The Leaking Pen

On April 3rd, 1945 twelve men dramatically escaped from Philadelphia’s infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in what has been called the real “Great Escape.” Using a tunnel dug with spoons under the prison’s thick stone walls by inmate Clarence Klinedinst, the inmates wriggled 110 feet underground before making their dash for freedom on the other side. Some of the inmates, most notably gangster Willie Sutton, were captured within minutes but several were on the lam for weeks.

Eventually, they were all recaptured and returned to Eastern. Doubled sentences and long stays in solitary confinement (“the hole”) awaited all of them.

Clarence Klinedinst.png
Clarence Klinedinst was the mastermind of the escape and dug most of the tunnel himself. Ironically, he was captured in just minutes after he left Eastern. Temple University Libraries.

The story of the escape is best known today as told by Sutton in his autobiography, “Where the Money Was: The Memoirs of a Bank Robber,” where he describes himself as the mastermind and ringleader of the escape.

In 1947, Sutton and several other inmates from the ’45 escape made another escape attempt from Holmesburg Prison (also in Philadelphia). Successful this time, they managed to remain on the run for several years and solidified Sutton’s reputation (only partially accurate) as a genius prison escape artist. But this isn’t the whole story.

James F. Van Sant, alias “Botchie,” was one of the original escapees in 1945 and the most successful of the group. He managed to make his way all the way up to New York City and remained hidden there successfully for three months until an associate got sloppy and they were caught by the F.B.I. Botchie returned to Eastern State Penitentiary and remained there until his release in 1959.

Botchie decided to record his experiences in the escape in the form of a long poem he called “The Leaking Pen.” It’s a really interesting and unusual source, most accounts of prison escapes take the form of official investigations, sensational reporting, or memoirs like Sutton’s with questionable accuracy. Botchie’s poem, though some of it seems to take poetic license to craft the story, appears to be a pretty truthful report of the escape before, during, and after. The poem has detailed information on Botchie’s time hidden in New York City, as well, making it a fuller account of the escape from its most successful participant.

It’s unknown exactly when Botchie wrote The Leaking Pen, but it was probably sometime while he was still in prison. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections transferred a large collection of historical records from their Press Office to the State Archives, and a copy of this poem was included with the following poetic inscription on the cover addressed to a Mr. Ken Robinson:

“A very kind deed I’ll never forget
Was the mere token of a cigarette;
The giver indeed was a generous soul,
Who slipped me a smoke out in the HOLE.
Sincerely, Botchie.”

Ken Robinson was a press officer for the Department of Corrections for decades, he passed away in 2019. Over his career, he acquired many interesting photographs, memorabilia, and other interesting items like this poem which were squirreled away in the Press Office. It was quite the thrill when I got to go over there and bring these records over to the State Archives where they’ll soon be available for research. Records like The Leaking Pen may seem personal, but they’re still government records and belong to everyone and I’m glad they’ve found a home in the archives.

Below is a full transcription of The Leaking Pen, enjoy!


The Leaking Pen

Twelve of the boys in the Eastern Pen
Were serving time that had no end;
When out of nowhere there appeared a HOLE,
Which Kleiny had dug-just like a mole.

For more than a year he’d worked at this task-
“For freedom,” he said, “I’d work like an ass.”
The digging was rough, at times really rocky,
With cave-ins aplenty that made the work sloppy.

First came the shaft, which was quite a job,
For working upside down caused his head to throb.
And then nearing the bottom of the depth he’d set,
He found the earth damp from his very own sweat.

His tunnel outward could be no truer,
For with the aim of a marksman he hit the sewer;
And with a gleam in his eye and joy in his heart,
He studied the sewer and then tore it apart.

The gas fumes were strong, they burned his eyes,
But little he cared as long as the dirt flied;
So into the sewer went the dirt and the rocks-
After he first made sure that no drains would be blocked.

With a downward dip and a slight bend,
Kleiny headed for the wall and journey’s end.
Now the sewer was filling, as the dirt flew fast,
And he had to make room for the matter to pass.

