Escapology is the art of escaping from impossible situations. Escapologists put themselves in all sorts of danger trying to escape some form of restraint, whether it be a coffin, handcuffs, straitjackets or cages. Like online casino gamers, they do it for the thrill – and for the money!
More recently, the thrill of escapology has taken on as a lucrative world wide phenomenon in the form of exciting and challenging live escape games. Participants of up to 12 people pay to be locked in a themed room and must solve the hidden clues together as well as figure out puzzles they come across in order to escape the room before the 1 hour count down is up!
Given that there were only 22 escape rooms in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Room Escape Artist blog database, but by mid-2018, that number had grown to a massive 2,300 rooms, with players paying between $25-$30 a game. Perhaps it’s time to hone your escape skills and design a room of your own? Let’s look at some of the greatest escapologists of all time.
No one comes close to matching the fame of Harry Houdini as an escapologist or magic performer. With a reputation for constantly creating new and increasingly dangerous escapes, Houdini performed a “Buried Alive” escape three times, the first of which almost killed him.
Some of his other best-known stunts include the “Chinese Water Torture Cell” and the “Milk Can Escape” both of which involved escaping handcuffs, chains, padlocks or stocks while submerged in water.
Harry Houdini died on Halloween 1926 and is renowned as the single biggest influence on magic of all time.
With a reputation as one of the most daring escapologists of all time, Canadian Dean Gunnarson found fame with large-scale escape performances for television audiences.
Almost dying in a stunt early in his career when he was handcuffed and shut inside a nailed coffin as it floated down Winnipeg’s Red River he has gone on to perform some nerve biting escapes.
His extremely alarming and frightening stunt, “Car Crusher” saw him handcuffed and chained to the steering wheel of a 1970 Cadillac as it was lifted into a car crusher…luckily he managed to jump out, unchained, just before the car was compressed into an unrecognisable pile of metal. In addition, in 2010, in commemoration of Houdini’s Halloween death, Gunnarson was buried alive and dug himself out two days later.
One of the most famous and well-known magicians of our time, David Blaine has performed some of the most outstanding escape and endurance feats. On May 1, 2006, Blaine started his “Drowned Alive” stunt, which saw him submerged in a water-filled sphere containing isotonic saline in front of the Lincoln Center in New York City. At the end of the stunt, Blaine attempted to free himself from handcuffs and chains after exiting the sphere.
Some of his other most renowned feats include being encased in a block of ice for 63 hours and being sealed inside a case 30 feet above the River Thames in London for 44 days. Blaine’s “Buried Alive” stunt in New York saw him encased in a Perspex box underneath a 3-ton water tank for seven days, eating nothing and only drinking two or three tablespoons of water a day!
Founder of The Magic Town House, a popular magic venue, Dorothy Dietrich is regarded as the “First Lady of Magic”. Her claim to fame as the first woman to escape from a straitjacket while hanging from a burning rope 15 stories up and without a net has earned a place as one of the most famous escapologists of all time.
She is also the first woman to have successively performed the “Bullet Catch Stunt” in 1988. The stunt saw Dietrich catching a .22 bullet, fired from a gun, in a metal cup in her mouth, something that even the great Houdini never managed!
Robert Gallup made his name on the television special The World’s Most Dangerous Magic in the late 1990s with death-defying stunts such as “Sixty Seconds to Live,” which involved a hair raising escape while hanging upside down from three burning ropes.
He is also known for his ludicrously high speed stunts such as the “Skydive Chain Escape,” which required him to jump out of a plane at an altitude of 14,000 feet, escape from handcuffs, padlocks and chains and open up his parachute five seconds before impact!