The main role of a prison is to keep all prisoners inside so that they are unable to escape before serving their sentence. However this doesn’t prevent some from hatching plans to breakout of jail! Prisons are thought to be impenetrable and impossible to escape from. Nevertheless these prisoners have proven the contrary. Discover 10 prison escapes that no one would have expected!
1/ Escape from the Tower of London
Many captives or traitors were imprisoned in the infamous Tower of London during tense periods of British history. The ancient prison, which was also an arena of torture, was impenetrable. Once captives entered no one ever came out. However on the 3rd October in 1597, the English Jesuit priest John Gerand successfully managed to break out of jail! He didn’t manage to achieve it alone as other members of the Catholic Order managed to devise an escape plan. John Gerard was given a rope from his jailer who he had befriended. Despite his injuries, the priest managed to lower himself down from the building and then cross the moat. One of the most spectacular prison escapes!
2/ One and only escape from Doges Palace in Venice
Doges were Italian magistrates. As a result for a long time this palace was the administration headquarters of Venice. It also was a prison which was situated in the roof of the palace. It was called plombi in reference to the lead used to construct the roof. The only person who ever managed to escape from this prison was Giacomo Casanova, the renowned and accomplished adventurer. His seductive behavior and casual morals displeased the Church who sentenced him to five years in prison. However Casanova and his cell mate devised an escape plan. His friend dug a hole in the wall which accessed the outside wall using a simple nail!
As a great libertine, daring speaker and a man who only thought of enjoying life, I do not think that I am guilty (…) – Giacomo Casanova, History of my escape from the prisons of the Republic of Venice, 1780.
3/ Escape from Imrali prison island in Turkey
Billy Hayes, an American, was convicted of trying to smuggle drugs out of the Turkish territory in 1970. Initially sentenced to four years in prison Hayes was placed in a psychiatric hospital and in many prisons in Turkey. Authorities increased his sentence to 30 years and so was transferred to the Imrali prison island which often housed smugglers and drug traffickers in July 1975. However on the 2nd October 1975, Hayes took advantage of his guard’s lack of attention and managed to steal a boat and row to the coast. He recounted his escape in his book the Midnight Express which was adapted into a film in 1978.
4/ Successive escapes from the Bastille, Paris
The Bastille in Paris used to be a very heavily guarded prison. Only very lucky prisoners managed to escape. Antoine de Chabannes, the Count of Dammartin was one of the lucky ones. Under the reign of Louis XI, the Bastille was used as a prison. Chabannes was imprisoned for belonging to the Ligue du Bien Public which was a group of princes fighting against their king. Thanks to his wife Chabannes managed to shorten his prison sentence. His wife organised a diversion with other members of the league which allowed her husband time to escape. A few months later Louis XI signed a peace treaty with his former adversaries and established once more Count de Dammartin’s rights.
5/ Camp 14 Breakout in North Korea
It is no surprise that one of the most authoritarian countries in the world has work camps. Life and working conditions are very difficult and the majority of prisoners die of hunger, fatigue or due to repeated violent beatings. Shin Dong-hyuk was born and brought up in this hellish camp. He is also the only person to manage to escape and recount the horrors and existence of this place to the outside world. The last straw was seeing his mother and brother die before his eyes. At the age of 23 he managed to scale a high voltage fence and escape. Blaine Harden, recounts his story in the book Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West.