TIME

5 Amazing Runaway Kid Stories

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) American statesman, printer and scientist. Anonymous portrait.
A portrait of Benjamin Franklin Universal ImagesGroup/Getty Images

From Ben Franklin to Harry Houdini, sometimes running away is a good call

A 16-year old runaway survived over 5 hours hidden in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii, despite lack of oxygen and temperatures as cold as 80 below. We don’t yet know why the teen ran away from home, but he’s clearly got some gumption. While many runaway kids end up trafficked or worse, there are some gutsy runaways that end up famous, or at least have a really good story.

1) Ben Franklin: Ben Franklin only came to Philadelphia because he ran away from his family Boston. He worked as an apprentice in his half-brother James’s print shop, but the brothers butted heads when James wouldn’t publish Franklin’s writing. Ben got tricky and started writing well-received letters under the world’s greatest pseudonym, “Mrs. Silence Dogood,” but when James found out he was furious. So Ben Franklin ran away and ended up in Philadelphia, where he founded the University of Pennsylvania and did some other stuff (discovered electricity, signed the Declaration of Independence, etc etc.)

2) Harry Houdini: The master showman pulled his first disappearing act when he ran away from home at the age of 12. He left his family, who had immigrated to Milwaukee from Hungary, and jumped on a freight car. Little is known about the year Houdini spent away from home, but he may have spent time in Kansas City. He later re-joined his family in New York and helped support them by working as a necktie cutter and photographer’s assistant. He later became the world’s most famous magician/showman.

3) Frank Abagnale Jr.: The real-life teenage trickster played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can got his start in crime when he ran away from home at 16. He forged checks, played doctor, posed as a lawyer, and even pretended to be an airplane pilot to get free flights. When he was finally caught, he served time in French and Swiss prisons before he was handed over to American authorities, but escaped out of the airplane used to transport him. After he was captured again, he served 5 year of his 12 year prison sentence and then started working with the FBI to help them fight check fraud. He’s now a millionaire security consultant.

4) Barbara McVay: 17-year old Barbara McVay really wanted to go to England in 1966. Her dad was stationed with the Air Force in the U.K, and, as she told the the Sarasota Journal later, “I like English boys.” One problem: Barbara lived in Baltimore. So she did what any teen would do, and stowed away on a Britain-bound submarine that was visiting Baltimore. The 1,600 ton submarine (called the Walrus) had been at sea for four hours when Barbara left her hiding place, feeling groggy from carbon monoxide. Crew members say it’s good she left when she did, because she would have drowned when that compartment filled with water. The Walrus turned around and brought Barbara straight back to Baltimore. “We certainly can’t have that sort of thing going on in the British Navy,” Captain Douglas Scobie told the Sarasota Journal. “Taking away one of Baltimore’s citizens is rather overextending our appreciation of their hospitality.”

5) Semaj Booker: In 2007, Washington 9-year old Semaj Booker really really wanted to see his grandfather in Texas. So he stole a car (which he learned how to do from playing video games) and led police on a high-speed chase. Police caught up with him and brought him home, but the next day he hopped a bus to the airport and snagged a plane ticket to Phoenix by using a fake name. Police picked him up when he tried to get to Dallas. In 2010, the 13-year old Booker had another run-in with the police when he allegedly stole a yo-yo from a store.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,429 other followers