Bedsheet Ladder

We lose most of our princesses that way...
Hobbes: We're going out the window?
Calvin: We're going out the window.

A character is stuck in a room for any reason. The room has a bed and a window. The prisoner makes a rope using the sheets off the bed and climbs out the window.

The first snag in this plan should be a guarantee that there's enough length to reach the ground. It never happens, whether you're in a second-story bedroom or in a cell in the Evil Tower of Ominousness.

The second snag that never occurs should be getting the window open. Has no one ever heard of glass, locks, or bars?

The third snag is doing it without being seen. Good thing The Guards Must Be Crazy.

A princess, especially a Rebellious Princess, will frequently do this. That goes double if she's a Girl in the Tower.

Note: This was tested by the MythBusters and confirmed— Grant was able to climb down a 14-story building using a rope made from prison bedsheets. Kari did it with human hair plaited into a rope, while Tory did the same thing with toilet paper.

Contrast I Need No Ladders.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Mokuba attempts to escape from Pegasus' castle by climbing down a bed sheet rope. It doesn't work, as he runs out of sheets a fair way up the tower. As he panics, two of the sheet's knots slip, and he plummets. However, in a bit of standard cartoon magic, he survives. This despite the fact he clearly falls from above the height of the trees.
  • In the 12th episode of Macross Frontier, Alto used a bedsheet ladder to escape the custody of a rogue Zentradi group. It looked somewhat realistic because they were kept on a second floor only, in a very makeshift cell, guarded by not terribly determined guards, and all that on a military base full of 20-meter-tall soldiers armed to the teeth.
  • Euphemia uses one in her debut episode of Code Geass. It's about two stories too short, so of course she falls into the arms of her future romantic interest.
  • In Ippatsu Kikimusume, Kunyan is stuck in the restroom. To get out, she braids a rope out of toilet paper. It works, but about halfway down, rain dissolves the paper so yeah...
  • In Junjou Romantica, Usami's brother Haurhiko locks Misaki in a store room where bedsheets are kept (alongside a desk full of notebooks that Usami wrote stories in as a kid). Misaki soon sees his way out, though the sheets rip causing him to fall and sprain his ankle.

    Comic Books 
  • During The Mask comic series, Walter escapes from his hospital room this way, although the actual escape is never shown, only the aftermath. The two detectives viewing the scene snark that he must watch too many movies for trying that stunt - and eat way too much popcorn for the bedsheets to tear.
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "The Smurf Threat", Papa Smurf, Hefty, and Jokey escape their imprisonment inside the Grey Smurf prison camp by making a ladder using torn pieces of Smurf pants.
  • In the Devil's Due Sheena, Queen of the Jungle series, Sheena fakes an escape from a hospital by dropping a bedsheet ladder out of a window and hiding behind the door. While the guards are looking at the ladder and wondering how she got away, she sneaks out the door.
  • In Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #35, Tala escapes from the palace in Greater Helium by knotting the bedsheets together and climbing down the outside of the wall. However, the ladder is too short and she ends up having to drop the last dozen feet or so.

    Fan Fic 

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live Action 
  • Subverted in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Prince Herbert puts together a bedsheet ladder to escape from the tower, but is stalled by Lancelot's hesitance until his father cuts the rope and sends him plummeting to his doom. Of course, as we all know, he was Not Quite Dead.
  • Subverted in the first Charlie's Angels movie, Bosley tries this one, but the Thin Man happened to be stationed below the window the Bedsheet Ladder.
  • In The Great Race, Natalie Wood's character makes one of these out of her clothes. It doesn't work, but we do get to enjoy several subsequent scenes of her in period lingerie, so it's all good.
  • James Bond
    • In Octopussy, Magda uses a variation of this to escape from Bond: she ties one end of the sari she's wearing to a balustrade and jumps off the balcony, "riding" the garment down to safety as it unravels.
    • When Bond tries something similar in The World Is Not Enough, he dislocates his arm from the sudden stop at the bottom.
  • In a Bob Hope movie he's being held hostage in a hotel room in NYC. He tries this but when he looks out the window, where he's got a four sheet rope, it looks like he's on the 1,000th floor. The street is so far down the buildings seem to meet. His analysis: "I need more sheets."
  • In Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, a young Jables manages to escape his room this way.
  • Nosferatu: Hutter makes his escape from Orlok's castle this way. It's not quite long enough, but one can pardon him for not going back for more sheets.
  • In Open Water 2 Adrift, the protagonists take off their swimsuits to make a ladder to get back onto their boat. It doesn't work.
  • After confronting the burgomaster who took his house, Baron Frankenstein in The Evil of Frankenstein escapes the constables arriving on the scene by locking himself behind the bedroom doors, and using the bedsheets to climb down from the higher floor.

