Located in San Fransisco Bay, the small island that came to be known as “The Rock” has come to be one of the most infamous prisons in American history. For many years, it housed notorious criminals like Al Capone, Robert Stroud, and several other almost-mythic figures. Here’s everything you never knew about the bone-chilling and isolating island of “Alcatraz, the federal prison with a name like the blare of a trombone, is a black molar in the jawbone."
35 Things You Never Knew About AlcatrazPublished 1 month ago
During the 29 years that the prison was in operation, there were no known successful escape attempts. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. In total, there were 36 men that tried to escape from the island prison, and 23 of them were recaptured. So what happened to the rest of them?
Six were shot and killed while trying to make an escape, and five were listed as missing on the official record. They were assumed to have drowned, but that might not be the case. If you’re one for rooting for an unlikely story, these five men are your hope that there just may have been a successful escape from the famed prison. But it wasn't just awful prison life that drove the inmates to desperately seeks a way out, other gruesome mysteries happened there.
Alcatraz is one of the most haunted prisons in the US. Even before the island became a prison, Native American workers reported that they had encountered evil spirits on the island. Mark Twain wrote about the island, describing it as “being as cold as winter, even in the summer months.”
Although he may have been using a healthy dose of poetic license, it does seem like the type of place to give one the creeps all year around. There have been multiple reports of ghost activity in the prison over the years, but many officials write these off as nonsense.
Paranormal activity is often associated with the creepy island prison, but could there be some truth to the tales? In 1940, there was an inmate that screamed all night, saying that there was something with glowing eyes trying to kill him.
In the morning when guards entered cell 14D (where this man had been staying), he was dead. It seemed that he had been strangled to death, but by what remains unknown as it didn’t appear to be done by the inmate himself. After his death, guards often claimed that they saw his ghost standing in line while they were doing headcounts. So the stories could be true after all. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, we hope we never come into contact with the glowing-eyed ghost of Alcatraz.
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a strictly all-male prison. This meant that no females were ever incarcerated on the island. But prisoners were not the only ones with gender requirements to be sent to Alcatraz.
No guards, administrators or anyone else ever hired to work on Alcatraz was a female. This meant that many of the prisoners went more than 20 years without ever hearing a female’s voice. The environment created on Alcatraz was completely different to that of any other mainland prison.
Being an outcast of society to the point of being sent to an isolated island prison must have been a mentally challenging fact to accept. And it did do damage to many of the prisoners that called Alcatraz home for a period of time.
Many of the prisoners became insane, to the point of self-mutilating and attempting suicide. One prisoner managed to chop off every single one of the fingers on his left hand. Another attempted to kill himself by slitting his throat with a pair of eyeglasses. His suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but he was later killed while trying to escape the island. It doesn’t sound like a very pleasant place, having driven so many over the edge.
It might surprise you that even the notorious criminals incarcerated at Alcatraz had visitation rights. But they were infrequent and very closely monitored. Prisoners were allowed to have a warden-approved visitor once a month.
When the visitor arrived, they weren’t allowed to touch the prisoner, and all conversations were monitored by the guards. They weren’t allowed to speak about current events, or prison life, which left little on the table to talk about. If they didn’t stick to these rules to the tee, they were banned from receiving visitors ever again. It seems harsh, but that’s the way things were run at Alcatraz.
“Creepy Karpis” was a nickname given to Alvin Francis Karpowics who acted as the face of the Barker Gang. He was one of the most famed criminals during the Depression era and was named “Creepy Karpis” because of his smile - it could send chills down anyone’s spine. A good quality to have when you’re a notorious villain.
Alvin Francis Karpowicz wasn’t the worst criminal to enter through the doors of Alcatraz, but he did serve the longest tenure at the infamous prison. He spent 25 years serving time at the isolated island prison before it closed its doors for good. He was then transported inland to serve the rest of his sentence elsewhere. He was known by the FBI as “Public Enemy No. 1”, and was deported to his home country of Canada as soon as his prison time was up. Although deporting him before he was sentenced would have saved tax payers a pretty penny.
