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by Ian Fortey
Escapes, in general, are pretty awesome. Prison escapes, escape artist magicians, violent animals escaping from the zoo ... OK, maybe not that last one. But definitely all the other ones. We think the reason we love them so much is because it requires every facet of a rogue's skills: intelligence, ingenuity, stealth, misdirection, and sometimes brute force.
But even among the general category of awesome escape stories, there are some that are so badass, they seem mythical ...
A Dude Rams Through The Berlin Wall
From 1961 to 1989 there was a big, ugly wall separating East and West Berlin. East Germany was a bit of a craptastic place to live, and a whole bunch of people wanted to live life beyond that border. The problem was, if you approached it from the wrong side, you could get two years in prison or straight-up shot. That motivated a whole lot of people to stay the hell away from it.
Way back in 1963, Wolfgang Engels was slowly coming to realize that his fartscape home wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But when he got the bright idea to steal an armored car and literally drive through the wall, no one took him up on his offer to leave. Because that plan is insane.
Engels had been working as a civilian driver for the military and knew he could gain access to one of the armored trucks without much difficulty. Once he found one, he tore out of East Germany like a bat out of hell, straight into the concrete wall. Here's the thing, though: while the wall may have not been built specifically to withstand an armored car attack, it was still a tough wall. Engels broke it, but didn't drive all the way through it.
And that's how Pink Floyd was born.
He tried to crawl out of the car to escape to the other side and managed to get himself shot by a guard. He then managed to get caught in barbed wire. Engels could only lay there as the guard fired a bullet right through his back.
Luckily (and he definitely needed luck at this point), there was a bar on the Western side of the wall, and a crowd of drunk people ran to his rescue, pulling him through the hole and saving him from additional gunfire. Being the badass that he is, the first thing he asked for was a beer. Of course, he was bleeding like crazy, so they couldn't grant that wish (alcohol is a blood thinner). Instead, Engels was rushed to a hospital where he spent three weeks recovering from the bullet hole in his lung.
He later drove the hospital through the Great Wall of China.
The Native Canadian Who Made A Knife Out Of Poop
There comes a time in most people's lives when they're faced with a choice that really tests their mettle. You can either roll over and take a screw job or you stand up for yourself by any means necessary. This story is the latter, taken to an insane new level. The level on which you forge tools out of your own poop.
You may not know the name Wade Davis, but he's an ethnobotanist and anthropologist who has lived with a number of different indigenous peoples around the world. During a 2013 TED Talk, he shared the story of an old Inuit man who was being forced from his home by the Canadian government back in the 1950s.
According to the old man's family, he was not motivated to leave and refused the government. His family was worried about what he might do in retaliation of the government's advances, so in an effort to avoid violence, they took all tools and weapons from his home. They figured that would at least limit his options and force him to comply. It did not.
In the middle of the night, he crept outside and heeded the call of nature into his own hand. Armed with a quickly freezing turd, he fashioned it into a blade. How do you fashion poop into a blade? The temperature in the Arctic can get to -50º F some days, so use your imagination.
It was like this ... except nothing like that at all.
The man used his own spit to create an actual cutting edge (the spit freezes within seconds) ... and then things got weirder. Keep in mind, this guy was in fear that his entire way of life was about to end, and it was not unheard of for Native Canadians to be taken from their homes and never seen again.
Using the poop knife, the man killed a sled dog and fashioned its remains into a makeshift sled. The rib cage served as the bulk of the slide, while he used the skin to fashion a harness for a second dog that then pulled the sled made out of the first dog. And then he vanished, escaping to the wilds to live out his life far away from the reach of the government.
The Scotsmen Who Used Gaelic To Escape The Nazis
If Braveheart taught us nothing else, it's that you never want to cross a Scotsman during wartime. But that movie came out much too late for the Nazis, so they had no idea what they were up against. Private William Kemp, Corporal Sandy MacDonald and Lance Corporal James Wilson managed to trick the Nazis and escape prison with nothing more than a little Gaelic and some balls.