So into the sewer he had to crawl,
To make more room for the dirt to fall;
The rats down there were big and fat,
When Kleiny crawled in, they wondered, “Who dat?”

One rat in particular, Waldo by name
Was a very big rascal and seemed quite tame;
And in wonderment he watched the dirt and rocks fall-
“Much more of this,” he thought, “where the hell will I crawl?”

So day after day Kleiny made the long haul,
With a prayer in his heart that he’d soon reach the wall.
To his digging he kept, to his hope he’d cling,
That within a month he’d hit the damn thing.

And one day while working and giving his all,
He stopped in amazement, for there was the wall;
He worked like a beaver clearing a space,
And his joy was supreme when they came face to face.

For more than a century it’s been buried there-
A formidable challenge to men wo dare.
And strong as a fortress it seems to thunder;
If you’re going to pass me, you’ve got to go under.

With muscles that ached and a back that was sore,
Undaunted Kleiny merely dug some more;
He started a pit like an old-time miner,
And hoped that this wall didn’t join the one in China.

Now the going was hard, in fact, really rough;
And for a while it looked like he’d never move the stuff:
For there were chips of stone mixed with clay and mortar;
And that wasn’t all- he even struck water.

Working so deep under such pressure and strain,
Made him gasp for air and ache with pain.
This kind of toil he never expected to face-
But his grief was forgotten when he hit the base.

To go under and up was now his goal-
But the under part was rough, and the water icy cold;
The only way to dig was to lie right in it;
And this be could do for only a minute.

He toiled for weeks to reach the outer side,
For down there, brothers, she’s ten feet wide.
With the outer side reached, and the end in sight,
The thoughts of Kleiny reached a new height.

Just upward now and his task would be done-
His project had been work, and none of it fun.
And though silently he toiled, the news leaked out;
There were more who knew it than he dreamed about.

They were Webb, Aikens, and Big-head Bowers;
The Saint and Botchie, who’d dyed their trousers;
Simister, McKnight, and Willie Sutton-
All went through the hole as though it were nothing.

That leaves Victor, Russell, and James Grace,
Needless to mention, Kleiny had first place.
This is not the order as out they climbed;
It’s put this way just to make it rhyme.

This really happened in ’45;
On the third of April, as the papers confide.
Six got away; and six were caught;
Well, fifty percent is better than naught.

More would have made it, but someone was peeking
Who told the Warden that his jail was leaking.
From that moment on, the cops came a-strutting,
And the first one they grabbed was Willie Sutton.

The next to be nabbed were a gruesome crew,
Who were converged upon by the boys in Blue:
They were Simister, McKnight, Webb, and Bowers,
Who commandeered a truck that had little power.

They sped through the streets their eyes agleam-
All urging Bowers to give it more steam;
For they were being pursued by a dogged police car,
When the crash finally came, you could hear it afar.

From the wrecked-truck jumped this gruesome lot,
A pistol roared- and Bowers was shot;
He wavered, staggered, and fell to the ground,
And there he lay till the others were bound.

When the cops finally got them under control,
They wasted no time in calling a patrol;
All during this wait, they snarled and cursed-
‘Cause for Bowers they couldn’t call a hearse.

They handled Bowers with motherly care-
And accidentally dropped him going up the stairs;
One sympathetic cop went up to his bed
And begged Bowers’ pardon for missing his head.

The next arrested was Kleiny the mole;
And this was a shame because he engineered the Hole;
Policemen questioned him at 11th and Lehigh-
“You’re nuts,” he told them, “I’m a working guy.”

This accounts for the six who were caught the same day,
Brought back to the Pen and there they’ll stay.
It was sad for those loose to read it in the papers;
For they knew the Warden- and all his cute capers.

Stripped to the skin, they were put in Klondyke;
And in their birthday suits, they all looked alike.
The weather was cold, it made them all shiver-
All but poor Bowers, who was shot in the liver.

In waltzed the Warden, with Hanging Harry,
Snarling, “Till the others are caught, in here you’ll tarry.”
Judge McDevitt asked Webb, “Did you dig that Hole?”
“Not me,” said Webb, turning blue from cold.