This is fiction - although it does make for a good story. Law enforcement needed the prisoners and the public to believe that escaping from the island was next to impossible, so the shark myth was created to keep prisoners from trying to escape. The guards tended to perpetuate this myth to keep the incarcerated in line.
The truth was, there are sharks in San Fransisco Bay, but they are bottom feeders, incapable of taking a bite of human flesh. Escaping from the island was difficult, but for a completely different reason. The ocean is icy cold in the bay, the currents are strong, and prisoners would have to swim for more than a mile before reaching the closest shore. Being eaten by sharks was the absolute least of their worries. It’s no wonder that no known escape attempts were successful.
John Giles was an inmate at Alcatraz, but he had the plan to escape the island and earn his freedom. In 1945, he managed to steal an army uniform out of the laundry bags. Dressed in his newly acquired outfit, he hopped onto the army truck when he knew it was leaving.
If the ship had been heading for the city, he would likely have gotten away with a successful escape attempt. But because the boat headed for Angel Island, he was caught and sent back to Alcatraz. John Giles was probably the closest anyone ever got to escaping from Alcatraz.An impressive achievement considering the number of people that attempted this foot.
Alcatraz wasn’t always a prison, and before it became one, it was home to the very first lighthouse on the West Coast of the USA. It was built in 1852, to help ships navigate safely into the San Fransisco Bay area.
In 1906, the original lighthouse tower was severely damaged by an earthquake, so you won’t be able to see it today. But the tower was soon replaced with another one, which still stands today. It was still used throughout the time the island operated as a prison, and is still in use today, helping ships navigate safely into or past the bay.
Before Alcatraz was a federal prison, it was a military prison. The Hopi Hostiles were a portion of the prison that held 19 Hopi men - Native Americans who lived in the Hopi Reservation area in northeastern Arizona.
These men were imprisoned because they didn’t agree with the new government ruling which enforced a boarding school education on their tribe of people. They knew that the ruling had been made in an attempt to eliminate their religion and language, so no amount of incarceration could convince them to go along with the plan. They were imprisoned between January and August of 1895, and even after being released, refused to go along with the government’s plan to enforce boarding school on their people.
There is an annual triathlon held in San Fransisco, called the Alcatraz triathlon. It was first held in 1980, to prove that it was possible to escape from the infamous Alcatraz. The triathlon consists of a one-and-a-half-mile swim from San Fransisco to Alcaraz, an 18-mile bike ride, and an eight-mile run.
This triathlon certainly proves that escaping was possible, in the most ideal conditions and for someone who is a highly trained athlete. But the prisoners had very few ways to remain fit during incarceration, so it’s unlikely that they would have made it to the mainland safely.
Alcatraz was known for its extremely harsh conditions, a prison located in the ocean - it doesn’t get much harsher than that. Even Al Capone couldn’t beat the system, which was something he was prone to doing, no matter where he was.
When Al Capone was incarcerated in Atlanta, he managed to bribe the guards on a regular basis in order to make his life a little more comfortable. For that reason, he was pretty cozy during his time served in Atlanta. But Alcatraz was different, the conditions were much harsher, and even the guards didn’t have access to much in the way of comfort, ruling out any chance of bribery. When this realization dawned on him, he said to a warden, “It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked.”
Al Capone was a notorious criminal when he roamed the US freely, a gangster that was known for his ties to the Mob and his famed criminal activity. Although he tried to bribe guards and gain access to extra comforts, he soon learned that the wardens of Alcatraz were having none of it. They were far stricter than the wardens at other prisons.
Once he’d made this discovery, he became a model inmate, even gaining some privileges because of it. One of these privileges was being able to play the banjo in the band known as the Rock Islanders. He thoroughly enjoyed this privilege, and in a letter to his son, said that he could play over 500 songs, and had dabbled in songwriting. His song was called “Madonna Mia”.
