3. Little Houdini: infamy by stealing Crystal Gayle's tour bus
Not all manhunts are on the grand scale.
In March 2009, Christopher Daniel Gay, a small-time con man who specialized in stealing construction equipment, was in the back of a police cruiser, returning home for prosecution in Tennessee after escaping during a prison transit and stealing country singer Crystal Gayle's tour bus in a bid to go home and see his ailing mother, Annie.
He escaped again by slipping out of handcuffs and leg shackles outside a Waffle House in Cobb County, Ga., cementing his reputation as "Little Houdini." Mr. Gay became somewhat of a folk hero whose poor upbringing and desire to make a stamp on the world caught the attention of folk singer Tim O'Brien, who penned "The Ballad of Christopher Daniel Gay."
Even Tennessee law-enforcement officials viewed Gay's coolness and lock-picking skills with begrudging respect. Police, in fact, gave him the nickname "Little Houdini." Touched by Gay's attempt to see his mother, Coopertown, Tenn., police chief Dave Barrera made it known that Gay could see Annie one last time if he turned himself in – a reunion that never happened.
"I think the justice system wants us to believe that they can get everybody, so you kind of want him to see his family and escape somewhere and live happily ever after somehow," Mr. O'Brien told the Monitor last year. "The only way to do that is to be an outlaw, and maybe it's still possible. I think it is."