The Warden, still snarling, began to prance-
Webb modestly cut in, “May I have my pants?”
“So it’s pants you want, eh?” the Warden sneered;
“O go drop dead!” all the boys jeered.

The day was over, and hectic as it was;
Yet all through the night the telephone buzzed;
There’s a convict here, there’s a convict there;
And cops would rush out hoping to capture a pair.

But the cops had no luck till three days later,
When two of the boys were seen by a station-waiter.
At Wa-Wa, police grinned, then made up a plan
To catch Vic and Aikens getting a sun tan.

Now back at the Pen the Warden had two more,
But still to be caught were the other four.
The police, the Warden, and all the newspapers
Hoped they’d be caught before they pulled new capers.

On Monday, the Ninth, right after dark,
Russell went to Frankford with love in his heart;
The girl of his dreams lived there with her Pop-
He should never have gone there, for Pop was a cop.

They say love is blind, they say it’s just grand;
But the lovers who greeted Russell were from Paul and Ruan
Her Pop knew he was coming and set up a blind-
He was hit with more lead than was fired at the Rhine.

They called the morgue, having aimed at his head,
But poor old Russell was immune to lead.
To their surprise he was found still breathing-
What they called him then would’ve shocked a heathen.

Just a few days later, we’re sad to relate,
Grace came to the Pen and knocked at the gate;
If you ask us why, here’s the answer we give:
“The thought of himself becoming a SIEVE.”

Eleven days have passed and the police’ve caught ten
Who were given a Hearing in the Eastern Pen;
O’Malley was the judge; Carruthers, the D.A.,
Star-Chamber their methods in every way.

All through the Hearing, little was said,
Till Sutton protested, then O’Malley turned red;
“You say it’s illegal?” he screamed at Willie,
“Why this sort of proceeding is common in Philly.”

The Hearing over, the boys were taken away,
Returned to the Hole, for their escape to pay:
Their diet was bread only, and that twice a day;
But they took it in stride and tried to be gay.

Kept in that Hold, where each day seems a week,
And slowly starved, till their bodies were weak;
A medieval torture, fiendishly designed-
To break a man’s spirit and shatter his mind.

The boys in the Hole we shall now give a rest,
For Saint and Botchie had become Public Pests;
Both parted the day they crawled out the Hole-
From this point on, another tale’s to be told.

If both were successful, they’d promised to meet,
And this they did, though it took more than a week;
New York was the town decided upon-
“God’s country,” we call it, “please pardon the pun.”

Botchie left Philly one bright early morn,
For it was a city he held in scorn;
But as the miles slid by he was far from gay,
For he thought of the ten boys and the price they’d pay.

Reading the papers he knew the Saint was still free,
But had found it impossible from Philly to flee.
Night after night Botchie went to Grant’s tomb,
The spot they’d picked to meet in the gloom.

On the seventh day to his delight,
He saw the Saint, all cheery and bright;
Upon seeing each other they quickened their gait-
Their joy was supreme at the kindness of Fate.

“Gee, it’s good to see you.” both said at once;
“I’m hungry,” said Saint, “haven’t eaten since lunch.”
So together they strolled down the bright Broadway,
Where anything can be had any time of the day.

With hunger pains gone, they went for a ride.
In a city that big, you don’t have to hide.
They toured the bars and downed enough drinks-
The toast of each of the boys who were back in the CLINK.

With their stomachs full, and heads rather light,
They talked about McCann and their old friend Mike.
The men just mentioned were wanted very bad-
The police of four cities they were driving mad.

They talked of many things as the hours slipped by,
When they headed for home, they were both really high;
Up in their flat, which was cosy and dandy,
Sleep came fast from the effects of the brandy.

It was just past noon when they both came to,
And gazed out the window and at a sky very blue.
After shaving and bathing, they decided to eat,
And later in the day their friends they’d meet.

The rendezvous was made in Central Park,
Shadows were falling, it was just about dark;
There on a bench, both wearing a grin,
Sat Big Joe McCann and Professor Mike Quinn.

Seeing each other they laughed to a man-
You’d never suspect they were all on the Lam.
“Saint,” said Mike, giving his hand a good shake,
“Had I known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.”