When Al Capone was scared that someone would try to kill him when he was in the recreation area. For this reason, he got permission to practice his banjo in the shower while other prisons were in the recreation area. Years later, a park ranger that was completely unaware of that fact said that he often heard banjo music coming from the showers.
Many visitors have also enquired about the music that they hear coming from the same area. There is absolutely no reasonable explanation as to why music can be heard in this area. Many believe that Al Capone’s ghost frequents the island, playing the banjo in the shower. Who really knows? Would you take a visit to the island to hear the music played by Al Capone’s ghost?
When the island was first discovered by Juan Manuel de Ayala, a Spanish explorer, he named the island “La Isla de Los Alcatraces”. Understandably the name was a little long, so it never stuck. But it meant “Island of the Strange Bird”, as the area was covered in pelicans at the time.
A visit to the island would show you just how many of these creatures call “The Rock” home. The name of the island was later shortened to Alcatraz, which has a spooky ring to it. That may be because we have strong associations with the word nowadays. Despite the island having the name Alcatraz, it was referred to as “The Rock”, by prisoners. This describes the drab place pretty well - after all, the prisoners knew it best.
Alcatraz is quite literally surrounded by water. The ocean laps at its shores night and day, but there isn’t a single freshwater source on the island. This meant that every single week, a million gallons of water had to be transported to the island. This was used for both the wardens and the prisoners to drink and bathe.
It wasn’t just water that needed to be transported to the island, but fuel, food, and other essential supplies had to be delivered too. This made the running of Alcatraz very expensive. Although the island kept notorious and dangerous criminals away from the rest of the population, it couldn’t have been worth it with the extravagant cost of running the place.
Alcatraz was the only prison in the whole of the US to allow its prisoners to have a hot shower. But this wasn’t to be nice to the prisoners, their treatment in every other way could be considered cruel. So why were the most notorious criminals in the US provided hot showers?
It was believed that exposure to the hot water would make them unable to cope with the freezing ocean temperatures that surrounded the island. It was thought to deter the prisoners from ever trying to escape. The theory might have actually been sound because regular exposure to cold water makes your body more tolerant to colder temperatures. Despite this, there were still prisoners that tried to escape the prison, taking their chances in the frigid waters.
The last attempt at escaping Alcatraz happened in 1962. It was so elaborate that a book and a movie were made about the event called Escape from Alcatraz. Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin, and John Anglin created homemade tools, using them to drill holes in their cell walls in order to reach the vents. They even created false walls to cover up what they were doing.
It seems they thought of everything, creating fake heads that they put in their beds (they used real human hair to make them look incredibly real). They even made life jackets out of their prison raincoats. None of the men were ever found, but a few weeks after the attempted escape, an unrecognizable body made its way to the Alcatraz shore. Nobody knows whether any of the men managed to escape, but they are assumed to have drowned during their journey.
Alcatraz was known as the one prison you never wanted to end up in for many reasons. But one of them was the fact that the cells were so incredibly tiny. Most of them were no bigger than a closet. In fact, if a prisoner stretched out their arms, they could touch both walls.
Five feet by nine feet was all the space each prisoner was given. There was one block that was afforded a little extra room, but you would never want to end up there. Why would that be? Block D was the solitary confinement area, and although the cells were a little bigger, it was far more unpleasant than anywhere you’d wish to spend time.
Alcatraz was not known for its natural beauty or pristine beaches. We suppose that’s why the government saw fit for this barren island to become a prison, for notorious criminals that didn’t deserve to stay on the mainland.
The island consists of not much more than rock. It has cliff-like edges, nothing even remotely resembling a beach. And there is little to no vegetation on the island. With no source of freshwater, this is not a place you’d like to take a vacation. In fact, it’s the kind of place you’d like to stay away from unless you’re sentenced to mandatory time on “The Rock”.
