If you were stranded in London with no money to buy a ticket back home, what would you do?
When Australian javelin thrower Reg Spiers faced this problem in 1964, he chose a radical plan – posting himself back to Australia in a wooden box.
Desperate to get back to Australia for his daughter’s birthday, the 22-year-old took his problem to fellow javelin thrower, John McSorley.
Together, the men hatched a scheme to build a box and send Spiers home by air freight in a box measuring 1.5 metres x 91centimemtres x 76 centimetres.
[Image: Marcus McSorley]
To slow down his bodily functions, Spiers didn’t eat for a week before his journey.
On 17 October 1964, armed with his passport, spaghetti, fruit juice, biscuits, and chocolate, Spiers climbed into the box that would take him home to Australia.
“I just got in the thing and went. What was there to be frightened of? I’m not frightened of the dark so I just sat there,” Spiers told the BBC.
“It’s like when I travel now if I go overseas. There’s the seat. Sit in it, and go.”
The box containing Spiers was loaded onto an aircraft at Heathrow Airport. What followed was a horrific 63-hour journey from London to Perth, via Paris, Bombay and Singapore.
A thick fog over London meant Spiers’ flight to Paris was delayed, leaving him in the box for more than 28 hours before take-off.
Around 37 hours after he was first dropped off at the airport, Spiers was touching down in India.
Unfortunately, the airport workers who unloaded Spiers in Bombay upended the box, leaving Spiers dangling upside down, baking in the hot Indian sun for hours. Close to full dehydration, Spiers had little choice but to strip off all his clothes.
Finally, Spiers and his box were loaded onto the final leg of their journey, delayed only by a quick fuel stop.
After 63 hours, three stops and more than 21,000 kilometres, Spiers finally arrived safely at Perth Airport.
While airport staff took a smoke break, Spiers escaped the crate and headed for the terminal, blending in with other passengers and walking out of the airport.
Meant to remain a secret, Spiers’ incredible story hit the media after he forgot to tell John McSorley of his safe arrival.
Terrified for his friend, McSorley contacted a journalist in the hopes of tracking Spiers down and from there the story spread like wildfire.
This was not to be Spiers’ last memorable trip. In 1981, Spiers was arrested for a plot to smuggle $1.2 million worth of hashish into Australia. While out on bail, Spiers and his partner fled to India.
Two years later, he was arrested in Bombay for another smuggling attempt. For the second time, he and his partner fled.
In 1984, Spiers was sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for heroin smuggling. His conviction was later overturned.
Escorted back to Australia by authorities, he served three years for the crimes he had originally fled from.
Today, Spiers – now 73 years of age – lives a quiet life in Adelaide with his partner and two dogs.