Imagine being kidnapped, held prisoner, and tortured for days or months on end. Until you finally see an opportunity to escape.
And sometimes these very same people have the courage and resilience to forgive the perpetrators.
The brave people in the stories below will prove that with enough determination and willpower, anything is possible when it comes to saving your own life.
14-year-old Elizabeth Shoaf was “arrested” by Vinson Filyaw, who was posing as a police officer. He then led her to a bunker where he kept her for ten days.
Over those 10 days, Shoaf gained her captor’s trust to the point that he let her use his phone (she said she wanted to play games to pass the time). Of course, in between games of Candy Crush, Shoaf texted her parents, who called the police.
Filyaw trusted her so much that when the real police arrived a short time later, he asked her what he should do. Shoaf advised him to run, which he did, leaving her to stroll nonchalantly to safety.
The person in the next story unexpectedly advocated for a killer not to be put to death.
You might not think of an adult film producer as the image of moral consistency.
But when Larry Flynt was paralyzed by a neo-Nazi who objected to scenes of interracial relations in Flynt’s magazine, and who had killed eight other people, Flynt lobbied hard to ensure his assailant was not given the death penalty.
Flynt, a lifelong critic of capital punishment, said: “I just don’t think the government should be in the business of killing people.” You may not have expected sound moral guidance from the creator of Hustler, but here we are.
The next story proves that arranged marriages are not a good idea for any woman.
Roia Atmar was married at fourteen and spent five years in an abusive relationship.
The abuse escalated to the point that Atmar had to be hospitalized for three months after her husband set her on fire.
With the help of a social worker and the police, Atmar and her children were able to escape. Today she works for a non-profit organization that provides housing and community support to victims of domestic abuse.
The next story is about a coach that no parent wants for their child.
Not An Olympic Dream
Winning Olympic gold is an impressive and inspiring feat in its own right, but in 2016 some of America’s most famous gymnasts came forward to reveal the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar.
He molested more than 200 young athletes over his two decades as a team physician.
Through their testimony, these Olympic heroes ensured that Nassar would spend the rest of his life in prison.
The woman in the next story had a quick-thinking plan to make her escape.
Stephen Morin, who was known as “The Chameleon,” killed over 30 women across the United States, but it was the woman he let go who had the most profound impact on his life. Morin abducted Margaret Palm in 1981.
During their ten hours together, Palm insisted they listen to the sermons of Rev. Kenneth Copeland. Morin was so moved by the sermons that he let Palm go.
According to Palm, Morin was actually on his way to Copeland’s house when he was arrested—he was going to confess to his crimes and ask for Copeland’s blessing. When Morin was sentenced to death, his last words were a prayer. Those must have been quite the sermons!
The next story is about one guy who managed to flee his attacker.
The One That Got Away
Tracy Edwards didn’t suspect anything when an acquaintance invited him over to have a few drinks and watch a movie. But as the night wore on, Edwards’ host—one Jeffrey Dahmer—began acting erratic and violent, wielding a butcher knife at Edwards and undergoing intense and rapid mood swings.
Dahmer eventually put a handcuff on one of Edwards’ wrists, but Edwards managed to calm him down enough that he was able to strike him and flee before he got the other cuff on, managing to wave down a police car in his escape.
While Edwards’ escape and testimony led to Dahmer finally being caught, he was deeply affected by the trauma of his brush with death and lived for years on the streets.
In 2011 he was arrested for homicide after an altercation with another homeless man. Although he may have saved many lives by ensuring Dahmer’s capture, he had trouble not losing himself that fateful day.
The next story is a continuation of the previous story and proves that not everyone was so lucky.
Others had tried to escape Dahmer before, only to be ignored. In 1991, Dahmer captured and brutally tortured the 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone—at one point, he drilled a hole in the boy’s skull and injected hydrochloric acid into his brain.
After being left alone briefly, Sinthasomphone escaped Dahmer’s apartment and drew the attention of two police officers. However, Dahmer explained that Sinthasomphone was his boyfriend and was simply drunk, and the police left without doing anything.
Dahmer killed Sinthasomphone with a second injection soon after they departed. This only proves just how lucky Edwards was, and his quick thinking led to Dahmer’s eventual arrest.
The next story is about a pilot who always had the safety of his passengers at the top of his list.