Alcatraz was acquired by the US government during the time of the California Gold Rush. It was decided that the island would be a great barrier between enemies coming to attack, and the mainland. For this reason, the US government built the military Fort Alcatraz on the island.
By the end of the 1850s, the island was equipped with cannons and guns in order to defend San Fransisco against any possible attackers such as the Confederate raiders. By 1906 it was clear that this military base wasn’t entirely necessary, which is when it turned into a military prison.
We can all agree that there’ll never be another prison quite like Alcatraz, but there is one that comes pretty close. Known as “The Alcatraz of The Rockies”, The ADX Florence Prison in Colorado got its nickname from its high security and strict protocols.
Just like Alcatraz, the prison is used to house some of the most notorious criminals the US has ever seen. People like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as well as “shoe bomber” Richard Reid are housed inside the walls of this prison. Lodgers are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours of the day, and the prison has some insane security features that ensure no prisoner can escape the grounds alive.
When the government realized they no longer needed a fort protecting their beloved San Fransisco, they decided a military prison was the perfect use for the island. So they tore down the fortress leaving only the foundations behind.
Military prisoners at the time were put to work creating the prison that we know today. It took the prisoners two years (1909 - 1911) to build their own confined space. It must have been torture knowing they were building the very structure that would imprison them for the coming years of their lives.
Movies and big productions usually make Alcatraz sound like the worst place on earth to be. The fact that it’s on an isolated island gives it an even worse impression. But according to some of the men who served time at the prison, it wasn’t all that bad in comparison to other prisons
In Alcatraz, everyone had their own cells. Although they were tiny, it afforded privacy that other prisons simply did not. It also offered protection from the violence which is not a privilege afforded to many prisoners across the US. Alcatraz was also sent better food than that of any other American prison; and when you put it like that, Alcatraz really doesn’t seem all that bad.
The prisoners incarcerated on Alcatraz Island weren’t locked away all of the time. In fact, there was a fair amount of camaraderie on the island. One of the games the prisoners used to play together was softball - but it wasn’t played quite the way we play it.
Teams were chosen by the wardens, who tried to make the teams as racially integrated as possible. Because of this, there were often fights that broke out among the players. On the 20th of May, 1956, makeshift knives were pulled out in the middle of a game. Of course, being Alcatraz, they couldn’t play softball the normal way.
For most of us, Alcatraz is not a place that we would willingly go to. Unless there was a good enough cause. In 1969, Native American activists started occupying the island in protest of the government taking their land. They stayed on the island for an impressive 19 months.
At the peak of the protest, there were 400 Native Americans occupying the island. But the government waited until there was a much more manageable number before they intervened. There were only 15 people on the island when this happened. But the protest seemed to have worked because, in 1970, President Nixon agreed to stop seizing Native American land (for a time, at least).
Alcatraz wasn’t a prison that you could be sent to immediately after sentencing. It was created for those that were defiant or difficult to handle in normal prisons. They were then sentenced to Alcatraz to get in line.
Prisoners weren’t meant to spend long periods of time at the prison, but rather they were supposed to be trained to get in line. After they seemed to have learned their lesson, they would be sent back to the mainland to another federal prison. So those that spent long prison sentences on the island, were prisoners that were truly out of line and continuously hard to handle.
Alcatraz is a rather small island, so the prison wasn’t kitted out with all the facilities of a normal federal prison. The one thing that Alcatraz didn’t have was a death row facility. So no executions took place on the island, and no death row prisoners were sent to the island.
But just because there were no executions, didn’t mean that nobody died. There were eight inmates that were murdered by fellow prisoners. Five prisoners committed suicide successfully on the island, and 15 died of natural causes. Because there was no morgue on the island, the bodies were transported to the mainland to be buried.
When prisoners were sent to Alcatraz, there was no set sentence or amount of time they’d have to spend there. Usually, prisoners spent between six to eight years in the island prison, but if their behavior didn’t improve, they would continue on at Alcatraz.