“And cake you shall have, also dinner and wine,
And we’ll toast the gods for being so kind.”
After leaving the park, they had a steak dinner,
When the check arrived, Mike was elected the winner.

There they decided two flats to keep,
With days set aside on which to meet.
“Botchie,” said Mike, “keep the Saint with you,
Next week we’ll meet about a ‘score’ or two.”

“It’s been a gala evening,” Big Joe said smiling,
“Now Mike and I must head for Long Island.”
When the train pulled out all waved farewell-
From that moment on, the Fates raised hell.

There was no meeting the following week-
All because of a fellow whose mind was weak;
He went to their flat against their will,
And that was the reason Big Joe was killed.

Mike and Joe told him, “Don’t come near our dive,”
For you’re likely to be trailed by the F.B.I.”
Yet this fellow paid no heed, he went to their den-
And right on his heels were Hoover’s men.

Their flat was watched for two days and nights.
Then out strolled Big Joe, along with Mike;
It was the 20th of April, and just about dark-
When the voices of G-men let go with a bark:

“Stand where you are! Put your hands up high!
One false move and you’ll surely die!”
Their commands filled Mike and Joe with dread-
Yet rather than go to jail, they’d sooner be dead.

They both made a move as though for a gun,
At the very same instant started to run;
A volley of shots broke the calm of the night,
And down went Big Joe- to the G-men’s delight.

But Mike was quick and light on his feet,
With head bent low he flew down the street;
“Was it possible to live through this hail of lead?”
He asked himself, believing Joe was dead.

With a speed never recorded he continued to bound,
Till a bullet broke his stride and brought his down;
He felt a sharp pain, but in his mind was no worry,
And back to his feet he got in a hurry.

Behind houses, now beyond their range,
He found the streets to be very strange.
After climbing many fences and crossing their yards,
His legs began to hurt, and his breathing came hard.

Just a place to hide he was looking for,
When up loomed a woodshed with an open door;
The inside offered no place to hide,
So quick as a flash he was again outside.

Behind the woodshed, which was made of tin,
He found a small opening and wedged himself in.
His mind was alert as he listened to the sound
Of G-men moving in to search the grounds.

One shouted to another, “He’s not over here.”
Mike shuddered a bit as their voices came near.
Then another yelled, “He’s not in there;
We searched that shed, it’s utterly bare.”

The fire engines came to display more light
So the search could continue till late in the night.
When all sounds died, except Mike’s breathing,
And the lights went out, he knew they were leaving.

But just to be certain he kept out of sight,
And in his cramped position he stayed all night.
With muscles aching, and both legs bleeding,
He rose with the dawn- it was time to be leaving.

He walked very fast, ignoring his pain,
At a subway station he boarded a train.
He bought a paper and read undismayed-
To the Saint and Botchie he wended his way.

They could hardly believe the story he told,
But there to prove it was the bullet hole;
And there in the paper, just as he said,
Poor Joe was no more, they’d filled him with lead.

They bathed his wounds, and he sat up in bed,
To retell a story he’d always dread.
Big Joe was his friend, a real stand-up pal,
Who died as he lived and never threw in the towel.

Seeing their faces, so solemn and grim,
Caused Mike to say, “Let’s not mourn over him.
Break out a bottle and we’ll toast him farewell;
And if religion isn’t a racket, we’ll meet him in hell.”

It didn’t take long for Mike to get well,
He’s Irish, you see, and tough as hell.
He stayed in their flat for one whole week,
Then good as new was back on his feet.

His health restored, he was a bundle of joy,
And to all the ladies he was quite a boy.
His twinkling eyes and Irish grin,
Made young and old lassies fall for him.

His gift of gab and his ready wit,
In a restaurant one night startled Botchie a bit:
He told a pretty waitress taking their order,
She was a spit and image of Botchie’s grand-daughter.

“Please pardon these codgers, Sis,” he said,
“For both of them are weak in the head;
And when they gaze at you, a damsel so fair,
In their little minds, you’re standing here bare.”

