Houdini, Dietrich, and Santini – familiar names to most.
What do these three have in common? Strength, quick wits, flexibility, and patience.
Though many know the names of the greatest escape artists to ever live, few
know the depth of daring, height of sensational danger, or grandest
achievements accomplished by the greatest escapology masters. In the content
below, we will dive into the lives of the greatest escape artists to ever live!
A Brief Exploration of Escapology
Be definition, escapology is the practice of escaping
from traps, handcuffs, coffins, boxes, tanks, or some perilous combination of
restraints. Performers have practiced escapology for years. In the mid-1800s,
the Davenport Brothers stunned viewers with escapee phenomena and other
illusionists followed suit. However, it was not until Harry Houdini entered the
scene that escapology grew in popularity as a recognized entertainment. To kickstart
our guide to famous escape artists, Houdini is a great place to begin.
“The greatest escape I ever made,” Houdini once joked,
“was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin.” Despite his comical claim to fame,
Houdini is known as the greatest escape artist to live. Before his death in
1926, Houdini escaped chains, padlocks, handcuffs, stocks, and graves. He
performed through the U.S., Europe, and around the world, spreading a
reputation for magnificent stunts. Though known for dozens of impressive
tricks, many escapologists would agree that his Belly of a Whale Escape is most
Belly of a Whale Escape
While in Boston, Houdini was challenged by businessmen
to escape… from a whale’s belly. As per Houdini’s normal routine, his
challengers demanded that Houdini be handcuffed and shackled in leg-irons.
Then, he would be sewn inside a whale’s belly. Houdini accepted the challenge,
probably without so much as blinking an eye. Who thinks twice before rising to
such a challenge?
After the great escape artist was shackled and sewn
inside the whale, the giant fish was tightly wrapped in chains. Viewers watched
with batted breath and racing hearts for fifteen agonizingly long minutes. Soon,
they saw Houdini emerge from the belly of the whale with a broad smile.
Dorothy Dietrich is yet another great escape artist,
known for crossing boundaries no female stage magician crossed before. She
caught a bullet in her mouth; she escaped a straitjacket while suspended from a
burning rope. Some even refer to her as “The Female Houdini,” her childhood
hero and escapist inspiration. Dorothy was dedicated to breaking down barriers
between men and women in the realm of escapology – and she succeeded.
An escape artist from Canada, Dean Gunnarson rose to
popularity due to his propensity for daring, life-threatening stunts. Among his
most famous is a trick called the “Car Crusher.” During this stunt, Gunnarson
was chained and handcuffed to the steering wheel of a car being lifted
into a crusher with moments to escape before being compressed with the vehicle.
He always managed to make a harrowing escape – just in time. In
Houdini-fashion, he was buried alive, emerging from his living grave two days
An American escape artist, Gallup is known for
“extreme magic.” Like Gunnarson, Dietrich, and Houdini, Gallup prefers
life-threatening tricks to stun his audience. Gallup is best known for his
“Skydive Chain Escape,” a trick sure to send shivers down the spine of anyone
who fears heights. During the “Skydive Chain Escape,” Gallup was hurled from an
airplane at 14,000 feet – chained, handcuffed, and covered in padlocks.
Steve Santini stands out from the rest due to his
obsession with bizarre, macabre stunts – earning him the title “The Dark Master
of Escape.” He often blasted heavy metal music during his stage performances.
He has escaped from jails and dungeons while navigating chainsaws, explosives,
and other deadly weaponry. His most dangerous, most impressive stunt?
The Cremation Chamber
Santini himself described the lofty trick: “Once I’m
secured inside the vault, a metal box will be bolted over the top of the handle
and dial on the outside of the door preventing my staff from a quick rescue,
should it be needed. Other precautions have also been taken to make the vault
as escape proof as possible. On the inside of the vault door, the steel plate
that covers the lock that is normally removable has been replaced with a single
sheet of steel so that there is no access to the mechanism on the door. On
three sides of the vault are propane flamethrowers that will be turned on once
everything is secured outside, sending flames pounding against the metal sides
and back of the vault. This one’s going to be the toughest of my career.” When
Santini revealed his stunt to the world, the world wondered how he would
survive. How did he plan to escape?
Of course, Santini did flee the flaming tomb, proving
to be a true master of extreme escapology.
David Blaine is known for patience and endurance in
extreme trial. His most famous include ice and altitude. He famously survived encasement
in a block of ice for 63 hours. For 44 days, he hung from a closed case 30 feet
above the River Thames.
We wonder what Londoners may have thought about the
strange case, hanging precariously above the river for over a month. Did they
know the escapologist David Blaine was inside?
Known for exceeding the bounds of what was thought
possible, we must mention Roslyn Walker, world record breaker. In 2011, Walker
escaped from nine handcuffs in one minute, eventually leading to escaping from
677 handcuffs in a single hour.
What do each of the greatest escape artists have in
common? Patience, brilliance, and pulse-pounding thrill. Today, the most
talented escape artists are often dubbed “Modern Houdinis.” Are you up for a challenge
like no other? EscapeWorks
is dedicated to creating riveting, heart-racing challenges – that must be
solved in 60 minutes or less. Book a room today
for an unforgettable adventure, Houdini!