Time spent at Alcatraz didn’t count toward the prisoner’s sentence. Meaning that when they left Alcatraz, they’d have to return to a mainland federal prison where they would continue serving their original sentence. Many of these prisoners were serving multiple life sentences, so it didn’t matter too much where they were serving their time. They were certainly never going to be released.
It was easy to tell the prisoners that had been at Alcatraz for a long time, from the newbies who were new to the island prison. This was because prisoners’ numbers were stenciled onto their prison uniforms.
This meant that the earlier you arrived at Alcatraz, the smaller your number. A good example of this is Al Capone who arrived at the facility in 1934, his number was 85. But Robert Stroud arrived much later in 1942, and his number was 594. This made it easy for guards and inmates to distinguish the old from the new, whether they knew the inmate by name or not.
Below cell block A, was another set of cells known to the prisoners as the Spanish Dungeons. Myths and legends about these dungeons traveled far and wide, some of which were true, others not so much. Some prisoners claimed that the dungeons were built by the Spanish Inquisition (this was proven to be untrue).
Other prisoners said that the dungeons were located underneath the waterline. This was also proven to be untrue. The dungeons were located 100 feet above sea level, but they were dark and damp, so it’s easy to see why some would think they were below the waterline. The Bureau of Prisons decided that the dungeons should stop being used in 1942 because they were a cruel punishment - even for notorious criminals.
“Machine Gun Kelly”, otherwise known as George Kelly was another one of Alcatraz’s famed inmates. He led a criminal life from the very beginning, being involved in bootlegging during the prohibition era. But when this criminal life wasn’t enough for him, together with his wife he held a wealthy businessman for ransom.
Three months later, both he and his wife were captured and sentenced to life in prison. After bragging about his plans to escape the prison, he was moved to Alcatraz around the same time as Al Capone. He liked to brag about his crimes and spent a whole 17 years at Alcatraz before being transferred to Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas. It was at Leavenworth that he died of a heart attack in 1954
Joe Bowers was the first prisoner who tried to escape from Alcatraz in 1936. He managed to climb the fence that was located at the edge of the island, but when he got to the top, one of the guards spotted him.
The guard asked him to come down, and when he refused, the guard shot him. He then fell between 50 and 100 feet to his death. He managed to leave Alcatraz that day, but it wasn’t quite the exit he had envisioned. He left the island in a body bag in what must have been a dramatic end to an eventful day on the island.
While staying in Alcatraz was no walk in the park, there were varying conditions throughout the prison. The worst place to stay was cell block D, these were the solitary confinement cells known to the prisoners as “The Hole”. This name very accurately describes what the cells were like, with minimal light and zero contact with other humans.
These cells had little to no light, were colder than all the rest, and the prisoners sent to stay there often received beatings and were starved. But it could get worse, the one cell right at the end of block D was known as “The Strip Cell”. This cell was reserved for only the very worst prisoners and lacked the privilege of even a sink. It had a mere hole in the ground that acted as a toilet
In life, we are taught that there are consequences for our actions. Some bad behavior has more serious repercussions than others. For the worst characters, prison may be the end result. Prisons have the responsibility of keeping dangerous criminals safely locked inside so that civilians can walk the streets stress-free.
However, many criminals are crafty and will do whatever they can to get out of prison and regain their freedom. Some of these unsavory personalities will go to extremes to breathe the fresh air of society - and some succeed, adding their story to the list of craziest prison escapes ever.
One Brazilian drug trafficker, Ronaldo Silva, had spent enough days in Penedo Prison to lose his mind. In 2012, he decided that he needed to be free and conjured up his master plan. Ronaldo got hold of a razor and shaved his arms and legs. He contacted his wife and asked her to bring along some extra items to her next prison visit.
