Surely the dream of every prisoner is to somehow escape their confines and captivity to make it back out to the freedom they have lost. It must constantly consume them, their minds craving to be out and concocting ways to do so, to the point where throughout history there have been many daring and mysterious prison escapes that have embodied this desire to fly free from those cold walls. Yet among these there is a particularly strange brand of escape, and that is the certain enigmatic individuals who have gotten out of prison in the most bizarre of ways, by simply teleporting out of there, sometimes in full view of witnesses and leaving bafflement and puzzles behind.
One very unusual case of a prisoner allegedly vanishing happened in full view of witnesses as he melted away as if actually being erased from existence. The story is often said to have happened in 1815 at the prison of Weichselmünde, in Poland, and concerns a mysterious man named Diderici, imprisoned there for the identity theft of his dead employer. One day he was purportedly tightly shackled with hand and ankle chains and marched out across the exercise yard along with a line of other prisoners. Diderici was reportedly kept in shackles at all times due to previous escape attempts, so he was undoubtedly fully secured at the time.
At some point it is said that Diderici suddenly began to change, becoming opaque, then transparent, and then fading from sight altogether to send his shackles clattering to the ground as bewildered prisoners and guards looked on at the empty space where he had just been standing. Apparently no sign was found of the mysteriously vanished man, and Diderici was never seen or heard from again. According to this spectacular story, 30 witnesses would testify that they had seen the man simply fade away, and the baffled authorities supposedly ended up chalking it all up to “an act of God.”
The tale was originally published in a 1978 book by Jay Robert Nash called Among the Missing: An Anecdotal History of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present, and has become rather well-known in the world of the paranormal, often told and retold in numerous articles concerning people who have vanished into thin air, presented as a factual case. Unfortunately, it has been suggested that, although dramatic and indeed based on a real series of events, it has been somewhat fictionalized to include supernatural elements. Apparently there really was a prisoner named Diderici at Weichselmünde at around that time, and he did in fact go missing, but at the time there seems to have been no mention of anything bizarre happening in the records, and he was suspected to have fallen into the Vistula River with his chains and drowned during a botched escape attempt. Since every single telling of this weird tale can be traced back to Nash’s book it is suspected that it is a twisting of a real historical event, with the paranormal element fabricated and injected by Nash himself. We will probably never know for sure, and the strange tale of Diderici the vanishing prisoner lives on.
From the 1940s we have the deeply weird case of an enigmatic man known only as Hadad, who was imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth prison in in northeast Kansas. Very little was known of Hadad’s origins, only that he was in prison on murder charges, that he had been through three penitentiaries, and that he was thought to be of Senegalese descent, but the true extent of his mystique supposedly came to the attention of a prison psychiatrist named Donald Powell Wilson during his time at the prison. Hadad apparently made some pretty brazen claim, such as thathe had been educated at Harvard and Carthage universities, that he was what he called a “Chaldean astrologer” with direct lineage reaching back to 400 B.C., and also a Haitian Zombi priest, none of which could be actually confirmed.
Other prisoners supposedly kept well away from him, claiming that Hadad performed spooky voodoo rituals in his cell and that he had strange powers such as making objects dematerialize or conversely pop out of thin air, as well as the ability to influence people’s minds to bend them to his will, to the extent that he was said to be able to mesmerize guards into sneaking in contraband objects for him. He was also said to have the power of healing, and one rumor even claimed that he had once been shot at by police but had been completely unaffected by the bullets. A truly bizarre tale of Hadad’s supernatural abilities revolves around a time when he used his mind tricks to convince a guard to hand over his belt, which he then used to hang himself. Hadad’s dead body was then kept in the morgue and the following day the coroner was surprised when the very dead man sat up and asked for a glass of water. Wilson would explain of this incident thus:
The neurologist tried to hide his shock, but he choked on a nervous cough. Gordon sucked in a startled breath and swore sharply. I began to breathe again at the sound of Gordon’s voice. There was not a man around the table who had not had some experience, either in his practice or in medical school, with catatonic trances, and who did not have some knowledge of Hadad’s corporeal heterodoxy. Nevertheless, in spite of our scientific smugness, none of us were prepared for what had just happened. We had all thought Hadad was respectably dead.
Considering these rumors and powers Hadad supposedly possessed, it is perhaps no surprise that he was eyed with suspicion and fear, and this was made even worse when he began to demonstrate the phenomenal ability to teleport out of his cell or shackles whenever he liked. On numerous occasions he was allegedly found by startled guards to be wandering the prison, after which he would calmly walk back to his cell and lock himself back in, as if he had just gone out for a casual stroll. He also apparently was able to escape handcuffs and straitjackets effortlessly, and no one could quite work out how he did it. Yet even with these seemingly amazing powers he showed little interest in actually escaping, always returning to his cell. One story that illustrates this well is that as he had been in the process of being transferred from one prison to another Hadad had purportedly once vanished from a fully locked and moving paddywagon, only to later walk right up to the prison and ask to be let in. When questioned by the warden Hadad would calmly say of this stunt thus:
It has been some time since I have been to a concert, and I felt it would be such a shame not to go. After all, I am just a short distance from the city. But sir, I came back, as I always do. I have no intention of avoiding my sentence. Whom did I harm in doing this? No one even knew I was gone.
