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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.
Note: This was tested by the Myth Busters 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 roll.
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.
- Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series' take: "I probably should have thought this throoooooouugh!"
- "Oof! I sure am glad I'm a cartoon!"
- Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series' take: "I probably should have thought this throoooooouugh!"
- 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.
- 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.
- Calvin uses this in one episode of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series.
- 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.
- Done in An American Tail to escape from a sweatshop.
- 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.
- In Up, Carl tries to lower down Russell with one of these. Then he drops it, being about seventy. Fortunately, it was a Daydream Surprise.
- In Corpse Bride, Victoria does with a quilt, though she does nearly get caught by her father.
- "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 Ladder...it 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 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.
- Perhaps because one, it's not one of the more well-known passages, and two, because it isn't clear from the text that this was the method by which she let him down from the window. She did, however, cover an image so that when the messengers went to bring him to the king, Michal could tell them he was sick so they wouldn't get close enough to find out he wasn't there.
- 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.
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 (yes, really,) but they ended up throwing the whole sheet out the window.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- Evil Diva Out of her own bedroom
- Proposed in Luci Purrs Imps, where the other demons point out that he got the sheets from outside the bedroom, and they could just go that way.
- Precocious: All she wanted to do. Which is why her parents planted roses under the window.
- In Sinfest, Fuschia's escape.
- In We're Alive one of these was used to escape the hospital in Chapter 23. Unfortunately it broke, leaving Angel and Burt trapped.
- 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.
- In the Mickey Mouse cartoon Ye Olden Days, when Mickey was rescuing Princess Minnie from the tower she was locked away in, how could her lady-in-waiting, Clarabelle Cow wear many articles of clothing underneath her outfit before they were made into a rope?
- Perhaps she must have worn them in case of any problem when anyone could use them for a rope to climb up or down with just like Mickey and Minnie got down from the tower with them.
- 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 cloth...to 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.
- This is how Fievel and the others escape the sweatshop in An American Tail.
- 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, and 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.