The soldiers had been members of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlands regiments which had previously surrendered to the Nazis. Together, the three escaped but were later captured again by German forces. It was then that they pulled off an entirely perplexing scam ... by speaking only in Gaelic.
Also known as "the tank of languages".
The Nazis were familiar with most Allied languages but had no idea what the hell Gaelic was. This was pretty important, because they were trying to figure out where the men were from. Were they friends or enemies? Eventually, they offered the Scots a map, who in turn pointed to Ukraine.
Since Ukraine wasn't an enemy, they released the Scotsmen. They then made their way to Spain where they found a British ship and returned home. And they never had to pick up a weapon or get their knuckles bloody to do it.
A Ship Escapes Japanese Forces By Disguising Itself As An Island
Apart from the "big" nations, most of us don't know a lot about the contributions that the Allied forces made during World War II. At least not the finer details. Of course that's to be expected when most history classes struggle to just teach the basics. So you probably don't know about how a Dutch minesweeper survived the battle of the Java Sea (alone), and escaped to Australia through the craftiest means imaginable.
This was not a superior warship ... a minesweeper isn't exactly your front line of defense. At a speed of only 15 knots, it wasn't fast, and it didn't have a lot of guns, either. Fearful that Japanese planes would take it out with ease, the crew came up with the idea to head to some nearby islands and cut down some trees. They took as many as they could carry back to their ship and arranged them on deck while simultaneously decorating the sides of the boat to look like a rocky shoreline. In effect, they turned the ship into an island.
Yeah, we thought it sounded stupid, too, until we saw this picture.
Stationed in Indonesia, the ship had tons of other islands around to blend in with. During daylight hours they anchored and did nothing. They just floated there like ... well, an island. At night they traveled as far as they could before finding new islands and starting all over again. The hope was that no one would notice an island that seemed to vanish and reappear elsewhere the next day. And it worked.
Eight days later, the tree-covered ship (HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen) arrived in Australia and met up with Allied forces. And the Japanese never even noticed.
The Best Inner Tube Decoy Bank Robbery Ever
Now we're not the sorts of people to ever condone outright crimes, but in a purely scholarly way, one can at least admit that the creativity of Anthony Curcio was pretty damned impressive. It has to be one of the most well-plotted armored car robberies ever.
Curcio, who has since served time for this and currently works as an author and speaker, really wanted some money back in 2008. His plan was to purloin a sack of cash from an armored car that he'd been scoping out for months. Sure, anyone can hatch that scheme, but Curcio went above and beyond to make it happen.
First and foremost, Curcio needed a disguise. He opted for jeans, a yellow jacket, a painter's mask and goggles. He then placed an ad on Craigslist, advertising a job doing road work for a day at a rate of $28.50 per hour. All you needed to do was show up outside this bank, wearing jeans, a yellow jacket, a painter's mask and goggles.
"Don't mind us. We're just filming an episode of The X-Files."
The robbery itself was even simpler: Once all of the unknowing Cragslist workers were gathered around, he pepper sprayed a guard who was moving cash from the armored car. He then quickly snatched a bag containing $400,000. His escape route was just as bizarre as his distraction. Rather than flee in a car, he went to a nearby river where he had an inner tube waiting and pulled himself downstream on a system of cables that he'd set up. On the opposite side of the river, he vanished between some buildings and presumably fled in a vehicle that he had waiting.
The cops showed up to find a dozen dudes who matched the robber's description. He had almost gotten away free and clear if not for the fact that a homeless man had seen him preparing the crime and hiding a disguise beforehand. It was the only thing that foiled an otherwise brilliantly bizarre escape.
Like this article? Check out "How Criminals Can Duplicate Your Keys (Without Ever Touching Them)" and "The 6 Craziest Things People Have Made In Prison".