Prisoner Escapes by Mailing Himself Out of Jail

So maybe this isn’t an obvious tactic, and maybe large packages coming into a prison are searched more thoroughly than large packages leaving a prison—but you’d expect prison guards to pay attention to anything large enough for a person to fit into.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

I am remembering the tour of Alcatraz I took some years ago, and I think the tour guide talked about someone who tried to escape in a laundry cart. So maybe this isn’t such a new idea after all.

EDITED TO ADD (12/12): He was recaptured.

EDITED TO ADD (12/13): In 1977 Nazi war criminal Herbert Kappler was smuggled out of a hospital, concealed in a large suitcase.

Posted on December 5, 2008 at 7:01 AM35 Comments


Mathias December 5, 2008 7:43 AM

As this report ( states the escapee has been caught. Sixteen days after his escape, and less than an hour’s drive away from the prison. Police still don’t know how exactly he managed to escape. They suspect he had accomplices inside and outside the prison. He is now being watched closely and will be relocated to another prison.

Clive Robinson December 5, 2008 8:08 AM

Ahh, maybe he thought he should try being a mail order husband.

The question is did the lady ask for,

First Class or Second Class Male delivery…

(Sorry old joke I know, and no I’m not going to do the other man in the post joke)

Anonymous December 5, 2008 8:52 AM

But wait a minute…… After reading this blog for some time now I was under the clear impression that movie plot events don’t happen in real life.

Romeo Vitelli December 5, 2008 10:30 AM

I suppose the real question was whether he sent himself C.O.D. Being returned to sender for having insufficient postage would have been counterproductive.

Clive Robinson December 5, 2008 11:23 AM

@ Chris j,

“I kept thinking of the stereotypical nerd stuffed into his locker.”

As the biggest nerd where I was educated it is not an experiance I had. Infact the reverse being over 6’6” and 18st with a physic that ment walking sideways through doors and being somewhat partial to rugby I often stuffed not just the oposition but also a few of the “footie lads” back in their boxes when they tried to tell me football (socer) was a mans game…

Christopher Browne December 5, 2008 11:23 AM

There was an episode of Buck Rogers that used this trope, way back when…

They had Gary Coleman playing the kidnapped “Cosmic Whiz Kid” (title of the episode) who breaks himself out using the captor’s home’s internal “courier systems.”

The episode has everything:

  • As usual, crawling with innumerable attractive women garbed in 25th century/’70s spandex
  • Wise-cracking Gary Coleman, at the height of his power
  • Buck Rogers finds someone else from his time
  • The usual dreadful props, terrible comedic moments, unconvincing fights, and such 🙂

The relevant “self-managed-escape” makes the risks and efforts of the would-be rescuers pretty much futile.

Josh O December 5, 2008 11:24 AM

He was only caught because he accidentally left the tracking number in his cell. The warden just had to change the delivery options.

Ian Mason December 5, 2008 11:27 AM

@Ano “Do i smell Movie Plot Threat?”

No, cartoon plot. I presume the box had “ACME PRISON ESCAPE KIT” printed on the side?

Tex Avery, where are you when your nation’s prison service needs you?

John December 5, 2008 11:31 AM

IIRC, some guy mailed himself via airmail. He nearly froze to death, but survived.

I don’t remember the details, alas.

Trichinosis USA December 5, 2008 12:34 PM

Berlin has a nice museum that talks about all the different ways people tried to cross from the Eastern Bloc over into the West. They have a car that had a false seat – a person occupied the seat and was covered over while another passenger sat on their lap. The same car was also fitted with a false “gas tank” which was used to transport a child.

HJohn December 5, 2008 1:07 PM

@Bruce: “I think the tour guide talked about someone who tried to escape in a laundry cart.”

Someone did succeed at this at another prison once; however, when he got out of the laundry cart to escape, he found that the prison just sent their laundry to another prison to be washed. Maybe it was the same one. I don’t know.

