A group of inmates making elaborate escape plans, smuggling tools to pick locks and cut through bars, crawling through small shafts in the middle of the night, maybe even a dramatic police chase – if this is what you imagine a prison break to be like, you are NOT off the mark!
While prison breaks in real life may not be as glamorous, they are certainly just as difficult and rare as they are depicted in movies. Surely, a lot of planning goes into breaking out of a maximum security site. Nonetheless, that does not stop inmates from trying to break out.
Thankfully, most prison-escape attempts never turn into reality or the escapees are eventually caught. However, sometimes, no level of security is enough to keep some people locked in. Every once in a while, some prison escapees manage to slip away! Let’s take a look at some interesting and mind-boggling prison breaks where the escapee was never found.
- 1. The Escape of John Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris from Alcatraz Prison, California
- 2. Escape of Jerry Bergevin from Waterloo Prison Camp, Michigan
- 3. Escape of Joanne Chesimard from Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, New Jersey
- 4. Escape of Glen Stewart Godwin from Folsom State Prison, California, and Puente Grande Prison, Mexico
- 5. Escape of Glen Stark Chambers from Polk Correctional Institution, Florida
Secure amidst the waters of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Prison Island caged some of the most notorious prisoners. Known as “The Rock”, the prison was seemingly impossible to break out of. However, in 1962, around 3 dozen men tried to escape the high-security facility – all at once!
Naturally, a riot broke out between the prisoners and the guards. In their attempt to taste sweet freedom, some prisoners were killed, others were captured, but three men were never seen again! According to the FBI, John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris used life-sized dummies to trick the prison guards. They placed the realistic looking dummies in their beds while they climbed through the holes that they had built in the walls of their cells.
However, getting out of the cells was only half the work. The most mind-boggling detail of the entire escape plan was that somehow, the inmates managed to stash a makeshift raft in a corridor of Alcatraz. What’s even more amazing is that their raft was made out of inflated musical instruments that they managed to sneak out of the music room!
The last thing known about these men is that they sailed into the sea on their raft. What happened after that remains a mystery to this day. Did they make it to shore and lived their lives as free men? Or maybe the ocean got the best of them – no one can say for sure. However, on the 50th anniversary of the notorious escape, in an interview with the Daily Mail, the sisters of the Anglin brothers revealed that they have always believed that their brothers made it out safely, “I’ve always believed they made it, and I haven’t changed my mind about that,” said one of the sisters, Marie Widner.
There was a time when Jerry Bergevin was among the most wanted criminals of Michigan. Born on February 10, 1932, he had always been a troublemaker for law enforcement. In fact, a newspaper article once described his bizarre incidents with police officers. Once, an officer pulled him over and tried to reach for the keys of Bergevin’s car. Instead of sorting things out calmly, Bergevin accelerated through an intersection as the policeman dangled from the side of his car!
Eventually, his behavior landed him in serious trouble. For breaking into a drug store, he was sentenced to a Michigan prison for a decade in 1962. However, in 1969, Bergevin appealed for a transfer to a lower security site; Camp Waterloo in Illinois. He claimed that he wanted to attend a dental technician training program that was offered at the camp. Prison officials expressed their concerns about his misconducts. However, his appeal was finally accepted in April 1969.
What the law enforcement authorities did not know was that Bergevin never planned to take the program. He disappeared shortly after he was moved to Camp Waterloo in Illinois!
An elaborate search operation was carried out to find out the whereabouts of the escapee. Official records show that in 2009, the officials were tipped that Bergevin was living in a house in Detroit. Mysteriously, by the time the police reached the site, it had already been 2 weeks since the house had been burned down. According to the neighbors, the house had been vacant for years!
The police continued their search and did not leave any stone unturned. They followed every tip, checked all government records, interviewed friends, family and acquaintances. However, there was no sign of Bergevin. The man had vanished without a trail! It was like he dropped off the face of the earth. After years of searching, the police finally called off the search in 2013, when Bergevin would have been 80 years old.
Irrespective of his troubles with law enforcement forces, Bergevin was good to his family. He had a wife and three daughters. In fact, his granddaughter, Angela Michels, is still adamant to fit together the pieces of the mysterious vanishing of her grandfather.
According to Angela, “My grandma and grandpa were pretty much the Bonnie and Clyde of the 1950s. They were pretty poor. They had three daughters, and stole a lot from farmers markets to feed their three kids.” Surprisingly, she believes that her grandfather died a long time ago. However, she is still determined to find out all about him.
