Escapology is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps. Escapologists (also called escape artists) escape from handcuffs, straitjackets, cages, coffins, steel boxes, barrels, bags, burning buildings, fish-tanks and other perils, often in combination.
Some escapologists' tricks are accomplished by illusionists' techniques; others are genuine acts of flexibility, strength and daring.
The art of escaping from restraints and confined spaces has been a skill employed by magicians for a very long time. It was not originally displayed as an overt act in itself but was instead used secretly to create other illusion effects such as disappearance or transmutation. In the 1860s, the Davenport Brothers, who were skilled at releasing themselves from rope ties, used the art to convey the impression they were restrained while they created spirit phenomena.
Other illusionists, including John Nevil Maskelyne, worked out how the Davenports did their act and re-created the tricks to debunk the brothers' claims of psychic power. However the re-creations did not involve overt escape, merely a replication of tricks with the statement that they were accomplished by secret magicians' skills rather than spirits. It took another thirty years before the pure skill of escape began to be displayed as an act in itself.
The figure most responsible for making escapology a recognized entertainment was Harry Houdini, who built his career on demonstrating the ability to escape from a huge variety of restraints and difficult situations.
Houdini made no secret of the fact that he was an expert on restraints and the skills needed to overcome them but he often concealed the exact details of his escapes to maintain an air of mystery and suspense. Although many of his escapes relied on technical skills such as lock-picking and contortion, he also performed tricks such as Metamorphosis and the Chinese Water Torture Cell, which are essentially classic stage illusions reliant on cleverly designed props. Houdini's feats helped to define the basic repertoire of escapology, including escapes from handcuffs, padlocks, straitjackets, and prison cells.
The actual term 'escapology' is reputed to have been coined originally by Australian escapologist and illusionist Murray (Norman Murray Walters), a Houdini contemporary.
- Potter's Index list
- Cheating the Gallow
- Jail, Prison Escape
- Mailbag Escape
- Milk Can Escape
- Paper Bag Escape
- Rope Ties and Escapes
- Sack Escapes
- Safe and Vault Escape
- Shackle Escape
- Stock Escape
- Strait Jacket Escape
- Thumb Cuff Escapes
- Trunk Escape
- Underwater and Water Escape
- Barrel and Boiler Escape
- Basket Escape
- Box and Packing Case Escape
- Cage Escape
- Chain, Collar, Handcuff and Leg Iron Escapes
- Tank Escape
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