An escape tunnel is a form of secret passage used as part of an escape from siege or captivity. In medieval times such tunnels are usually constructed by the builders of castles or palaces who wish to have an escape route if their domain is under attack. In the case of prisoners, escape tunnels are dug to be free of captivity.
In road and rail tunnels, narrower escape tunnels are provided to enable people to escape on foot in the event of a fire or other accident in the main tunnel. For example, between the two main bores of the Channel Tunnel is an access tunnel large enough to take a fire engine.
Medieval escape tunnels
Throughout the British Isles and much of northern Europe escape tunnels were often part of the intrinsic design of fortified houses and palaces. The tunnel would typically be one half to two kilometers long and open in a location not readily visible to attackers. Examples of these tunnels are at Muchalls Castle (Scotland) and the Bishops Palace at Exeter (England).
The following escapes were at least a partial success, with prisoners escaping via tunnels:
|Prison Location||Year||Number of Successful Escapees||Length of Tunnel||Details|
|Stalag Luft III, Żagań, Nazi Germany (now Poland)||1943||3||30m||"The Wooden Horse", Lieutenant Michael Codner, Flight Lieutenant Eric Williams, and Flight Lieutenant Oliver Philpot|
|Stalag Luft III, Żagań, Nazi Germany (now Poland)||1944||76||102m||Led by Roger Bushell during World War II. The story was made into a film: The Great Escape.|
|Island Farm, Bridgend, southern Wales, UK||1945||70||21 m||The prison held Axis prisoners of war during World War II.|
|Carandiru prison, São Paulo, Brazil.||2001||100 (approx)||unreported||Moises Teixeira da Silva, a convicted robber|
|Dugaluft, Frankfurt, Germany||1941||1||unknown||Peter Butterworth was an English comic actor.|
|Kırşehir, Turkey||1988||18||118m||Turkish & Kurdish political prisoners (Bektas Karakaya, Hasan H. Yildirim, Cumali Çataltepe, Selman Altinoz, Adem Kutuk, Sait Keles)|
|Vellore Fort, India||1995||43||TODO||Tamil Tiger inmates.|
|Yemen||2006||23||TODO||Inmates of Political Security Organization, including convicted mastermind of the USS Cole Bombing Jamal al-Badawi.|
|Burail, India||1998||3||TODO||Escapees: Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara, Paramjit Singh Beora|
|Sarposa Prison, Kandahar, Afghanistan||2011||476||320m||All but one were Taliban members.|
|Penal del Altiplano, Almoloya de Juarez, State of Mexico||2015||1||1500 m||Escapee: Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, "El Chapo Guzmán", who originally was captured in 1993 in Guatemala and escaped from a Mexican federal maximum-security prison in 2001. He was rearrested by Mexican Authorities on 22 February 2014 in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México, but escaped on July 11, 2015.|
- Agamemnon Busmalis from the television series Oz
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- Hogan's Heroes
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Stalag 17
- Prison Break
- Homer Simpson, in a parody of Edmond Dantès, in the episode "Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times"
- Prisoner Cell Block H, six inmates attempted to escape through a tunnel found in the prison grounds, when the tunnel collapsed, only two of the six got away. 3 were trapped between the rubble and the blocked entrance and another was killed from the falling rubble. (Note: only 4 were meant to escape, but 2 followed to prevent them from going)