One clever pilot saved not only himself but his crew and passengers as well.
When hijackers attacked an Air Mauritania flight, pilot Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine quickly ascertained his hijackers could not speak French.
Lemine spoke—in French—over the PA system, advising passengers to brace for turbulence. He then rocked the plane, giving crew members an opportunity to tackle the disoriented terrorists.
The guy in the next story was just a spectator when tragedy struck.
The Right Place At The Wrong Time
Some people are unlucky, some people are really unlucky, and then there’s Mason Wells. Wells was cheering his mother on at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 when a bomb exploded.
Both Wells and his mother survived, and he took the bombing as a sign he should devote himself to missionary work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sadly, this would not be his last brush with death.
And he proved once again to be an unlucky guy.
The Unluckiest Guy In The World
Wells’ missionary work took him around the world, but it didn’t take him out of the line of fire. Two years later, he was in Paris when another terrorist attack took place in the city.
This time, he wasn’t nearly as close to the scene as he was in Boston, but I’m sure he still got more than a few panicked texts making sure he was OK.
Just one year after the Paris attacks, Wells was in Brussels when he witnessed yet another bombing. This time he suffered minor burns and shrapnel wounds, but still walked away from the explosion.
If you’re keeping track, that’s three terrorist attacks Mason Wells was present for and managed to survive. This begs the question: Is he the luckiest unlucky person in the world, or the unluckiest lucky person?
The woman in the next story gave a burglar a taste of his own medicine.
Late Night Visitor
Sherione Johnson had a visitor on Christmas Eve, 2016, but it wasn’t St. Nick—a burglar broke into her home and demanded her car keys.
When the burglar aimed his gun at one of Johnson’s grandkids, she sprang into action and snatched her own shotgun.
Johnson held her burglar at gunpoint until her children came home. They dutifully roughed him up and sent him packing. The family that kicks criminal butt together…
The next story is about a woman who managed to crawl out of a hole to save her own life.
Thrown Down A Well
In 2007, Alexander Pichushkin threw 19-year-old Maria Viricheva down a well. Viricheva, three months pregnant, fell nearly 30 feet, but she managed to use her whole body to wedge herself in place and keep from being sucked down a drainage pipe.
She was not the only victim of Pichushkin, and curiously, not the only survivor, although the terrifying serial killer had managed to rack up 48 victims in his time. When Viricheva reached the top of the well, her screams and attempts to budge the 40kg (88lb) iron cover startled a passerby, who quickly fled.
Viricheva thought that was it, and that no one would ever help her. Luckily, the woman had run to a nearby garage, and two security workers were able to come back and pull Viricheva from the well.
The next story is about another woman who had to claw her way back to freedom.
Things weren’t working out between Marcin Kasprzak and his fiancée (and the mother of his four-year-old child) Michelina Lewandowska, so he tasered her and buried her alive in a cardboard box.
Fittingly, Lewandowska used her engagement ring to cut through her restraints and dig her way out. Kasprzak was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while his accomplice was sent to a young offender’s institution.
Lewandowska said that “The thing that saved me was thinking of my little boy, Jakub. If I died I would never see him again and he would be left without his mother.”
The woman in the next story had to literally crawl to get help.
As they were sitting and talking on some railway tracks, Holly Dunn and her boyfriend were attacked by Angel Resendiz.
After killing the boyfriend, Resendiz brutally beat and stabbed, leaving her to die in a ditch.
However, Dunn did not die, and she managed to drag herself to a nearby house and receive aid. Dunn is the only woman to have survived an encounter with “the Railway Killer,” and her testimony was crucial in sending him to jail.
The girl in the next story proved that being calm in stressful situations could save your life.
The Sympathetic Talk
Seventeen-year-old Lisa McVey Noland was working the night shift at a donut shop in November 1984. At the time, there was an active serial killer in the area, and she had heard about it, but never expected that she would come face to face with him one night while leaving her job.
The man knocked her off her bicycle and pulled her into his car. What transpired next was a brutal and relentless 26-hour attack on McVey Noland by the man. McVey Noland already had a survivor’s instinct—she’d been the victim of childhood sexual abuse.
She began speaking softly to her attacker, drawing him out of his shell, sharing her own life experiences, and listening to him. The man grew so sympathetic that he let McVey Noland go. The time she spent with her attacker allowed her to give a very thorough description to the police, and he was apprehended shortly after.
