The Four Craziest Prison Escapes In U.S. History That Give 'Shawshank' A Run For Its Money
The search for two convicted murderers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York continued for the 20th day Thursday. Richard Matt and David Sweat allegedly sawed their way out of their cells, crept through a pipe, and crawled up and out of a manhole, only to disappear from officials, according to NBC News. Two employees at the Dannemora prison have since been arrested for allegedly giving the killers tools to help them escape. Matt and Sweat's escape, though, isn't the craziest or most inventive that the prison system has ever heard of. There's a long list of crazy prison escape stories throughout history that show you just how badly some prisoners want their freedom.
The Hollywood movie escape in The Shawshank Redemption was one thing, but Matt and Sweat's plan was pretty sophisticated. The pair used power tools, allegedly given to them by a prison employee, to cut through the walls of their cells. They then shimmied through an underground steam pipe, according to NBC. They even left a taunting note that said, "Have a nice day," according to investigators, and have since been on the run.
But using tools and getting all the work done in one day makes this prison escape sound simple. The craziest prison escape stories often didn't happen in a day. Rather, inmates often planned them for months to make sure that nothing could go wrong. Some of them successfully disappeared, while others were recaptured, but here are four crazy prison escape stories that actually happened in real life.
Tunneling Out Of Libby Prison
During the Civil War, the Confederate Army ran Libby Prison out of Richmond, Virginia. In January 1864, some of the prisoners began devising an elaborate escape plan. A prisoner who had once been a mason took apart a fireplace and created a passage to a cellar, which was closed off because it was infested with rats. Every night, the soldiers would climb down to the rat-infested cellar and dig a tunnel with pocket knives. They would put the fireplace back together during the day and carried the dirt out of the cellar with frying pans. In February of 1864, 109 Union soldiers escaped through the 53-foot tunnel, and more than half made it all the way back across Union lines without being captured. Pocket knives as shovels! That's commitment.
The Only Successful Alcatraz Escape
During the 29 years that Alcatraz operated, there were about 14 escape attempts made by inmates. All but one were unsuccessful. In 1962, in the most famous escape attempt from Alcatraz, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin left dummies in their beds, dug themselves out of their cells, climbed to the top of the cell block, cut through bars to climb through an air vent all the way to the roof, and climbed down a drain pipe and over a chain-link fence. When they made it to shore, they allegedly assembled a pontoon-type raft and casted off into the San Francisco Bay. They disappeared, and many people believe that they died in the bay. Some of their letters and parts of their raft were found on the nearby Angel Island. I guess we'll never really know what happened. *Mysterious music*
The Great Escape From Stalag Luft III
During World War II, a large group of prisoners staged an escape from Stalag Luft III through tunnels, a story that inspired the film The Great Escape. The prison was built to be escape-proof. German soldiers even planted seismographs in the ground to detect the sounds of tunneling. Prisoners dug three tunnels that they named Tom, Dick, and Harry, which they dug using tin cans and wood from their beds to keep them from collapsing. Roger Bushell, a Royal Air Force Squadron Leader, was the mastermind behind the tunnels, which somehow had electric lighting, a railroad, and a ventilation system. Legend has it they snuck the extra dirt out (here's the Shawshank stuff) in their pants and scattered it across the prison grounds as inconspicuously as they could. On March 24, 1944, 76 of the prisoners crawled through Harry seeking freedom. Only three made it out alive. The rest of the group were either shot on orders from the Nazi guard or were captured and sent to concentration camps.
The Texas Seven & John B. Connally Prison
In a prison break that led to one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history, seven inmates at a maximum security prison in Kenedy, Texas, forced their way out and went on a crime spree from San Antonio to Dallas. The seven men, who included two convicted murderers, were led by George Rivas, 30 at the time, who was serving 18 consecutive life sentences for burglary and kidnapping. The team overpowered two guards and eight maintenance men in small numbers until they had them all tied up and locked in a utility closet. They stole the maintenance workers' clothing and truck keys and then fooled several other guards into letting them take weapons from a watchtower. Of course, they tied up those guards, too, and then went on their crime spree. They were all eventually caught. One killed himself before being captured, three remain in prison today, and three, including Rivas, were executed.
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