When the time came, Ronaldo took the wig, shoes, lipstick, and clothing from his wife and dressed in his disguise. Looking like the most unattractive female in history, Ronaldo was able to walk right out of the prison gates. However, the heels his wife had provided gave him away. Ronaldo was back behind bars less than 30 minutes later after police noticed a woman “walking funny” on the street
Choi Gap-Bok had been practicing yoga for 23 years when he was arrested for robbery in 2012. Apparently, yoga had not given the South Korean convict any chill, and instead, he got itchy feet and became desperate to break out.
One night, he waited for the prison guards to go to sleep. Grabbing a bottle of lotion, the 5-foot 4-inch Choi lubricated himself from head to toe. Within 34-seconds, Choi was able to bend his body through the food slot which measured just 5.9 inches tall and 17.7 inches wide. Choi Gap-Bok’s yoga skills earned himself six days of freedom until the police found him again
French bank robber and murderer, Antonio Ferrara, is the perfect example of a bad guy with unparalleled manipulative power. After serving a portion of his time in a prison in Fresnes, France, he was fed up. He wanted to be a free man and managed to convince a team of people to help him escape.
Included in his break-out team of 18 people were his lawyer and associates who blew up the prison gates and opened fire on the guards. The plan worked and Antonio was back on the streets - only to be caught again four months later. Antonio was given an additional 17-year sentence. Police were so concerned that he’d pull a fast one a second time that there were at least 90 police officers at his trial.
Have you ever watched an action-film in amazement, knowing that what’s happening on screen is only possible in movies? Well, Michel Vaujour, a prisoner serving a long sentence in 1986, pulled off quite a theatrical escape. After threatening people with nectarines painted as grenades, he managed to escape through the roof of the prison.
Waiting for him on the roof was his wife, eagerly waiting to whisk him away in a helicopter. Laurel and Hardy had nothing on the Vajours as they propelled off into the distance. Michel was later discovered and arrested in France, but his escape will go down in history.
Seven men from Texas were being held in a maximum-security prison at the start of the new millennium. Each of them had a slew of violent crimes under their belts, and they were about to add to the appalling count by breaking out of prison. Together, they managed to overpower civilian maintenance shop employees, stealing guns and a vehicle in the process.
The convicts were audacious enough to leave a note for the police reading, “You haven’t heard the last of us yet.” But it would be the cops who had the last laugh. Over the next year, the “Texas Seven” went on to commit a series of horrific crimes, including killing a police officer. They were discovered by police while posing as missionaries in a trailer park. One took his own life, but the other six have all been sentenced to death.
In 2012, Mexico experienced one of its most violent and deadly prison riots when the Zetas drug gang created mass chaos after picking a fight against the Gulf cartel. The rival drug cartels clashed after the Zeta’s staged a riot and stormed the cell block of the Gulf cartel while they were sleeping.
The result of the violent outburst was shocking, with 44 Gulf cartel members being killed in the wake of the mayhem. The guards jumped to quell the panic but not before 37 prisoners managed to escape during the distraction. Of these 37 escapees, 24 were either killed or rearrested. And as it turns out, at least 21 prison officials were involved in setting the scene of the riot.
The guards of prison are responsible for making sure that the prisoners stay in check and locked up. In the early hours of a June morning in 2015, the guards at Clinton Correctional Facility were doing their rounds of the cell blocks when they made a shocking discovery. Two beds that normally housed two convicted murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were empty.
The two criminals managed to escape the confines of the prison by cutting holes into the walls of their cells and stealthily moving through the pipes of the prison’s walls. They climbed their way into freedom after cutting open a steampipe and emerging through a manhole. Their escape led to one of New York state’s largest manhunts in history. After three weeks of searching, and the cost of $23 million, the unlawful pair were found. David Sweat was taken into custody but Richard Matt drew his last breath before being captured
Even if you haven’t watched Netflix’s Ted Bundy Tapes, you’ve most likely heard of the serial killer who not only escaped his trial in 1977 after representing himself, but also escaped from prison. Ted Bundy is a household name - and not for the right reasons. After being captured six days after jumping from a library’s second-floor window during his trial, Ted Bundy managed to escape from prison.
