In September 1983, thirty-eight Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners executed the biggest prison escape in British history. The prisoners were incarcerated at the Maze Prison in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Using smuggled guns, the prisoners took the guards hostage, stole their clothing, and forced a food delivery truck to drive them out of the prison. All thirty-eight managed to escape the maximum security prison, then considered to be one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe.



“Alfie” Hinds was a petty criminal, who also happened to be an expert escape artist as he was to prove over the years through his numerous prison escapes. In his most daring escape, Hinds sneaked through the locked doors and a twenty-foot prison wall at Nottingham Prison. For this seemingly miraculous escape, he was dubbed “Houdini Hinds.” When he was captured six months later, he sued the authorities for illegal arrest. Needless to say, he lost.



The Texas Seven is a very well-known group of prisoners who escaped from the John Connally Unit in Texas in 2000. The group used the slowest period of the day to escape by overpowering civilian maintenance workers and prison guards. They used a maintenance truck to leave the prison. They were caught a month later thanks to the television show America’s Most Wanted. Five members of the group remain and are all on death row awaiting execution.



Alcatraz operated as a prison for twenty-nine years, during which there were fourteen escape attempts. Of those attempts, one is especially famous. In 1962, Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers burrowed from their cells and climbed to the top of the cellblock. They were able to cut through the bars of an air vent and climb onto the open roof. From there they shimmied down a drainpipe and escaped to the edge of the island where they built a raft and vanished. While many people believe that the three died in San Francisco Bay, they were never found and there is every possibility they survived the journey and are in hiding.



The Libby Prison Escape is one of the most famous prison breaks of the American Civil War. In 1864, 109 Union soldiers escaped from the prison in Richmond, Virginia. Of the escapees, fifty-nine succeeded in reaching Union Lines, while the rest were captured or died in the process. The prisoners escaped by digging a tunnel from the basement of the jail to a nearby warehouse.



There can be no doubt this man deserves a place on this list—he has escaped not once, but twice from high-security prisons in France each time via hijacked helicopter! He also helped organize the escape of three other prisoners, again with a helicopter. Payet was initially sentenced to a thirty-year jail term for a murder committed while robbing a security van. After his first escape (in 2001) he was captured and given seven more years in jail. He then escaped from Grasse Prison using a helicopter that was hijacked by four of his friends from the nearby airport. The helicopter eventually landed at Brignoles, twenty-four miles northeast of Toulon, France, on the Mediterranean coast. Payet was recaptured on September 21, 2007, in Mataró, Spain, about eighteen miles northeast of Barcelona. He had undergone cosmetic surgery but was still identified by Spanish police.



The Great Escape is one of the most inspirational and incredible tales of a jailbreak. In 1943, a group of prisoners of war hatched a plot to dig their way out of Stalag Luft III. Over the next year, the prisoners worked together to dig three tunnels thirty feet below the surface of the prison. As the tunnels were so large and deep, the group came up with many innovative tricks, such as building a rail car system for the transportation of soil, electric lighting, and air pumps to keep the tunnel full of fresh oxygen. Eventually, seventy-six men were able to escape the prison using one of the tunnels. Of the seventy-six, only three managed to evade capture. The rest were killed or sent back to prison.




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