The woman in the next story had someone to help her through a terrifying ordeal.
The 911 Operator
Jennifer Morey, a 25-year-old lawyer, had purposely chosen her apartment building because it offered 24-hour security with an on-premises guard, giving her a sense of safety as a young woman living alone.
But shortly after she went to bed, she was attacked by an intruder in her dark apartment, who forced himself on her at knifepoint and cut her throat before forcing her into the bathroom and leaving.
She held the bathroom door shut for so long that it jammed, and she was unable to open the doorknob with blood all over her hands.
When she got out, her phone and lights were dead, but she was able to find her cell phone and call 911. It was Richard Everett’s first night as an operator, but he tried to keep her calm. Minutes into their call, there was a pounding on her door—but Morey wasn’t safe just yet.
The man at the door said he was building security, but Everett felt that something was off, and advised her not to open the door. The building’s security had not contacted 911 or the police, and vice versa. How could the guard know what was happening in the apartment?
The ordeal continues and proves that you can make friends in the most unexpected situations.
The Danger Continues
When police did arrive, they found the guard bloodied, with a hand injury. He claimed that he had been attacked by an intruder, but they knew something was off. He didn’t have any underwear on, and his Pinkerton Security cap was missing.
You can guess where they found both items—in Morey’s apartment. The guard had gone back and knocked on the door so that he could retrieve the evidence and finish the job. Without Everett on the phone guiding her, Morey might have fallen victim to the guard twice.
During a lawsuit against the Pinkerton Security company, negligence seemed rampant, including a case where another guard had used his badge to coerce a girl into his car, where he assaulted and shot her.
Morey eventually accepted an undisclosed settlement from the security company, The guard was sentenced to 20 years in prison. After years of dealing with the trauma of her attack, Morey opened her own family law practice. And the cautious 911 operator? He went to Morey’s wedding and they remain close friends to this day.
The next story proves that getting into a car with a stranger could be life-threatening.
Against All Odds
There are stories of people who survive against all odds, and then there’s Mary Vincent. When she was just a 15-year-old runaway, she was picked up while hitchhiking by 50-year-old Lawrence Singleton.
After driving for a while, she was repeatedly abused and assaulted, before being drugged. When she woke up, she begged for her life and freedom, and he responded by cutting off both her forearms, using just 5 blows with a hatchet.
As she lost consciousness, he shoved her naked, dismembered body into a concrete culvert. But Vincent woke up, realized her dire condition, and walked three miles, following car sounds to a freeway, holding up what was left of her arms into the air so that she wouldn’t bleed out.
While the first car that saw her sped away in horror, a traveling couple stopped and took her to an airport to call an ambulance.
The teenagers in the next story refused to be silenced by the tragedy that claimed the lives of their friends.
In 2018, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkside, Florida suffered an unthinkable tragedy when a gunman shot seventeen of their classmates.
Refusing to be silenced, the teenagers took to social media, challenging politicians to make changes to gun laws that would ensure such a tragedy would never happen again.
Their movement quickly gained speed, causing many corporations to sever ties with the National Rifle Association, and proving that, together, even the youngest members of a community can cause major social change.
The girl in the next story was honored for her bravery.
The Great Escape
Erica Pratt was just seven years old when two men snatched her from a Philadelphia sidewalk. There was one witness present, a 6-year-old child named Rani Byrd.
Rani tried to help Erica but was pushed to the ground before two men pulled off. When Erica’s grandmother called for Erica and her sister, a crying Rani stated that Erica had been kidnapped, but her sister was around the corner
The men brought her to an abandoned building where they tied her up, but Pratt was able to chew through her restraints and sneak out a window. Her bravery and composure earned her a National Courage Award in 2003.
You will not want to walk alone again after reading the next story.
The Last Attack
Between 1980 and 1982, residents of Minneapolis were terrorized by a sadistic serial killer. He was known as the ‘Weepy-Voiced Killer’ due to the fact that following his murders, he would call the police and wail in a high-pitched town down the phone.
The first victim of this serial killer was 20-year-old Karen Potak, a University of Stevens Point student. She was walking home from a nightclub at approximately 1 AM on New Year’s Day of 1980.
