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Escapes as a form of magical entertainment have their roots in demonstrations of techniques used by spiritualists in the late 19th century. Spiritualists were routinely restrained during their presentations when invoking the spirits, ostensibly to prevent them from creating the manifestations themselves. Those who exposed spiritualists would explain how the restraints could be overcome and the fraudulent manifestations produced. Harry Houdini is often credited as the first to create an "escape act" where the idea of escaping from restraints in front of people became entertainment rather than exposure.

Murray, an Australian escape artist, was a pioneer in this area, as was Harry Houdini.

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