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Top 10 Real Life Prison Escapes in History

When you hear about prison escapes you think, oh this is the stuff of movies and television. Well, I am here to tell you, you are wrong. Often times the entertainment industry takes inspiration from real life incidents, and sometimes real life is way ahead of the reel life.

Here are a few escape incidents that you may find interesting.

#10. The Sobibor Escape

prison escape

Image Source: flickr.com

Sobibor Extermination camp was one of the three camps set up by the Nazis in the parts of eastern Poland.  It was highly secured, as in laid with landmines on the outskirts so that no prisoner could escape, and if they did the prisoners inside were exterminated. Only people safe for a little time were the worker Jews. But that changed when the Nazis started shutting down the barbaric camps one by one. That was when a group of workers decided to hatch a plan to escape. Long story short, out of 550 prisoners, 400 managed to seize the opportunity and only 58 of those 400 escaped and survived the manhunt and slaughter that followed.

#9. Billy Hayes and the midnight express

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Billy Hayes’ real life experience was adapted into a Hollywood film, the Midnight Express. But people who know the popular version of his story don’t know that a few things were altered to make the movie entertaining. Nevertheless, the story is true. Billy Hayes was caught leaving Instanbul with hash in 1970 after successfully smuggling hash from Turkey to America three times previously. Life was great for him in the 60’s and so was his love for Istanbul. But that changed (not his love for the city) when he was caught at the airport and thrown into a shady prison. He escaped to Greece using the money his father sent (hidden in the spine of a book) to bribe the prison doctor (which was also changed in the film- he did not actually kill a prison guard). And the infamous lines from the movie, not true at all.

#8. Alfred Hinds

Alfred George Hinds, a criminal, an escape artist. Born in London in 1917, he grew up as an orphan and started his stealing habit pretty early in his childhood. His first prison escape in 1955 earned him the name “Houdini” Hinds when he unlocked the door, climbed a 20-foot wall and escaped. He was arrested after a few months and then filed a case against the officers who arrested him. In the court on one of his hearings he managed to lock the prison escorts and escape but was arrested after 5 hours. And guess what comes next: another successful escape attempt from the Chelmsford Prison. He then used his knowledge of law to petition his case and walked free, legally, after a few trials.

#7. Pascal Payet- The Helicopter Heist

Convicted a couple of times before his 1997 arrest in France, nobody could have imagined that Pascal Payet had Hollywood-like idea of escape in his mind. In 2001 he planned his escape from the prison he was kept in. he escaped using a hijacked helicopter! What!?! He was arrested again but in 2003 he used the same trick to escape and took a few friends with him.

#6. Frank Abagnale- the Hollywood Inspiration

Frank W. Abagnale in 2008
Remember the movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio? It was a movie based on the life of a man named Frank Abagnale, Jr. Almost all of the events shown in the movie were true. And believe it or not, the first person he conned was his own father. He was apprehended later and escaped while he was being deported to the U.S. he almost had it when he was caught by a constable and was later handed to the U.S. Border Patrol.

#5. El Chapo

El Chapo

Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera who is commonly known as “El Chapo”, (which literally translates into “shorty” on account of his short height), is the biggest drug lord of all time. He was first captured in June of 1993 and escaped in the beginning of 2001. He managed to stay on the run for the next 13 years and was captured for the second time in February 2014 only to escape in July of 2015. This time he only managed to hide for a few months and was captured on January 8th, 2016.

#4. John Gerard and his escape from the Tower of London

John Gerard was a Jesuit Priest on a mission when he was arrested by the authorities and tortured brutally so that he would give up the names of other wanted men. He never broke because he did not want others to suffer. He escaped the tower of London on 4 October 1594 with the help of a few friends when he successfully climbed down a rope, enduring pain his mangled hands caused, and continued his mission and even wrote a book about his ordeals.

#3. The Escape of Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba

These two escapees are the reason hundred thousand Hungarian Jews survived the death they were fated for during the 2nd world war. They worked as registrars in the Auschwitz death camp and memorized the number of killings in the camp from 1942 to 1944. They collected all the data required to file a report and then planned an escape. The Vrba-Wetzler report, seen by the allied forces, was proof enough to stop the cruelty Hitler had planned.

#2. The Alcatraz Escape

Inspiration of the 1973 film “Escape from Alcatraz”, this real life incident is no less dramatic and suspenseful. In the night of 11 June or early morning of 12 June in 1962, three inmates from Alcatraz did something that nobody till then or since then has ever been able to do: escaped the most high security prison in the world, surrounded on all sides by the sea. They tucked dummy heads made of paper machete and snuck out through an unused corridor which was never supervised. The fate of these men never came into light and despite all the search and manhunt, nobody was found.

#1. The Great Escape

The escape of the prisoners of war from the German camp Stalag Luft III, is forever dubbed the great escape. This German POW camp was considered the most secure camp and it took a lot of planning and digging for the prisoners to escape. The inside story was written into a book which was later made into a movie, both name “The Great Escape”, thus immortalizing this escape forever.

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