10 Insane Disguises That Actually Worked

Ellen and William Craft
Ellen and William Craft didn't seek their freedom via the Underground Railroad pictured here. Nope, their daring escape started with a Savannah-bound train. Photos.com/Thinkstock

Jennie Hodgers disguised herself as a man and gained entry into some of the biggest Civil War battles on Southern soil. A few people, such as Ellen and William Craft, used the same trick to escape the South and win their freedom. As slaves living in Macon, Ga., Ellen and William Craft were married, but they decided not to start a family until their children could be raised in a free state.

To make that dream come true, they hatched a daring plan: Ellen, a quadroon with very fair skin, would disguise herself as a young, white cotton planter, while William would pose as the planter's slave. Then the two would travel, in plain sight, pretending to visit relatives in Philadelphia.

To complete the ruse, Ellen cut her hair and bound her right arm in a sling, which relieved her from having to sign guest registries or other papers. Then, on Dec. 21, 1848, they departed Macon, Ga., on a train bound for Savannah. After that, they boarded a steamer to Charleston, S.C., and then a second to Philadelphia. Along the way, border patrols detained them numerous times and, on more than one occasion, almost discovered their true identity. But on Dec. 25, Ellen and William arrived safely in Pennsylvania, a free state, where they received assistance from the underground abolitionist network.

The couple eventually settled in Boston before fleeing to England in 1850 to escape slave hunters looking to take them back to Georgia. In the 1870s, they returned to the United States with their five children and opened a school.