Wilson was eventually transferred away from Leavenworth, and in 1951 he wrote of the strange tale of the prisoner Hadad in his book My Six Convicts, which chronicles his time with some of his patients at the prison, with Hadad certainly standing out. Since everything we know about the mystical Hadad comes from Wilson, it is unknown just what happened to this mysterious individual, or whether he really did serve his sentence or decide he’d had enough and teleported himself away. It certainly sounds like this must be a sensationalized account, but Wilson was a professional psychiatrist and it seems odd that he would make up such a wild tale. Was Hadad ever real and if so where did he get his powers? It remains unknown.
A similar case involving a mysterious individual with seemingly magical powers reportedly happened in the 1950s in the subnational kingdom of Buganda, located within the African nation of Uganda. The story begins in 1953, with the exile of the king of Buganda, Kabaka Edward Muteesa II, for opposing the integration of East Africa. During this exile a mysterious man who called himself Kibuka Kiganira Omumbale, more commonly known to everyone as Mathias Sewanyana, set up camp at the top of Mutundwe Hill, near Nateete. Sewanyana was locally known as a powerful sorcerer, who was claimed to be possessed by the spirit of the great Kibuka, Buganda’s ancient king, whose name he had taken for himself. He apparently had a long history of being possessed by various magical spirits, and his brother would say of this ability in a 1965 interview in Drum Magazine:
Well, the ghosts originally possessed his great-grandfather and, as you are well aware, in Buganda, when the old people die the spirits pick up one of the young grandsons. In the case of our family, they [spirits] chose Mathias Sewanyana to be their priest and gave him the name Kibuka Kiganira Omumbale.
From this camp at the top of the hill, Sewanyana proclaimed that he had arrived to deliver the king from exile, and he began to amass supporters and followers, who congregated at the hill and performed mystical rituals to invoke the power of the spirits to use towards their goals. The group became so large and unruly that Bugandan police orchestrated a raid on February 13, 1955, during which they met stiff resistance from a violent and armed mob, ending in the death of a Constable Samuel Nsubuga. The police were so overwhelmed by the fierce crowd that they retreated, only to return on February 28, 1955, along with reinforcements in the form of Capt Anderson, a British officer, and a company of 100 soldiers.
This seemed to do the trick, and the mob was dispersed and Sewanyana arrested. He was later sentenced to hang, and was imprisoned at the notorious Maximum Security Prison Luzira, in Kampala. There he was kept on constant high-alert guard night and day, yet one evening when his locked and secured cell was opened Sewanyana was nowhere to be seen. The cell showed no signs of tampering, no broken locks no tunnels, nothing. Likewise, none of the guards stationed at his cell 24-hours a day had seen anything suspicious or strange and security footage showed nothing. He had simply vanished into thin air.
A subsequent investigation turned up no solution as to how Sewanyana has managed to escape, and it continued to baffle officials. In the meantime, rather than fading away the sorcerer had taken up camp at another location to continue his mad crusade, and on September 23, 1955 he was rearrested. It must have worked though, as Mutessa was allowed to re-enter the country in 1955. When asked how he had escaped, Sewanyana told police that the powerful spirit within him, Kibuka, had used his supernatural powers to teleport him out. Powerful spirits or not, there would be no second teleportation, and Sewanyana would stay in prison until October 8, 1962, when he was released under the Uganda Independence Amnesty, after which he would be found dead floating in Lake Victoria in 1972. The cause of his death was never determined.
In an even more recent case, the Canadian Press reported in April of 2008 on the odd story of a dangerous criminal who seems to have just teleported out of his restraints and then vanished. According to the report, 30-year-old Jermaine Carvery, who was in prison due to a string of robberies and an attempted murder charge, was being escorted by two armed guards to a medical appointment from Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in nearby Dartmouth, while securely locked in double-locked leg irons and handcuffs. At some point, Carvery suddenly exited the back of the corrections van they were traveling in as they pulled up to the hospital and made a run for it, his handcuffs still on but his leg shackles gone.
The guards gave chase, but after a 10-minute pursuit they lost their quarry and Carvery disappeared. An examination of the leg irons showed that they were unlocked, and video footage showed that they had been put on properly, baffling authorities as to how he could have actually gotten out of them. Fred Honsberger, the province’s executive director of correctional services, said of the puzzling escape, “It’s a mystery, I’ve never heard of anyone getting out of leg irons before.” Did he somehow phase through his restraints or was this just a very clever and gifted escape artist? It is hard to say.
There can be no doubt that many prisoners seek to be released from their captivity and bindings, and they have time and time again proven very resourceful in doing so. However, are there sometimes more mysterious forces at work in these escapes? With the cases we have looked at here, did these prisoners experience something beyond our understanding that allowed them to get out of their predicament at will? Or is this tall tales, Houdini-style escape tricks, and exaggeration? Whatever the case may be, if these stories are true then this is perhaps the most spectacular way someone could get out of jail for free.