And eating one time in the heart of midtown,
At their table sat a girl with a frown;
She was smelling the meringue on a piece of pie-
When sternly spoke Mike, without batting an eye:

“What’s the matter, Sis, is the pastry bad?”
“I think it is,” said the girl rather sad.
“Take it back,” he said, “don’t let that jerk
Take advantage of people like us who work.”

Back to the counterman the pie she did take,
And triumphantly returned with a piece of cake.
“At a girl, Sis,” Mike laughingly said,
“But I was hoping you’d sit the pie on his head.”

Some of the days they spent on the ‘run’
Were full of enchantment, laughter, and fun;
And on their long, fools’ march towards the grave,
They’ll often have visions of those happy days.

But on other days, too, they spoke of money,
For when you’re broke on the ‘run’ nothing is funny.
Mike was awaiting word from a drive he knew.
Who’d been out of town for a week or two.

The driver was called Bronco, a nickname of course,
Who later turned out quite a help to the Force;
He’d taken a trip to look over a ‘score’
And that was the news Mike was waiting for.

When Bronco returned, he arranged a meeting,
Which make Mike think of a legal greeting;
It was possible, he thought, that Bronco was tailed
By G-men who hoped to pick up his trail.

So just as a precaution he set up a plan
So that Saint and Botchie would be on hand.
To cover him when he made the meet,
And like Private Eyes follow him down the street.

Like shadows they followed him to the meet,
And saw the fellow he paused to greet;
Then sauntered on pass the pair-
When they turned around, no one was there.

They stood there astounded, their mouths agape,
Wondering how in the hell did the two escape;
Then hurried down the street to pick up the trail-
As Private Eyes, they had certainly failed.

It took Mike five minutes to find the Eyes,
And when he did, he mockingly cried:
“As cover-men, you guys are really a flop;
Next time I need protection I’ll call a cop.”

All went to the restaurant to hear Bronco’s spiel-
Describe him we can’t so just picture a heel.
Needless to say, he didn’t have any ‘score’;
So after they ate, they got rid of the bore.

Before parting, Mike told him, “Be on the alert;
Trust no one you know- not even your skirt.”
But Bronco, the idiot, paid no attention,
And the very next day was in the House of Detention.

Up-state he went, this romantic felon,
To the girl he loved, whose name was Helen.
But the G-men, of course, were watching her house,
And happy they were to capture the louse.

In the House of Detention he sand like a bird,
But warbled so fast he slurred the words;
“Slow down, slow down!” the Inspector cried,
“What I want most is Mike Quinn’s hide.”

“I know this, Sir, he’s still in this town,
But I know not where,” he said with a frown;
“The Leads in my statement- they’ll surely help you
To catch up with Mike in a week or two.”

Though Bronco told them all he knew,
He really didn’t give them much of a clue.
And during his session with the F.B.I.,
Philly cops struck paydirt with another guy.

The lead given them by this Social Cyst,
Could truly be called a perfect assist;
And for various favors given this creep-
A bonanza award the police did reap.

The lead led Doyle to spot their den,
And their days of freedom were nearing an end.
Mike had a hunch all wasn’t right-
And even suggested they all take flight.

Doyle saw Saint on the steps with three Dears,
With a bottle of whiskey and plenty of beer;
He stood there watching, and chuckled within,
While he waited for Botchie and Professor Mike Quinn.

Dawn was breaking as they came home-
Mike spotted a car and began to moan:
“I’m telling you, Botchie, our joint’s being cased;
We should blow right now and forget this place.”

Saint watched them coming across the street,
Waved his hand and staggered to his feet.
“We must take your Romeo,” Mike said to the Dears,
“But you may keep the whiskey along with the beer.”

Mike, in their flat, expressed his feeling,
Bit the Saint was drunk, sick, and reeling.
“I’m certain of this,” Mike Quinn said,
“I’d not sleep a wink in this old bed.”

Botchie told Mike he knew of a spot,
Where a room could be had with only a cot.
“That’s aces with me,” Professor Mike said,
“I’d lie in the street ere I sleep in this bed.”

The Saint hit the sack and started to snore,
As they pocketed pistols, and went out the door;
They gave the street a look up and down,
And quick as they could, headed ‘cross town.

