As long as there have been prisons, there have been prisoners trying to escape. From tunnels to helicopters, it’s amazing what people come up to escape the clink. And while there’s plenty of great prison break stories out there, we put together a list that’s almost criminal. (Yeah, we went there.) Here are 25 Unbelievable Prison Escapes That Actually Worked.
Henri Charrière, nicknamed “Papillon,” was a french writer and convict. He wrote the autobiography Papillon about his escape attempts from several European prisons over his lifetime before escaping once last time and becoming a citizen of Venezuela. Critics have insisted that most of what he wrote about probably didn’t all happen to him and were likely stories he heard while in prison.
Serving consecutive life sentences for walking into a school cafeteria, shooting and killing three students, T.J. Lane was not put in a maximum security prison – a big mistake. Using wood from cabinets, he built a 13-foot ladder with two other inmates, climbed up to a roof, and jumped down fifteen feet, breaking out of the prison. However, they didn’t make it too far and were all captured within nine hours.
The Texas Seven
The Texas Seven were a group of convicts in a Texas maximum security prison that broke out. Overpowering employees and security guards in the maintenance shop, they stole a bunch of supplies and took off. A massive manhunt ensued but they remained without capture for over a year, robbing stores, killing more people, and creating all kinds of chaos. In 2001, they were on America’s Most Wanted, and after seeing the episode, a man tipped off the police where the men were hiding out, leading to their arrest.
The Alcatraz Escape
Alcatraz is perhaps the most famous maximum security prison in American history and in its entire lifetime only one recorded prison break had ever successfully been completed, and we’re using the word “successful” loosely. Clarence and John Anglin and Frank Morris methodically planned out their escape, creating dummies, building rafts, and digging holes using materials found all over the prison. In the summer of 1962, the men escaped without detection, crossing with their raft over to Angel Island. Prison guards didn’t notice they were gone until that morning. A massive search went underway, but all they found was a boat paddle and Anglin’s wallet wrapped in plastic. Whether or not they made it out alive is up for speculation, but many believe there’s enough evidence to prove they were successful.
The Greek Robin Hood
During the Greek economic crisis, Vassilis Palaiokostas thought the banks were responsible for their greed and corruption. He decided to make them pay. Robbing millions of Euros from banks and then handing all the money out to the needy, he became known as the “Greek Robin Hood,” but of course it caught up with him. In 2006, he was convicted of robbery and kidnapping and sent to serve a life in prison. While in prison, he hired a few men to hijack a helicopter, fly into the prison, and get him out. It worked. After being recaptured 2 years later, he was sent back to prison, but that didn’t last long. In 2009, he escaped again by helicopter. He’s still at large, known as an uncatchable folk hero.