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We’ve already wrote about those Hollywood stars, who are pros, when it comes to escaping from paparazzi. But there are bigger barriers in life, than some nasty photographer. How about real life traps, locks and puzzles?

Well, some magicians started a movement, back in the 1860s, where the act is about escaping from a dangerous-looking or actually dangerous situation. The first known act was made by the Davenport Brothers, who tied themselves up with ropes and escaped from it. The movement grew into an individual art, called Escapology. Today we are going to present you those escapists, whose art worth to follow.

Joseph Dunninger

He was born in New York City and got really popular pretty soon. When he was only seventeen, Theodore Roosevelt invited him to his place, in Oyster Bay, to do a little private show for him. The same request came from the inventor, Thomas Edison. Franklin D. Roosevelt even called him to the White House many times to show his magic.

Though he was more of a psychic or mentalist, Dunninger’s name helped spreading the shining of escapism as well, but he managed to escape, using his mental powers. Once he had a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he used any built in member or “brick.”  He was also a good friend to many famous magicians, like Harry Houdini, Francis Martinka and Tony Slydini.

The Great Omani

He was born in Windsor in 1915. He left school, their family’s business got bankrupted, when his father died and he got declined from the army in World War II. Well, we can tell, it’s not a lucky start. But one day in a book antiquary, he found “The Secrets of Houdini by J.C. Cannell”. That book introduced The Great Omani to the world of magic. After experimenting underwater stunts, he found himself ready to go on stage in 1950.

He was usually performing tricks in a straitjacket chained and padlocked to the legs of the pier. There was another famous act of him, when he was jumping though flames into a pit full of glass. That’s a place most of us would only escape, but never jump in. For the entertaining he went into dangerous stunts intentionally. Stunts with fire, water and glass were regular parts of his show at his favorite pub in Brighton. His final performance was in 2005. And still at the age of 90, he escaped out of locked handcuffs with both arms lit on fire with lighter fluid. Crazy!

Alan Alan

Born in 1926 and only passed a few years ago, in 2014. Alan was a brave escapologist of England. He was the first to figure out many tricks that became famous in other magician’s shows. He reached his fame by a number of dangerous stunts targeted to the media. In 1949 when he did a thing, called “buried alive” for Pathe News, which we don’t have to say, nearly went really wrong.  He was also known from his burning-rope straitjacket escape, where he was upside-down in a crane with a thick rope with petrol all over on it. Exciting, isn’t it?He was also shown in TV many times, including The Magic of David Copperfield.

But he wasn’t only doing that art, he also “taught” his prison cellmates at Wormwood Scrubs how to escape from handcuffs in his show with a bunch of magicians. His still living influence for magicians can been recognized as in 2006 The Magic Circle gave him the Maskelyne award for what he did in British magic.

John Nevil Maskelyne

Since we mentioned Maskelyne, we have to say a few words about him as well. Born in the 1820s and been at the born of real magic. He also had some famous inventions, like the pay toilet, but let’s not get lost in details. Most of his tricks illusions are still have their charm and people like them today. In 1914 he founded the Occult Committee, a group whose remit was to “investigate claims to supernatural power and to expose fraud”. He had many inventions that are evergreen in between magicians and some of them are nearly obligatory for a well-produced escapist performance.

Harry Houdini

Erik Weisz, or as the world got known him, Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874. He was only four years old, when his parents and his four brothers brought him to the US. Erik became Houdini in 1891, but has very few success during his first years. He did small gigs in coin museums and side act of productions, sometimes he had to double “The Wild Man” at a circus.

Though he focused mostly on card tricks and once he was also the “King of Cards”, he soon found himself getting the flow of escape stunts. His actual breakthrough was in 1899 at a time when Martin Beck saw his performance in Minnesota. Houdini’s handcuffs trick amazed him. As he was a manager, he gave him some advises to him for the shows and started to book bigger shows, where he could show his talent. It didn’t take long to get him to be a headliner of the top entertaining places all over the country. In 1900, he even did a European tour. He lived like a Hollywood star before Hollywood existed. As he did a show at Scotland Yard, demonstrating his talent in the art of escape, he was booked at the Alhambra for half a year.

We could tell a lot about Houdini’s achievements and the heritage he left on the future escapists, but let us mention a few of his amazing escape-repertoire. There was the Mirror challenge, which is more related to the Dayily Mirror, than a mirror itself, when he escaped from a lock that took four years for a locksmith to make. Or the Milk Can Escape, when he was handcuffed in an oversized milk can, filled with water. Or the Chinese water torture cell, the Suspended straitjacket escape, the Overboard box escape and we also originate the buried alive stunt from him.

Anyhow, these people have shown that escaping can be done in an artistic way doesn’t matter if it’s a straightjacket, a handcuff, an oversized milk can or a room.


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