     Folk Tales 
  • "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" Slightly unusual in that the braid was also the only way up the tower, and it was intended for other people to access said tower.
    • The main illustrations that show her wrapping it about some kind of hook are wise. The hair could probably take the weight; it's keeping the weight from unrooting your hair that's the problem, and a hook would do it.
    • The Brothers Grimm have the prince bringing her stuff to make a replacement rope when she gives the game away. Apparently he never thought of just bringing a rope.

  • In World War Z, one of the anecdotes is an Otaku telling the chronicler that he escaped from his high rise in Japan by making a Bedsheet was slow going and extremely dangerous given that he was weaponless, the high rise was full of zombies, and he had to break into a new apartment every couple of floors to get more sheets.
  • In Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon, a prince attempts this with individual threads of the napkins. Guess whether he succeeded or not.
    • This being Stephen King, he has to jump the last 50 feet or so.
  • In the Discworld novel The Fifth Elephant, Sybil Vimes escapes a room via this method; it was one of the more useful things she learned while attending her all-girls boarding school.
  • This is NOT done in The Shield Of Stars. The main character escapes through a trapdoor. However, he thoughtfully makes a rope blanket and tosses it out the window anyway, just in case the guards thought he really was stupid enough to try that death-defying drop onto jagged rocks. (And lucky enough to survive, too!)
  • An Encyclopedia Brown mystery revolved around this trope - a starlet said that a big, masked intruder broke into the room, knocked out her bodyguard, grabbed a diamond-encrusted statue, and climbed out the window from a bedsheet ladder tied to one of the bedposts. However, Chief Brown and his son proved them to be lying by asking Bugs Meany (who happened to be around at the time) to climb up the bedsheets so he could meet the starlet - when he did so, his (significantly less than the alleged intruder) weight pulled the bed from the wall and released a fountain pen trapped in between.
  • In The Bible itself, Michal helps her beloved David escape her father King Saul's wrath with this trick. She also sticks a human-sized idol in his bed so she can tell her father's messengers he's sick and still asleep.
    • Rahab probably also helped the spies get out of Jericho by a similar trick. (Her residence was built right into the city walls.)
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadow", Conan the Barbarian uses a tapestry instead of sheets.
  • In Avi's Beyond the Western Sea, Laurence uses a bedsheet to escape from a fourth story hotel room.
  • In Deader Homes and Gardens, Claire tries to do this to escape from an upstairs bedroom. Unfortunately she's not yet recovered from being drugged by her captor, and forgets to anchor one end of her improvised rope before throwing it out the window! Luckily, Jordan spots the coils of fallen sheet/rope on the ground and comes to sneak her out of the house.
  • In The Wind in the Willows, this is how Toad escapes when the other animals confine him to try to cure him of his obsession with motor cars.
  • James Bond
    • Bond fakes one up in Moonraker to cover the fact that he and Gala are still in the rocket base.
    • In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond, who is currently situated in a cruise ship, comes to conclusion that trying to save Tiffany by charging through Wint's and Kidd's cabin door would only get her killed, so he rips his bedsheets to form a ladder to get into their cabin below his through their window.
  • In the 11th Famous Five book by Enid Blyton, Five Have a Wonderful Time, the climax of the story is set in the top room of a castle tower, where a kidnapped scientist has been imprisoned by a colleague trying to steal and sell his work. The Five have found him, and are attempting to get him out of the tower, but unfortunately the bad scientist comes back on the scene with several henchmen, and is set to imprison them all. However the Five have allies below in the courtyard in the form of people from a travelling fair, one of whom is expert with a throwing knife and another expert in ropes. They manage to throw a knife (point bluntened for safety) high up in the air and through one of the slit windows in the tower room with a thin string attached to it, and the prisoners can use this to pull up a rope ladder which they can tie to a fixed object in the tower room and climb down. Also, in the final stand-off, further developments happen: one of the fair people uses a whip to disarm the main criminal, the criminals end up captives in the tower room awaiting arrest by police, and the prisoners end up free.
  • In The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft, the protagonist escapes from an upper story of the local Hell Hotel by using the drapes as a ladder.