While it is infrequent for men to attempt prison breaks, it is even rarer for women to escape from high-security sites. However, over the years, there have been a number of women who have tried and succeeded in evading the long arms of the law. Joanne Chesimard was one of them!
Also known as Assata Shakur, Chesimard was the member of the Black Liberation Army. It is important to note that the Black Liberation Army had evident ties with the Black Panther Party, which led an armed struggle against the US government and employed tactics like killing officers and robbing banks.
Between the years 1971 and 1973, Chesimard was charged with multiple crimes including robbery, murder, and kidnappings. Finally, in 1973, she was captured and convicted for the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster. According to the official reports, she was involved in a robbery. When police intervened, Chesimard and her accomplices opened fire on the officers, which resulted in the tragic death of Foerster.
Chesimard was sentenced for life plus 30 years in jail and was sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. However, only five years later, she made a dramatic escape with the help of her friends in the Black Liberation Army. According to an article published in the New York Times, in order to escape, she even took two prison guards as hostages! Her involvement in the cold-blooded murder of a police officer and her notorious escape from prison eventually led her to become the first women to make it on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List.
Five years after escaping from the correctional facility, Chesimard fled to Cuba, where she was offered political asylum. Despite the efforts of the US government, Chesimard is living a free, comfortable life in Cuba since 1984.
4. Escape of Glen Stewart Godwin from Folsom State Prison, California, and Puente Grande Prison, Mexico
It may be possible to wrap your mind around the idea of a convict breaking out of prison. However, what are the chances that the same person can do it twice? Glen Stewart Godwin did the impossible by doing just that. And on his second try, he vanished for good – never to be found again!
Godwin was a self-employed salesman, construction worker, and a mechanic. He lived a quiet life in Palm Springs, California and had never gotten in trouble with the law. However, all that changed in 1980, when Godwin planned a robbery with his roommate, Frank Soto. The plan was to rob a drug dealer, Kim Robert LeValley, who used to be their friend at one time. The two men lured the victim into their condo, where they ultimately killed him. Godwin stabbed LeValley 26 times with a knife! He tried to cover up the crime by driving into the desert with the body and blowing it up with homemade explosives.
Despite their efforts, the heinous crime was discovered and Godwin was convicted for the murder of Kim LeValley. He was sentenced to serve 26-years-to-life sentence in Folsom State prison in California. However, in 1987, Godwin decided to make an escape. He cut the bars in the prison yard and climbed the drain pipe to freedom.
Nonetheless, his newly acquired freedom was short-lived. The same year, he was arrested in Mexico, selling and distributing drugs. This time, he was sentenced to prison in Guadalajara, where his behavior remained the same. In fact, it was believed that he murdered a fellow inmate during his time in the Mexican prison. However, this crime could never be proved.
In 1991, Godwin made a run for his freedom and managed to escape – again! In 1996, his name was added to the list of “Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” by FBI. However, it was later dropped off from the list. To this date, there’s a reward of $20,000 for any information leading to his arrest.
Glen Stark Chambers was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 for beating his girlfriend, Connie Weeks, to death. As the story goes, Glen and Weeks met at a bowling alley. Things got heated between them and they broke into a fight. Pulling Weeks out of her car, Glen started beating her in the middle of a parking lot. When an off-duty police officer intervened to diffuse the situation, Glen started to fight him as well and had to be taken in. That night, unaware of the repercussions of her actions, Weeks went ahead to bail Glen out. Only a few hours later, Glen beat her to death.
Fifteen years later, in 1990, Glen was serving his sentence in Polk Correctional Institution, Florida when he decided to escape. He managed to hide in a truck that was leaving the institution. Before the driver could detect the new passenger, Glen ditched the ride and made a run for his freedom. Since then, the police had been after him. Over the years, he has been reported to be living in a number of states including Minnesota and Alabama. But, somehow, he was always one step ahead of the detectives.
The family of Connie Weeks is still seeking justice. During a campaign to find and bring Glen to justice, Connie’s sister, Pam Cooper said that “putting Glen Chambers behind prison bars again would help my family find closure.”
While it may be interesting to read about the dangerous and risky prison breaks, it surely can’t be good to have fugitives on the loose. Luckily, the latest equipment like night cameras, motion sensors, advanced alarms and lock mechanisms; the level of security at prisons all around the world have improved drastically. Today, it is close to impossible to make such escape attempts!