Stories of prisons purporting to be inescapable have dotted human history since jails were invented. That is the purpose of incarceration after all; to keep the prisoner
10. Clarence and John Anglin
In perhaps one of the most famous prison breaks of all time, this pair of brothers broke out of the infamous Alcatraz jail in 1962. They were the only ones to have ever successfully done so. Alcatraz was seen as inescapable, primarily due to the fact that it was off the shore in San Francisco bay. According to old records and new evidence shared in a recent History Channel documentary, it does appear that the duo did manage to survive their escape. They were able to craft tools out of benign items available throughout the prison. Using their tools they chiseled at their cell walls to create an opening which led to a ventilation shaft that went up to the roof. From there they scaled down the building and walked around the entire perimeter of the island, to avoid detection by the guard tower. Once at the other side of the island they hid under a dock and tied a rope to the rudder of the last employee shuttle boat to leave the island that night. They were then casually dragged back to the mainland where an awaiting boat was reported seen. It’s been speculated solidly that the brothers lived the rest of their days comfortably on a farm in Brazil.
9. Dieter Dengler
Dieter Dengler was an American Naval pilot who was shot down when on a mission during the Vietnam War. He was captured by the Viet Cong and confined in a jungle POW prison camp. Fortunately for him though, he was somewhat of an accomplished escape artist. He had successfully escaped every makeshift prison during his basic training exercises. In 1966, he was able to free himself from his restraints and flee from a prison camp. Although not undetected, he did get away successfully only after killing three guards that night. He was eventually rescued by helicopter and although, in a very weak state of dehydration, he did survive. Dengler was not a criminal, however, his successful prison escape surely deserves mention due to its merits alone.
8. Pascal Payet
Third time’s a charm. Pascal Payet, a French national, previously escaped incarceration in 2001 while serving time for murder. While on the run in 2003 he went back to the very same prison, Luynes prison in the south of France, to orchestrate a successful helicopter rescue of fellow inmates. Payet was eventually captured again in 2007 but his imprisonment was short lived. He managed yet another helicopter escape in 2007 at the age of 43. His accomplices hijacked a helicopter from a French airport and forced the pilot to land in the yard of Grasse prison. Payet boarded the escape craft and they all flew 24 miles to the southern coast where the pilot was released unharmed. Payet is still a free man and makes our list of criminals who escaped and were never found.
7. Omid Tahvili
Another fugitive and prison escapee that is still on the run today is Omid Tahvili. In 2007, Omid managed to escape from a maximum security prison in British Columbia, Canada. A prison guard by the name of Edwin Ticne assisted in his escape in return for $50,000. For his role and stupidity, he received his own sentence of three years in jail. For the province of British Columbia, it marked the first time ever that a prison guard was charged in aiding in a prisoner escape. With Ticne’s help, the convict essentially just walked out the front door of the prison, North Fraser Pretrial Centre. Tahvili was reported to be a member of Iranian organized crime in Canada and was convicted of kidnapping and assault. He’s wanted in the United States for telemarketing fraud to the tune of $3 million. He is still at large and on the FBI’s most wanted list.
6. Franz Von Werra
A Swiss-born Nazi in WWII, Von Werra was a fighter pilot and top performer for the Nazi air force. In 1940, his plane was shot down over England during a bombing raid and he was captured. He was taken to a prison camp in Canada in 1941 but managed to escape and evade recapture. The moment he arrived it was reported that he plotted an escape to the United States because, at the time, it was still a neutral country in the war. After making it out of Canada, he then traveled on to Mexico and South America where he was able to secure transport to Spain and back to Germany. Upon his return, he was named a war hero and was awarded the prestigious title. Von Werra was assigned to improve prisoner interrogation tactics because of his experience as a prisoner himself. He also went on several more bombing raids against the Russians until one fateful day in October 1941, when on a training flight his craft crashed landed in the North Sea and he was killed.
5. William Maxwell
A Catholic noble, William Maxwell, in 1715 became involved in the Jacobite rebellion in England. This was the unsuccessful rebellion which spanned 1688 to 1746 that sought to return to the throne of England the ousted last Catholic British monarch. Maxwell, the 5th Earl of Nithsdale, was locked up in the Tower of London. He was guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Maxwell’s wife, Lady Nithsdale, visited him in London before his scheduled execution in 1716. She brought along several of her handmaidens and managed to sneak in an additional set of women’s clothing. The Earl of Nithsdale donned the maiden garb and handily walked out of the jail with his wife. He subsequently fled England while masquerading as a Venetian ambassador’s servant. The Earl sought refuge in Rome. His Lady Nithsdale, fearing her own life now in jeopardy, later joined her husband in Rome.
4. George Wright
At the tender age of 19, Wright and three others went on an armed robbery streak in Ashbury Park, New Jersey. During one particular robbery, a WWII veteran was killed by the group. He was arrested in 1963 and received 15-30 years for his part in the murder. Wright was shipped off to Leesburg State Prison in New Jersey. Seven years into his sentence, recognizing the gaps in prison security, Wright was simply able to walk out the front gates and steal the prison warden’s car. On the run and while in Detroit, Michigan, Wright decided to join the Black Liberation Army. Along with other accomplices, he then went on to high jack a commercial airliner. Delta Air Line Flight 841, traveling to Miami, never made its destination. While dressed as a priest, Wright pulled out a gun from a hollowed out bible and seized the plane. They refueled in Boston and then left to Algeria, where they were allowed to land. After 41 years, the FBI was able to locate Wright living in Lisbon, Portugal. Local authorities arrested him, however, they refused to extradite him to the United Status as he was now a Portuguese citizen and had not committed any crime in Portugal. Wright remains free to this day.
3. Maze Prison Escape
The largest prison escape in British history occurred on September 5, 1983. Prisoners, who were also members of the Irish Republican Army and residents of H-Block 7 made their escape. There were 38 IRA members involved in the prison break. Their plan was simple; use brute force. They attacked and overpowered the guards and stole their guns. Piling into a supply truck, they drove off the property. Of the 38, roughly half were recaptured while the other half fled to the United States and lived as fugitives. In 2000, the British government extended an olive branch by formally granting amnesty to the remaining fugitives. The infamous Maze prison was officially closed later that year.
2. Vassilis Paleokostas
Known to the people of Greece as the Greek Robin Hood, Paleokostas is a convicted bank robber. He is well known for giving away his stolen loot to the general public. For a long time, it was believed that he was uncatchable, however in 2000, he was sent to prison for kidnapping. In a dramatic helicopter rescue, he escaped prison in 2006. The aircraft, landing in the prison yard, fooled the staff into believing inspection officials had arrived. After finding his freedom, it was short lived as yet again he was arrested and sent to jail. But once more he was able to pull off another helicopter prison break. Since his latest escape, he’s returned to robbing banks and sharing with the people in true Robin Hood fashion and continues to remain at large.
1. Assata Shakur
JoAnne Deborah Byron, AKA Assata Shakur, was born in 1947 in New York. She was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. She was suspected of several crimes spanning 1971-1973. After a multi-state manhunt, culminating in a shoot-out with a New Jersey state trooper who was killed, Shakur was apprehended. For several years, she was in and out of the courtroom until being convicted of murder in 1977. In 1979 in Union, New Jersey, she was freed from prison by several other inmates who took a guard hostage and secured a getaway van for her to make her escape. After several years on the run, Assata fled to Cuba and was granted political asylum in 1984. She currently still resides a free woman, in Cuba to this day. In 2005, the FBI proclaimed her to be a domestic terrorist and in 2013 added her to their most wanted terrorist list.