    Live Action TV 
  • A rare subversion occurred on Jeeves and Wooster when Gussie wanted to use Bertie's sheet to escape. Bertie refused to let him, as much because it wouldn't work as because he didn't want his sheets dirty and knotted.
    • To be fair, Bertie's been known to use his sheets for the same purpose. At least in the books.
  • Three's Company's trio tried to do this when trapped in Jack's bedroom by diamond thieves but they ended up throwing the whole sheet out the window.
  • Burn Notice: In "Better Halves", Fi gets angry with Michael when he rips the skirt of her expensive new gown and uses it (along with his tuxedo jacket) to create a ladder to get them off a hotel balcony.
  • In one episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy attempts to escape from an alleged apartment fire via a ladder made of bedsheets. While they unloop while she's climbing down, her fall is broken by the apartment building canopy. There are other reasons for hijinks, though, which do ensue.
  • One of the "Boy vs. Boredom" sketches on You're Skitting Me has Jeremy attempting to escape from going clothes shopping with his mother by tearing shirts into strips, fashioning them into a rope and using a wire hanger as a crude grappling hook to climb out of a changing room. It doesn't work.
  • Horrible Histories: The Stupid Death of Griffith Ap Llewelyn, who didn't use enough sheets.
  • Parodied on Married... with Children, as Al tries to escape from his greedy family by climbing down a rope made of toilet paper. It works, even though there's no way it could have supported his weight, but Peg and the kids catch him trying to sneak out anyway.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Unnatural Habits" a bedsheet ladder is planted to make it look like the murdered girl had escaped from the confinement cell through the window. Phryne sees through it because the knots used would not have held the girl's weight.
  • Played with in The Avengers episode "The Danger Makers:''
    Steed: How did you get out?
    Mrs. Peel: I knotted some sheets and climbed out the window.
    Steed: Oh, that old thing.
    Mrs. Peel: Well, originality didn't seem important at the time.
  • Doctor Who: Turlough uses one to escape from the school sickbay in "Mawdryn Undead".

  • Referred in episode 42 of Red vs. Blue, when Church and Grif were trapped in a cell and left to die.
    Church: We gotta find a way to escape, Grif.
    Grif: If only we had bedsheets.
    Church: There's no window. What good is tying together bedsheets gonna do us?
    Grif: Who said anything about tying them together? I wanna take a nap. If I have to die of hunger, I wanna do it in my sleep.

  • Referenced in Alices Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. Officer Obie takes the toilet paper out of Arlo's cell so that he can't "bend the bars, roll the paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Nicely subverted by Modesty Blaise; she carefully keeps track of the guard rotations and uses equipment specially smuggled in her bra to saw through the bar. When the guard sees the Bedsheet Ladder and rushes into the cell, she brains him from behind with the cut out bar. Now she has the run of the place to recon the real escape before hiding in the neighboring cell.
  • One Calvin and Hobbes strip had Calvin use one of these to sneak out of the house and phone his dad that "It is now three in the morning. Do you know where I am?"
  • Nasty uses one to escape from Hunter Yurk's compund in Terry and the Pirates.
  • The escape-obsessed crayfish in Swamp escapes from his tank in one strip by tying all of the diner's dishcloths together into a rope.
  • FoxTrot: Jason places a ladder constructed of tied together handkerchiefs in Quincy's cage, along with a book on lock picking and a few paperclips and hair clips, in an attempt to create plausible deniability when turns the iguana loose in Paige's sleepover.

    Video Games 
  • One of the craftable items in the prison-break game The Escapists, called the "Sheet Rope." It's used to descend from rooftops.

    Web Comics 

     Web Original 
  • In We're Alive one of these was used to escape the hospital in Chapter 23. Unfortunately it broke, leaving Angel and Burt trapped.

