison one by one and guided them to safety.
Soon, the kids were back with their parents, but by then the kidnappers had realized what had happened and were long gone. That's when Ed Ray, the most overqualified school bus driver, stepped in again: Through hypnosis, Ray remembered the license plate of the kidnappers' vehicle and put the douchebags in jail.
"I only did that because my therapist said there was no way to deliver a drop-kick via hypnosis."
Captured Journalist Escapes the Taliban by Playing Parcheesi
In November of 2008, New York Times reporter David Rohde was in Kabul researching a book about American involvement in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped by the Taliban (that's why we do all our research on Google). Rohde, his translator and their driver were held captive just over the border of Pakistan as their kidnappers made outrageous demands to the U.S., like releasing all remaining Taliban prisoners or paying tens of millions of dollars as ransom.
After seven months of being constantly threatened with death by bearded men carrying rocket launchers, the whole situation was starting to get a little old for Rohde and his translator (the driver was suffering from a serious case of Stockholm syndrome and had started carrying an assault rifle). Unfortunately, it didn't look like it was going to end in a good way.
It's the ones in the fake beards you have to watch. They're already angry about that whole beard thing.
But Then ...
In June of 2009, Rohde and his partner formed an ingenious plan to escape -- and by ingenious we mean so improbable and foolish that the translator himself described it as a "suicide mission." Step 1 in Operation "Let's Get the Hell Out of Here" was simple enough: Parcheesi. Just play lots and lots of games of Parcheesi so the guards get bored and fall asleep.
"I saw this on Bugs Bunny once. Trust me."
Shockingly, it worked: Rohde's translator kept the guards up late playing "checkah" (a version of Parcheesi played in Pakistan) in order to tire them. Once the guards were fast asleep, the two hostages slipped away from the Taliban complex by climbing over a five-foot wall using a rope they'd stashed some days earlier. Then came the second step in their plan, called running like hell.
They weren't out of the woods yet, though: Once they had managed to reach a Pakistani army base, they were mistaken for Taliban suicide bombers and almost shot on sight. After clearing up the wacky misunderstanding, Rohde was allowed to call home and was soon back in the U.S. Meanwhile, the Taliban have declared a jihad on Parcheesi and all board games, but we're actually pretty OK with that.
When not stumbling blindly through the Internet, Evan V. Symon can be found on Facebook.
For more total badassery, check out 6 Real Acts of Self Defense Too Awesome for an Action Movie and 6 Insane True Stories Too Awesome for a Chuck Norris Movie.