On some of the craziest prison escapes of all-time

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of Unsolved Mysteries — Robert Stack’s voice alone was absolutely terrifying — and frequently, that show would have prison escape stories. In fact, here’s a summary of one. So when news broke that four Oklahoma inmates escaped — via the shower, no less — I was intrigued. As I begin to write this post, two of them have been caught; probably the greatest line in that article is that upon entering a store, the two were eventually caught bought Ramen and asked for lotto tickets. Seriously think this to yourself: if you had been incarcerated for X-amount of time and knew Y-amount of time remained, and suddenly you were free, what would you ask for at a store first? I actually think that should be used as an interview question, you know, provided it didn’t require the context of a potential future employee being imprisoned. I feel like your answer says a lot about you in some ways.

Considering that the U.S. peaked at about 1.6 million prisoners in 2009 (it’s somewhere between 1.2 and 1.5 million right now, in all likelihood), the amount of escapes really isn’t that high — but it does happen more than you might think. Just a couple of days before this Oklahoma story, there was this situation in Florida. Around the same time, a mail fraud convictee escaped from federal custody.In general, prison escapes are thought to be on the decline; that’s saying something, because as of 2001, it was only about 1/2 of 1 percent of “gen pop.”

There are some notable prison escapes over time, essentially beginning and ending with the only “successful” Alcratraz one:

The Texas Seven is another big one, and one of the greatest victories for America’s Most Wanted at the time:

Cracked has this list, which can lead you to this fairly cool story about ‘the French Ocean’s 11.’  A website called CorrectionsOne has another list, which features home-made nunchuks, undie runs, and literal human trash. There’s an entire list of helicopter prison escapes online, an Arkansas man named Derick Estell simply jumped through a window to escape, and a French gangster used explosives and hostages for his effort. This shower stuff in Oklahoma is fairly tame by comparison. Here’s video of the Estell escape. It’s pretty amazing if you really think about it (Estell was caught):

Here’s a solid list of prison escapes, and here’s an interesting fact: in some areas, it’s not going to get you any time added (assuming you don’t commit other crimes along the way) because the human instinct is to be free. While Googling around about these topics, I came across this story about “the smoothest con man who ever lived.” It’s worth a read. Also note this insane helicopter escape story out of Greece, as well as this one (er, also from Greece).

Figure I’d end with this — “The Man No Jail Can Hold” (he’s since been caught too):

Ted Bauer