Harry Houdini was undoubtedly the most famous exponent of the escapologist craft, bringing the art to public attention through his trade mark showmanship and high profile escapes. The word ‘escapologist ‘ is rumored to have been coined by Norman Murray Walters, a well known Australian escapologist of the 1800’s and a contemporary of Houdini.
While usually performed as part of a more general magical act, specialists in the craft still practice today. Escaping from a variety of situations and devices, such as cages, leg irons, combination locks, coffins, strait jackets, bags, handcuffs, padlocks, water tanks, vaults, barrels, chains, crates, ropes, and in a myriads of inventive locations and high pressure scenarios.
With the advent of television, escapology came into the home. Some professional performers have risen to the status of household names, while others have stayed behind the scenes creating escapes for others. Here are a few of the true artists you may or may not of heard of.
Born in born in Erie, Pennsylvania on the 31st of October, escapologist, magician, paranormal investigator and historian, Dorothy Dietrich, is one the most famous female performers alive today.
Renowned for her high profile straitjacket escape where she was raised to a height of 15 stories from a burning rope, without a safety net, she also appeared in the cartoons of Robert Ripley, highlighting her .22 calibre bullet catch and audience levitation stunts.
Originally started by Houdini’s wife, Bess, Dorothy holds a yearly seance in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with the hope of contacting the spirit of Harry Houdini. This is conducted on her birthday, each Halloween, the day Houdini died.
Born Alan Rabinowitz in 1926, this English born escapologist led the way for many years and influence d many new performers with his death defying escapes and high profile performances. Making headlines at 24, his infamous ‘Houdini II Buried Alive’, executed for Pathé, was shown to cinema audiences after nearly ending tragically.
Know for his self-developed burning-rope escape, where Alan hung upside down from a crane (on occasion, over a cage of lions), in a straightjacket, with the rope on fire, ready to drop him to his doom. In 2006 the Magic Circle honored Alan with a Maskelyne award for his services, influence, and contribution to the world of magic.
Born in Oldham, England, David started his career with the circus. Holding a fist full of impressive ‘speed escape’ world records, he is also one of under 100 practicing sword swallowers in the world today. A committed vegan, he holds the world records for the straitjacket and underwater handcuffs escape, amongst others. He’s the featured artist in the 2012 Ripleys Believe It Or Not book.
David Blaine is undoubtedly one of the most high profile magicians of the 20th and 21st century. From Brooklyn, New York, he came to the public attention with his 1997 series ‘David Blaine: Street Magic’ and his subsequent high profile performances including ‘Buried Alive’, a stunt planned by Harry Houdini before his death, ‘Frozen in Time’, ‘Drowned Alive’ and ‘Revolution’. Blaine recently held the world record for holding one’s breath (using oxygen beforehand), at 17 minutes 4½ seconds.
Billed as ‘America’s Escape Hero’, California born Griffin was named ‘Escape Artist of the Year’ in 1993 by the International Magic Awards Committee. He is an industry renowned performer, known for consistently bringing freshness and originality to the art of escapology.
Famously, in 1983 with his hands behind his back in police restraints and his head in the hangman’s noose, Michael escaped a genuine public hanging in Wichita, Kansas. Passing out only moments later.
In 2002, Michael reenacted a classic 1912 Houdini escape. He was handcuffed, tied, and sealed into Houdini’s original 90 year-old packing crate, then lowered into the sea. He freed himself in under 50 seconds.
Morgan the Escapist
Born in New Jersey, Morgan the Escapist (her real name is actually unknown) is renowned for her illusions, theatrical escapes including her infamous ‘Table of Death’ (a devilish collection of swords and spikes on a timed release, as she escapes from a collection of locks, manacles and chains.
She is well known for adding a dose of glamour to a predominantly male dominated profession. She regularly works with fellow magician John Bundy, acting for many years as his assistant on the TV show ‘Spooktackular’. An accomplished theatrical designer and script writer, she studied at the Henson studio in New York and is a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tang Soo Do.
In 2009 she was awarded ‘Best Female Escape Artist’ at the World Magic Awards.
There’s a lot of great new talent out there pushing the craft to new heights. If you see a local act on in your area, escapology makes for a great night out. Give it a try, who knows, you could be watching the next Houdini. Oh, and one more thing, please don’t try this at home…
Vivien Sray writes on behalf of Easylocks ltd