The Great Escapes: The Boldest Prison Escapes

Great prison escapes are the stuff of legend. They’ve been fictionalized and chronicled in movies for as long as we can remember, and today’s audience is hungry for the wildest, most daring stories that can be found.

Most of the time, prison dramas that involve escapes are fictionalized, but there are tons of real-life stories out there that are legitimately stranger than fiction. Here are some of the world’s boldest and most daring prison escapes.

Stalag Luft III POW Camp (The Great Escape)

Stalag Luft III was a prisoner of war camp first established by German military forces in 1942 to house Allied soldiers captured during the Second World War. The camp was built on sandy soil specifically so prisoners could not tunnel out, but in 1943, there was a massive prison escape organized by three British officers, who proposed to get up to 200 men out by digging three massive tunnels that they nicknamed Tom, Dick, and Harry.

After years of work and massive efforts on the parts of hundreds of men, 76 men crawled to freedom on March 25, 1944. The 77th man was spotted crawling out of the tunnel, and he surrendered. 50 of the 76 men to escape were shot, and most of the rest were returned to the Stalag Luft camp or sent to another concentration camp. Three men successfully escaped alive.


1962 Escape from Alcatraz

One of the most spectacular prison escapes of all time was the legendary 1962 Alcatraz prison break. This event was one of the only prison breaks where the escapees were never found, leading most people to believe that they were successful.

The men who dreamed up the escape were Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris, who escaped via an unused utility corridor after tucking heads made from papier-mâché into their beds to fool the guards. Then, they boarded an inflatable raft — they used Morris’s concertina to help inflate the raft quickly — and aimed the boat towards Angel Island, which lay two miles to the north. Although the FBI found shredded bits of lifejacket, a paddle, and one of the men’s wallets, they were never seen or heard from again.

Frank Abagnale

One man whose story you’re probably familiar with already is Frank Abagnale, widely considered one of the greatest impostors of all time, whose story was told in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Abagnale, who now works as a financial fraud consultant, spent much of his early life posing as a physician, a pilot, and even a lawyer. He escaped police custody twice — the second time was when he was awaiting trial in Atlanta. He posed as an undercover prison inspector and used an accomplice on the outside posing as an FBI agent to convince the guards that he was doing a prison inspection. After a few weeks, they let him walk right out of the prison, and he was only caught when he accidentally walked by an undercover police car a few weeks later.

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