As she walked down the street near Pierce Butler Road and Syndicate Avenue in St. Paul, Minneapolis, she was attacked by a man with a tire iron. She was left clinging to life under the cool winter air. At around 3 AM, police received a phone call from the woman’s attacker.
His voice quivered with emotion as he directed police to the crime scene, stating: ‘There’s a girl hurt here…’ Miraculously, Karen survived the attack but was left without her memory.
The woman saved her own life by just being a little kind and understanding.
Twenty-Six Hours Of Hell
Lisa didn’t know but the man who had abducted her was Bobby Joe Long. By the time he abducted Lisa, he had already murdered at least ten women along the strip of Tampa.
Lisa was determined to survive this ordeal and she knew that she needed to earn her abductor’s trust. She started to speak to Long as though he were her friend, asking him what had happened in his life. Long complained that he had gone through a bitter breakup and was taking revenge on women.
After a 26-hour ordeal, Long decided that he would let Lisa live.
When Long let Lisa go, she managed to catch a glimpse of his face and gave a detailed description to the police, who apprehended him shortly thereafter.
Following his arrest, he confessed to ten murders and received a death sentence. In 2019, that death sentence was carried out. Lisa was in the front row of the execution witnesses.
The next one is another story about the dangers of getting in strangers’ cars.
The Grim Sleeper
In 1989, 30-year-old Enietra Washington was walking to a friend’s home in South Los Angeles when she reluctantly accepted a ride from Lonnie Franklin, Jr. after he repeatedly offered to give her a lift. Not wanting to seem rude, she got into his vehicle.
Franklin – without warning – shot Washington in the chest. When she tried to flee the car, Franklin told her he would shoot her again.
Franklin simply opened the door of his car and pushed Washington out into the street. Struggling to remain conscious, Washington managed to get to a friend’s house and eventually received the medical attention she needed to survive the attack.
Nearly two decades later, Franklin was apprehended with the help of familial DNA and was later convicted.
Washington was a star witness at his trial, and her powerful testimony undoubtedly helped put the serial murderer, who was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” by the press, behind bars for the rest of his life.
The young woman in the next story managed to save herself from a terrible fate.
On June 13, 1983, Robert Hansen abducted 17-year-old Cindy Paulson and took her to his home in Anchorage, AK, where he chained her up and subjected the teenager to terrifying acts. Then, Hansen forced Paulson into his vehicle and drove to a nearby airport.
Hansen attempted to make the 17-year-old board his private plane. However, the teenager, certain her captor would kill her if got onto the aircraft, managed to escape. With handcuffs still on her wrists, she flagged down a car that took her to safety.
Paulson immediately reported the abduction and rape to law enforcement – even providing them with information that led them right to Hansen’s door – the local business owner managed to convince police the teenager was trying to extort money from him.
Months later, the authorities finally arrested Hansen for committing multiple murders. Hansen was given life in prison for his crimes and ultimately died of natural causes in 2014 while in police custody.
The next story will have you securing all your doors and windows before going to bed at night.
The Night Stalker
In the early hours of July 5, 1985, Richard Ramirez entered 16-year-old Whitney Bennett’s bedroom through an unlocked window. He attacked the teenager with a tire iron and strangled her in the Sierra Madre, California, home she shared with her parents.
When she regained consciousness, Bennett screamed for her parents who promptly got their daughter the medical help she needed to save her life.
While Ramirez – who was dubbed the “Night Stalker” for the brutal murders he committed in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco – stole some of the teenager’s jewelry, he left behind a bloody footprint law enforcement used to link the attack to his other crimes.
The following month, Ramirez was apprehended and, in 1989, Bennett testified at his trial. She provided valuable testimony against the man who tried to murder her. Ramirez was convicted of multiple counts of murder, sexual assault, and attempted murder, and while he was sentenced to death, he passed away in 2013 due to complications secondary to B-cell lymphoma.
The brave woman in the next story used all her strength to call for help even though she had life-threatening injuries.
The Yorkshire Ripper
Around 4 a.m. on the morning of May 9, 1976, 20-year-old Marcella Claxton was viciously attacked by Peter Sutcliffe – a serial killer who had already murdered two victims and would go on to kill several more – as she was making her way back to her home in Leeds, England.
Sutcliffe hit Claxton in the head multiple times with a hammer, knocking the young woman to the ground.
