More than 60 years ago, three inmates — Frank Lee Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin — escaped from Alcatraz, the forbidding maximum security prison situated on an island in San Francisco Bay.
Known as “the Rock,” Alcatraz was thought to be escape-proof, and during its 29 years as a federal prison, it was home to some of the country’s most infamous criminals, including Al Capone and James “Whitey” Bulger.
Morris and the Anglin brothers were last seen inside their cells on the night of June 11, 1962. By the next morning, they had mysteriously vanished, leaving behind pillows under their bedclothes and lifelike papier-mâché heads with real hair and closed, painted eyes. A makeshift raft constructed with rubber raincoats was found on a nearby island, but the fugitives were never seen again.
Ted Bundy escaped, twice
Ted Bundy, who murdered 30 or more young women across the United States during the 1970s, escaped from the authorities twice. The first time was in Aspen, Colo., in June 1977, when Mr. Bundy was representing himself in a murder case. During a break in a pretrial hearing, he was led to a law library and jumped through a window, 30 feet to the ground.
People in Aspen reacted as if Mr. Bundy was a modern Robin Hood instead of a suspected serial killer. Young people in town wore T-shirts with inscriptions like “Ted Bundy is a One-Night Stand” and a local restaurant offered a “Bundyburger.” He was captured after eight days.
The second escape came in December of the same year, when he carved a hole in the ceiling of his cell and climbed through the duct work, according to ABC. He found his way down to a jailer’s apartment and changed into civilian’s clothes. He then traveled by plane, train and car to Florida, where he was arrested two months later. He was executed for his crimes in 1989.
A Mexican drug lord
In the summer of 2015, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo, stepped into the shower in his cell in the most secure wing of the most secure prison in Mexico and never returned.
Guards later surveyed the cell and found a two-by-two-foot hole that led to a mile-long tunnel, which went to a construction site in a nearby neighborhood. The tunnel was more than two feet wide and more than five feet high, enough for him to stand upright. It was also equipped with lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle on rails, which was likely used to transport digging materials and remove dirt. In the aftermath of his escape, Mexico’s government launched one of its most extensive manhunts, involving every law enforcement agency in the country and help from the United States.
There was no single lapse or mistake in security that led David Sweat and Richard W. Matt to break out of the Clinton Correctional Facility, in Dannemora, N.Y., in June 2015. The facility was considered one of the most secure prisons in the country.
The men, both serving long sentences for murder, broke out of the prison by cutting neat rectangular holes in steel at the back of their cells and climbing down several stories. From there, they cut a hole in a steam pipe and crawled through to a manhole about 400 feet beyond the prison walls. They used tools that had been smuggled in to them by a female prison employee.
A few weeks later amid an extensive manhunt, Mr. Matt was fatally shot by a law enforcement officer. Mr. Sweat was captured two days later, about 30 miles from the prison.
A tangled romance between a corrections officer and an Alabama inmate led to an extensive manhunt in 2022, drawing parallels to sagas better fit for television.
Casey White, a murder suspect, escaped from Lauderdale County Jail in April 2022 with the help of the officer, Vicky White, who was not related. Both the inmate and the officer left the jail for a courthouse appointment that never existed.
A national search for the couple ended 11 days later, when the vehicle they were in crashed in Indiana after a police pursuit. Ms. White shot herself in the head and later died at a hospital, and Mr. surrendered to the authorities.