It was actually a more thought out plan than one would think. In the incident I recall, the inmate switched places with another inmate (each went to where the other was supposed to go, laundry and I think the dishroom). When he hid, they were missing one inmate, took a roll of everyone, and identified the other guy as the missing inmate (of course, they found him in the kitchen, just as the escapee planned).

JK December 5, 2008 1:45 PM

“I was not surprised that an escape happened on my watch. For years I had been asking for more security guards from the government. But now they’ll have to listen.” – Chief warden Beate Peters

This doesn’t even begin to make sense. Which is why the request has a good chance of being fulfilled.

Urban December 5, 2008 2:38 PM

@Trichinosis USA

You are talking about the museum at the old Checkpoint Charlie.
It is pretty amazing.
I was there over 10 years back and recall one example where two suitcases were stitched together so a small female could fit inside.

bob December 5, 2008 3:09 PM

@Trich, Urban: I was there (at the museum) in ’80 & ’90; very entertaining.

I thought it hilarious that there was (in 2000) a small box of broken cement chunks of indeterminate origin sitting by (the former site of) Checkpoint Charlie saying “take a piece of the Berlin Wall” or similar.

I have often wondered if that is what the City of Berlin is doing with the old soviet tenement buildings that had to be demolished due to safety concerns; letting tourists haul it off a chunk at a time (although that is a more imaginative solution than Germans per se are credited with being).

gvainfo December 5, 2008 4:28 PM

He did not mail himself out, he boarded the truck which transported cardboard they had folded in the prison as work.
I guess he won’t have the option to take up work anymore now.

Clive Robinson December 5, 2008 7:18 PM

@ Pete Austin,

Another of the Colditz escapers who “escaped in a box” was Flt Lt Dominic Bruce OBE, MC, AFM.

He dressed in cricket whites (the only civies that fit his diminuative frame) and was packed into a Red Cross chest with a sixty foot rope made of the blue and white checked bed sheets.

He stole a bycicle from outside a church and cycled all the way to Danzink where he was captured after being betrayed whilst trying to get on a Swedish ship. Unlike the “six” he did not “make a home run”.

On being returned to Colditz he was sentanced to death and spent some time awaiting his eventual fate.

But it was not to happen, he was returned to the Castel and was repatriated shortly after Colditz was liberated.

Back in the UK he worked his way up through the UK education system becoming Principle of Kingston College of Further Education that at the time was one of the largest Technical Colleges in the UK.

He hung the death warrent on the wall behind his desk and would point it out to some of the more forceful persons visiting his office (my sister being one of them).

He was a man of Catholic tasts and religion and one of his claims to fame was to accuratly predict that in the Kingston-upon-Thames area certain (Catholic) schools would buck the trend of falling numbers of pupils.

The first occasion that I remember meeting him was when the lift doors opened as I bounded out he bounced in bounced off of me and landed on his backside in the corridor. He gave me a look and said “I know you your father works here” lept up and dashed into the lift before I could appologise.

We bumped into each other occasionaly after that and when my parents died he was instrumental in getting me a job.

Saddly he died on 12th Feb 2000 after a good innings and was survived by his wife and nine children.

Anonymous December 6, 2008 7:18 AM

Hugo Grotius managed to get out of Fort Loevestein in a similar way (using a book chest) on March 22nd, 1621.
Yes, with help from outside and a lot of preparation.

ElementOfSurprise December 6, 2008 12:06 PM

@Anonymous: “But wait a minute…… After reading this blog for some time now I was under the clear impression that movie plot events don’t happen in real life.”

Bruce’s message isn’t that movie-plot events never happen: the 2001 airliner attacks in the USA certainly go into the “movie plot” category.

Bruce’s point is that trying to construct every imaginable movie plot, and then constructing responses to that specific threat, is a hopeless security strategy.

Mats December 9, 2008 4:07 AM

When I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with my school, my headmaster told me that one of the prisoners escaped by putting himself in all the feces from the prisoners.

Several people died because of his escape.

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