Remarkably, Claxton managed to crawl to a phone booth and call for help. She received more than 50 stitches and had to undergo brain surgery. Sadly, she was four months pregnant at the time of the attack, and she suffered a miscarriage following the horrifying event.
After nearly killing Claxton, Sutcliffe – who was dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper” by the media – went on to attack and murder several more women. He was finally captured in 1980, and he eventually told police about beating Claxton with the hammer and leaving her for dead.
Thankfully, Sutcliffe was given a life sentence for his crimes, while Claxton, who reportedly suffers chronic headaches and blackouts as a result of the near-fatal attack, went on to become a mother.
The next story would prove once again that there is safety in numbers.
The Green River Killer
On a rainy evening in November 1982, 20-year-old Rebecca Garde was walking home from work in Seattle when she accepted a ride from Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer.
At her request, Ridgway showed her his employee ID for the company where he worked painting trucks before accompanying him to a wooded area to have sex.
However, shortly after getting out of his truck, Ridgway attacked the young woman, forcing her to the ground and attempting to strangle her. Incredibly, Garde managed to get free from her attacker and ran to a nearby home for help, leaving Ridgway behind with his pants around his ankles.
While the young woman knew where her would-be killer worked, she didn’t report the assault for two years, largely because sex workers are illegal in Washington state.
Ridgway wasn’t arrested until 2001 and he was eventually convicted of murdering 49 teenage girls and women and given multiple life sentences for his crimes. Garde – who could have easily been one of the Green River Killer’s victims – later said, “I got lucky and I was able to get away and run for help.”
The woman in the next story witnessed something horrific but was able to help the police to track down the killer.
The Lone Survivor
On July 14, 1966, Richard Speck broke into a Chicago townhouse shared by several student nurses, eventually murdering all of the women inside the home – except for Corazon Amurao.
Amurao hid under a bed while Speck took eight of her fellow nurses, one by one, into another room where he strangled or stabbed them to death. After murdering Gloria Davy, Speck fled the crime scene, but he was arrested a few days later.
He tried to kill himself and was admitted to a Chicago hospital, where a doctor recognized the wanted killer from a sketch created with the help of Amurao.
Amurao testified at Speck’s trial in April 1967, and when she was asked to identify the person who murdered eight of her friends, she got up from the witness box, crossed the courtroom, and stood directly in front of Speck.
Speck was convicted and sentenced to death for his crimes, while Amurao went on to become a nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother.
Speck’s sentence was eventually changed to life in prison, and he died of a heart attack in 1991 while in police custody.
The next story will prove that it’s only men who are involved in heinous crimes.
A Quick Getaway
On November 9, 1986, 17-year-old Kate Moir was kidnapped by David and Catherine Birnie, a married couple who had already abducted and murdered four women and girls ranging in age from 15 to 31.
Moir was taken to the Birnie’s home in Willagee, Australia, where David repeatedly raped the teenager at knife-point as his wife Catherine watched. The following morning, David went to work, leaving Moir at home with Catherine.
When a visitor came to the couple’s home, the 17-year-old – who Catherine had failed to restrain – managed to force open a window in the bedroom where she was being held captive.
She knocked on the doors of three of the nearest houses, discovering the Birnies’ neighbors weren’t home until she found a man outside of a store who immediately drove Moir to the police station.
Thanks to Moir’s brave escape, David and Catherine were convicted of multiple murders, and they were given life sentences for their crimes.
Moir has dedicated her life to advocating for victims’ rights, demanding truth in sentencing, and asking the courts to deny parole for sex offenders and people who commit premeditated murder.
The woman in the next story had a lucky escape from a very notorious killer.
A Fortunate Escape
In the early morning hours of January 15, 1978, Ted Bundy broke into an FSU sorority house in Tallahassee, FL, and brutally attacked four young members of Chi Omega.
He murdered Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, and two of the home’s residents – Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler – managed to survive the violent assaults.
At that point, Bundy was a full-blown serial killer, who took the lives of several women in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah before traveling to Florida.
Bundy went on to kill his final victim, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, in Lake City, FL, before he was apprehended on February 15, 1978. He was initially pulled over by an officer for driving a stolen vehicle.
Bundy was eventually convicted of multiple murders and given the death penalty. Bundy was executed in Florida’s electric chair on January 24, 1989.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.