02 Aug 2013
Well not quite Amethyst, rather the members of Amethyst, Danny Hunt & Annette giving a talk on escapology and Houdini on Friday 1 September to 32 members and 1 former member, Jeff Robertshaw.
Danny explained that he became interested in Houdini after seeing the 1953 Tony Curtis film on the life of the man born Erich Weiss on March 24 1874. Danny showed various handcuffs, many of which were copies of those used by Houdini during his career. The oldest set was made by a leading handcuff maker, Hiatts of Birmingham. The key turned a screw to tighten the cuffs. Houdini was challenged by a Police Inspector in London to escape from them. Danny hasn’t been able to open these type of cuffs in ways mentioned in Houdini books.
Houdini came back from Russia with a set of handcuffs which were called Russian Manacles. These were supposedly the latest Russian handcuffs. The reality was that Houdini had them made in England to his own design. In 1904 Houdini was challenged by the precursor of the Daily Mirror to escape from a set of cuffs which a locksmith had taken 5 years to make. On the night the theatre was packed, with people even sat on the stage. Houdini was handcuffed and went behind a cabinet. He took 70 minutes to escape; and the audience sat there enthralled all this time, with Houdini out of view. You can’t imagine that happening nowadays. Danny suggested that Houdini was involved with the paper on this event, as the publicity was tremendous for both parties. Danny thinks that the lock that beat Houdini is in the Industrial Museum in Bradford; although no one in the audience could verify this. Perhaps some other member may know.
Danny talked about the necessity to be prepared for any escapes. He had been challenged to escape from a set of handcuffs by the Swansea Police. Danny knew the cuffs, which were a standard set. However, unknown to him the police had tampered with the cuffs so that Danny couldn’t get them off in the normal way. He ended having to force them off, and still has the marks several months afterwards.
Houdini had all his escapes filmed and appeared in a number of films. Danny showed a couple of excerpts from these.
Houdini was famous for the Milk Can Escape. He had escaped from water, milk, etc, but when he tried it with beer he passed out with the poisonous fumes and had to be rescued. Danny does this escape with a 55 gallon drum. This was originally designed for the National Association of Fish Fryers. Danny was to escape from this full of mushy peas over the August Bank Holiday in Whitby. However at the last minute Whitby Town Council pulled the plug on it. This will go ahead sometime in the future but at a different venue.
Danny stressed that Houdini was very fit and agile and had a high pain threshold. This was ultimately his downfall. He had been appearing for 2 weeks with a broken ankle. When he was hit in the stomach and suffered a ruptured appendix, he still insisted in appearing. Peritonitis followed and Houdini died on October 31 1926 (Halloween).
In 2005 Danny was challenged to escape from the Castle Museum in York. This was shown on TV and Danny let us see this. He managed to get out of a 6 sets of handcuffs, a chained box and a door with no locks on the inside with the TV presenter present and the TV cameras on him. He even managed to recover his clothes from the locked cell next door. He is to do a similar escape from the Ripon Law & Order Museum on 31 October this year. Danny even talked about Paul Sunderland’s role in escapology (have a word with Paul about this one!).
Danny received a well deserved long round of applause for an excellent evening.