In the same year of his first escape, he lost close to 25 pounds, cut a hole through the ceiling and maneuvered his starved frame into the prison’s duct system. The second escape ended similarly to the first - being captured. But not before he was able to tragically take the lives of three more victims
One con artist, Frank Abagnale Jr., made a brilliant escape and avoided deportation by becoming one of the men that arrested him. Frank escaped from a British airplane as it taxied in New York. After jumping the fence of the airport, he took a train to Canada and attempted to flee to Brazil - but he didn't make it that far. The young convict was being held in federal custody when he saw the opportunity to make a break for it - but not in the conventional way that you’d expect.
The combination of paperwork confusion and a manipulative tongue allowed Frank to convince the guards that he was an undercover prison inspector. From here, the naive prison guards allowed him to leave the grounds and meet with an “FBI officer” off of the grounds (who was actually one of Frank’s friends). He was later discovered in Washington D.C by police, but not before executing a spectacular performance
In 1990, a group of prisoners 50-strong made a break from prison in Santiago, Chile. Almost all of the prisoners were from the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front. Among the group were seven unsavory characters who were responsible for the attempted assassination of Chile’s military leader.
The escape plan took months to plan as the prisoners built a tunnel that stretched a full 80 yards away from the prison grounds and ended at an abandoned train station. They had thought of everything - including lighting, ventilation and even carts on runners to remove the earth. Of the group of 50, only seven were recaptured at the time, including one unlucky convict who never got past the opening at the end of the tunnel
Pablo Escobar is one of the most notorious criminals in history, known for running a global drug empire and adopting the title of a kingpin. His persuasive nature and expansive influence enabled him to wrangle himself a rather sweet imprisonment deal where he was able to design and staff his personal prison. In fact, as crazy as it may seem, his prison had handpicked guards, a soccer field, a dance club and - believe it or not - a chapel.
When the police learned that Pablo Escobar was still running his drug empire from inside “Hotel Escobar” they planned to transfer him to another prison. However, Pablo Escobar had grown accustomed to his luxurious prison life and had different ideas. After a hostage situation and a shootout, Escobar managed to escape, only to be caught again 16 months later.
Each escape story is uniquely shocking, especially when it involves some form of theatrics or violence. But Nini Johana Úsuga David’s escape story from 2014 is enough to make you double take because she did it so smoothly. Sister to one of Colombia’s drug lords, Nini was arrested for working alongside the lethal Los Urabeños gang. But she wouldn’t be kept in prison for long.
Also known as “La Negra”, Nini was actually released from prison in what appeared to be a perfectly legal release. How did she do it? She walked out of the front doors showing release papers. However, the twist is that the papers were falsified and forged. As a result of her escape, the Colombian president called for the resignation of the prison director to avoid such a nightmare from happening again.
Many prison escape attempts come around to bite the convicts in the butt by adding to the prisoners' sentences when they are caught a second time. However, three seasoned criminals escaped from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in June 1962 and were never heard of again. These notorious masterminds are none other than John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris.
The three criminals tricked the prison guards by putting handmade dummy heads in their beds to appear like them. They then slipped through the vents of their cells, made their way to the prison’s roof and escaped down a pipe. All three jumped on board a homemade raft and faced the freezing waters surrounding the island prison. Their fate is still a mystery.
Some criminals will not give up until they succeed. Richard Lee McNair is one such convict. Richard tried various ways to escape from prison until he finally got it right the third time. On his first attempt, Richard used lip balm to slip free out of his handcuffs. With his second attempt, he crawled through a ventilation duct (but didn’t get very far). But his third attempt was truly remarkable and earned him his freedom for a full year.
