The Best Prison Breaks
Frenchman's joins infamous company with clever escape
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2009 4:43 PM CDT

(Newser) – A Frenchman’s daring escape from a London prison—Julien Chautard turned himself in yesterday after busting out by gripping the bottom of a prisoner transport van as it left the courtyard—gets Jon Henley, in the Guardian, thinking about the best such tries ever. His highlights:

  • Colonel Thomas E Rose, Virginia, 1864. Rose and other Union officers dug their way out of a warehouse serving as a Confederate prison using pocket knives and scrap wood. He returned after his escape to free 15 more men.
  • Henri Charrière, aka Papillon, multiple attempts. French mobster escaped numerous times from islands off French Guiana and elsewhere from 1933 onward—and was played by Steve McQueen in the 1973 film Papillon.
  • Frank Morris, Clarence and John Anglin, Alcatraz, 1962. These three defeated the “escape-proof” Alcatraz by chipping away at the concrete around the vent shafts in their cells, using a newspaper paste to hide their progress. However, they and their makeshift raft probably didn’t survive San Francisco Bay.