Both had a feeling of being tailed,
As a man came running and a car he hailed;
Mike called a halt to look over the guy,
When the car drove on, they let out a sigh.

Seeing the Claremont- that’s the name of the place,
Old Botchie and Mike quickened their pace.
Mike requested a room on the ground floor-
A very quick exit he was looking for.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Botchie said;
Then back to the flat and the Saint he tread.
He started to pack everything in the place,
And discovered he needed another suitcase.

When morning came, old Botchie didn’t lag,
To a store he hustled and purchased a bag.
Now back in the flat he finished his chores,
While the Saint gave out with lusty snores.

He bathed and dressed, the time was noon;
Then he quickly hurried to Mike’s room.
After announcing himself to the man at the desk,
He inquired of Mike, “How did you rest?”

“Just like a baby- I slept the clock around,
And as soon as I dress, we’ll head into town;
Perhaps we should get the Saint and have a talk,
If he’s not feeling too bad, we’ll go for a walk.”

And walk they did- down Riverside Drive,
Tho the Saint was still sick, just barely alive.
For an hour or more they talked in the park,
And finally agreed to move after dark.

When Mike suggested a bite to eat,
“not me,” said Saint, “I still feel weak;
You gourmets go and have your snack,
I’m headed for home to hit the sack.”

After downing a meal, they decided to go
To a midtown spot and take in a show;
Entertainment, indeed, was far from their mind-
They wen there more to stall for time.

Leaving the theatre, the hour was seven,
They stepped into rain pouring from heaven;
Rushing to the subway they caught a train-
Mike’s face was solemn and bore a strain.

“We’re doing a foolish thing, Botchie,” he said,
“Going back to that flat proves we’re weak in the head;
But we can’t leave the Saint there all alone,
And there’s no way to contact him, even by phone.

“So there’s nothing to do but play the thing out;
And that way we’ll find what it’s all about.”
Nearing their flat, they looked all around,
Eyeing each doorway, and nothing they found.

A twist of the knob brought Saint to the door,
For he was jittery, too, and walking the floor.
Time was not wasting, it was very near eight,
And words weren’t wasted in their short debate.

They will long remember the debate they had-
For ten minutes later all three were nabbed.
They had gone to a spot on upper Broadway,
The papers called it a small café.

Wedged in a booth, they ordered a meal;
Mike said he’d take duckling, Botchie wanted veal.
Hearing such orders caused the Saint to frown,
He asked for just milk, which was all he could down.

The trap was set- it didn’t have a flaw,
When in walked Doyle with three more law;
He approached their booth, waving his gun,
And announced he was there to curtail their fun.

“Sit where you are or I’ll drop you flat!”
He cautioned Botchie, when he reached for his hat.
The patrons were amazed, and stood in a trance,
When Nodice grabbed Mike and pulled down his pants.

There were ladies swooning all over the place,
Upon seeing Mike’s panties all trimmed with lace;
He stood there poised, so dainty and sleek-
The police had to restrain an ogling Greek.

Nodice, of course, was a New York detective,
While working with Doyle he was really effective;
Though it was the Philly Law which ended the chase;
Nodice will remember this particular case.

Very quickly they were hustled out of the joint,
Through a cordon of cops who stood at gun-point;
With the cocking of pistols all heard the clicks-
Yet these three mad fools carried only toothpicks.

With all the silence, a juke box was heard-
Ella Fitzgerald’s lilting was like that of a bird;
The title of the recording was appropriate for all:

Squad cars took them away in a hurry,
At the precinct they queried, “Is this pinch necessary?”
Mike pocketed his glasses going through the door-
Expecting any moment to be part of the floor.

But to his surprise, this never took place,
Though a few wrong answers brought slaps in the face.
They sat there for hours, the time really dragged,
Till Doyle came in with all their bags.

“Say which of these pistols belongs to who?”
Was the question he asked, waiting two colts brand new.
Almost everyone laughed, and some really roared,
When Heingson came in shouldering Mike’s Forty-Four.