Richard was working in the prison at the time of his third attempt. He managed to put himself (and a breathing tube) in a mailbag and ship himself out of prison. The stealthy escapee nearly got caught after emerging in the free world but managed to convince the officer that he was a jogger.
Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, more commonly known as El Chapo, has a reputation for being both short and one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world. As it happens, he’s also a serial prison escape artist. The first time that El Chapo escaped, he offered a persuasive bribe and was smuggled out in a laundry basket. However, his second escape was far more spectacular.
El Chapo orchestrated a mile-long tunnel system that has been described as both stunning and elaborate. It had lights, air ducts, and even a motorcycle. El Chapo used the tunnel to escape from prison and emerge at a construction site on the other side. What happened to him at the end? His freedom was short-lived after a manhunt ensued. In 2016, he was captured during a shootout. In 2019, he was extradited and sentenced to life imprisonment in America’s most high-security prison.
It’s difficult to compete with a mother’s love, especially when the mother is willing to break the law for her son. In 1998, Jay “Junior” Sigler escaped from prison with the help of his mother and her boyfriend. But it was no easy task.
Junior and another prisoner were able to jump through a four-layered prison fence after Junior’s mother rammed a truck through all four boundaries. After the two escapees broke free, they jumped into the getaway car that was ready and waiting. The unlawful pair were caught the next day after they were involved in a fatal car accident, killing an innocent civilian. The repercussion of their deadly actions was life imprisonment
How many times do you think that one can escape from prison? Brian Bo Larsen, a Danish criminal, managed to escape from prison an unbelievable 22 times. He’s used almost every trick in the book, from using tools to break window bars, to hiding in trash cans. However, one plan, in particular, takes the cake as the most elaborate.
One time, Brian Bo Larsen was lucky enough to get access to a bulldozer. Rather than stare at a gift horse in the mouth, he jumped into the driver’s seat and quite literally bulldozed his way through the outer walls of the prison, freeing an additional 13 convicts. But Brian Bo Larsen is not only a successful escape artist, but he is also rather good at getting caught. He was caught stealing a car shortly after his bulldoze escape
Why reinvent the wheel when it works so well? That’s exactly what Pascal Payet, a convicted French murderer, thought when he escaped from prison in 2001. After making his way to the prison roof, he jumped on board a helicopter that was waiting for him. Realizing how wonderfully his master plan worked, he decided to return to the same prison two years later. This time, he helped three other convicts escape - also in a helicopter. But that’s not where Pascal Payet’s story ends.
He was later caught and imprisoned but managed to escape during a Bastille Day celebration. Any guess on how he succeeded in breaking free? He orchestrated a helicopter hijacking by four masked men so that he could escape again. However, he was captured and transferred to a prison in a secret location
In 2008, Sarah Jo Pender made headlines when she escaped from prison. Notoriously known as a convicted murderer, Sarah Pender ran out of appeals and decided to create her own justice. In her words, “I served the equivalent of 21 years of my sentence and I felt that was enough. I escaped because I felt justified in doing so.” But how did she get it right?
Using her female wiles, Sarah Pender wooed a prison guard and convinced him to hide her in the backseat of his car. Once they had left prison grounds, she was transferred to the car of her former cellmate and made a break for it, eventually settling in Chicago. But that’s not where her story ends. Thanks to a rerun of the show America’s Most Wanted, Sarah was recognized by her neighbor and caught by the feds once again.
As far as criminals go, French gangster, Rédoine Faïd made some rather silly mistakes. After an armed robbery went bad, Rédoine was arrested but was determined not to stay in prison. Instead, he used dynamite to blow a hole through five prison doors and make a run for it in a getaway car. But even this elaborate getaway has nothing on his second escape.
When Rédoine was arrested for a second time, he convinced three of his accomplices to hijack a helicopter. After pretending to be flight students, his cronies succeeded in convincing the pilot to help break Rédoine free. The helicopter was found abandoned soon after, but it took three months to find Rédoine who had quickly become one of France’s most wanted criminals.