    Western Animation 
  • Bloo tries it in an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, but forgets to tie the other end down.
  • Daffy Duck does it to escape from gangsters in the Looney Tunes short Golden Yeggs, but the bottom half of the ladder turns out the be the gangsters themselves.
    • Did anyone else find it particularly funny that, as a duck, there's no real reason for him to bother with the rope in the first place...
    • In Porky Pig's Feat, Daffy and Porky use one to try and escape a hotel without paying. The hotel manager catches them at the bottom and gives Porky a hotfoot that sends them flying back up the Bedsheet Ladder to their room.
      • Daffy stops along the way to ogle in a window and wolf whistle - going down and again going back up.
  • In the Mickey Mouse cartoon Ye Olden Days, when rescuing Princess Minnie Mickey is surprised to find that there is no prearranged rope in the tower she's locked away in, so he constructs one out of lady in waiting Clarabelle Cow's many articles of clothing. The couple is caught on their way down while passing the King's window.
  • In Home Movies, Melissa is inducted against her will into the Fairy Princess Club, which exists solely to make its young conscripts sell their merchandise at the mall. She escapes the live-in headquarters at night, setting a fire (including an Unflinching Walk from the explosion she set) and uses a rope made from merchandise exit a first story window.
  • Riley attempted this from The Boondocks. This literally backfired as Huey lit the rope on fire. Riley immediately retreated to his room.
  • In Puff the Magic Dragon and the Incredible Mr. Nobody, Terry, after being told by his parents that his eponymous imaginary friend isn't real, and unable to find him after that talk, runs away to find his friend by making a bedsheet rope and climbing out the window. But since his friend wasn't there to help him tie the knots, the rope comes apart, and he lands in Puff's waiting arms. They go on a journey and eventually find Mr. Nobody, and Terry resolves his issues. Then it's revealed that he actually landed in the lilac bush outside his window and had been knocked out the whole time.
  • In the Tom and Jerry movie, Robyn was able to escape this way along with the titular characters from the third story window of her evil guardian's house.
  • Used by the couch to escape from the Taj Mahal in a Couch Gag on The Simpsons.
  • The Big Knights use them to escape from the castle of the princesses' aunties. Sir Morris neglects to tie his on to anything.
  • Princess Flame does this in Blazing Dragons, completely forgetting about her ability to fly.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, Scooby and Shaggy use a bedsheet ladder in an attempt to escape Dracula's castle. However, as their room overlooks the moat, they don't actually manage to go anywhere.
  • In the Rugrats episode, "Real or Robots?" Tommy makes one to get out of his crib when Stu taped it shut to prevent him from getting out of it and into his bedroom.

    Real Life 
  • Estonian thief Martin Vaiksaar used knotted bedsheets to scale 3 23-foot walls to escape from a jail near Finland's capital city of Helsinki. Despite the facility being brand new with a (presumably) recent staff, it took them an entire day to notice that he had escaped. The tale gets weirder in that he managed to get back to Estonia to find that the police were not interested in the fact that Finnish and Estonian authorities were both meant to be after him.
  • In May 2008, a thief named Aaron Stephen Forden escaped a New Zealand prison. Bonus points for referencing this wiki.
  • Two Polish POWs almost escaped this way from Colditz Castle in Saxony in 1941. They were in solitary, the bedsheet rope was supplied by accomplices on a higher story, and the escape route took them through the attic of a guardroom. They were caught only because they made too much noise trying to get down the outer walls.
  • Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr, son of one of the last ruling princes of independent Wales, was imprisoned by the King of England in the Tower of London. He attempted to escape in the night using a rope of knotted clothes and bedsheets, but the rope broke and he fell almost a hundred feet to his death. He was found the following morning with his head rammed into his neck cavity.
  • Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, escaped a bomb planted in his house via a chair tied to a line of bedsheets. Unfortunately (for Henry, at least) while he made his escape he ran right into the people who planted the bomb and they promptly strangled him.
  • Joshua Duane Barnes, a Texas burglar, pulled off the same feat from a secure medical facility.
  • In August 2009, two men broke out of a German prison using this method.
  • This does not always work out so well, as the Darwin Awards people will attest. One Pennsylvania man fell to his death when his rope was cut by window glass.
  • During a particular MacGyver-ish escape attempt from Dannemora prison, an inmate carved the keys he needed from observing the guard's keyring, built a dummy, then tried to climb over the wall with a rope made from bedsheets and clothes. He wasn't, however, bulletproof.
  • Jack Sheppard did this twice, the first two times he broke out of prison. The first time, it was less than three hours after he was locked up. The fourth time he escaped imprisonment (in one year), he didn't climb down with his bedsheets, but he did use his blanket to get to an adjacent building, which he escaped through.
  • In Beirut Lebanon five prisoners pulled off this trick, escaping from a maximum security prison.
  • In December 2012 two inmates apparently used one of these to escape from a high-rise federal prison in Chicago.