Frontier Defender, etched on the barrel top,
Brought serious stares from all the cops;
For anyone to trigger such a gun in hand,
Would indeed send his foe to the promised land.

The telephone lines were kept rather busy,
As calls came flying from city to city.
The F.B.I. came in to put in their claim,
For Mike’s fleetness afoot had brought them shame.

These G-men wanted Mike in a very bad way,
For a bank job in Washington- that’s what they say.
But it took Doyle and his men to make the pinch-
Reminded of this fact, made the G-men flinch.

It was time for the boys to be bedded down,
They were escorted to Headquarters securely bound;
And in basement cells, dark and dreary,
They were deposited there, tired and weary.

Doyle called for his captives the following day,
Much had to be done to shorten his stay;
Their pictures and prints he’d first have done,
On his agenda, this was item number one.

Stand-ups quite naturally were next in line;
They might be the solution to unsolved crimes.
The interrogating Inspector, an unfriendly chap,
While degrading the boys, called Botchie a sap.

For cutting remarks, this gent prided himself-
And angry he was at their clean bill of health.
These unwanted visitors were given a hearing,
Extradition from New York was really nearing.

The expedition to Philly was made in two cars-
The scenery for those fettered was a vision of bars.
Doyle lead the parade in car number one,
Carrying Heningson, Mike, and Dick his son.

Right on their tail was car number two,
Doyle couldn’t lose Kelly, he stuck like glue;
Shackled to McGowan were Botchie and Saint-
The reporter along thought the trip rather quaint.

He was covering the story for the Inquirer in Philly,
And rode in silence, toward all he was chilly.
Barreling along at a pretty fast clip,
They reached City Hall, ending their trip.

The caravan was greeted by Malone, the Director,
George Richardson, too, the Detective-Inspector;
Shooey and Richardson lauded one and all-
As their captives were considered a pretty good haul.

The Inspector wanted to question them more,
So away they were taken to the sixth floor.
The bed in each cell was a wooden seat,
With bolts protruding, not conducive to sleep.

At a Hearing the next day all seemed very pleased,
As the escapees were identified by Deputy Warden Tees;
He’s come to court all dressed in braid-
Looking like a doorman picked up in a raid.

The magistrate’s strong voice, ringing with joy,
Applauded the Mayor’s citation for Doyle and his boys;
And then to the prisoners standing at the rail,
He barked rather harshly, “Held without bail.”:

Stand-ups were conducted during the day and night,
But on unsolved crimes they threw no light.
So back to the Pen went Botchie and Saint,
While Mike was held over on a specific complaint.

The Reception Committee for these two lost souls,
Escorted them with mirth right out to the hold;
They were stripped on orders from Deputy Tees,
Whose coloring warned them he was really peeved.

Tally boards at the prison now accounted for all,
And their trials were being listed at City Hall.
On June the fifth, that very same year,
All stood in the Dock, quaking with fear.

The judge was McDevitt, the records will attest,
Who chided the boys for being Public Pests;
He doubled the sentences of all these man-
Minimum in years ranged from two to ten.

Back to the Pen the police herded this flock,
And all were housed on the dreaded First Block.
Each man surveyed his own little hovel-
And wondered if Kleiny could get another shovel.

Just what day it was, no one was certain,
They boys got this news behind their Iron Curtain:
McDevitt had tried and just sentenced Mike-
Ten to twenty years brought an end to his flight.

The day our Warden lost his twelve boys-
The public and newspapers made lots of noise;
His job they demanded, but as a matter of fact,
He laughed like hell when thirteen came back.

They wondered in Solitary, with nothing to do;
How long it would list; not one had a clue.
Some stayed but months, others lingered for years-
But all will remember that Vale of Tears.

Their spirit was great, though they felt like dying.
Mostly they laughed- just to keep from crying.
But these boys loved Freedom, like ordinary men,
And they wrote the Saga of the Leaking Pen.


2 thoughts on “The Leaking Pen

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  1. I knew ” Botchie” when I was a child. He became a friend of my father’s through another friend. I remember him as a kind and funny man it was very nice to the kids in the group myself being one of them. This was after his release from prison.


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