Harry Houdini Magic: The Straightjacket

When taking the simplest approach, a magician only uses a straitjacket to complete the straitjacket escape, but for the more ambitious , the escape may include other accessories. For some, they lock their feet in shackles or tie up their limbs with chains and padlocks. In this article, you will learn background information on this trick, as well as how Houdini entertained his audiences when performing the trick.

The Main Ingredient

If you’ve watched any movies about insane asylums, then you’ve probably already caught sight of what a straitjacket looks like. Similar to a regular jacket, the sleeves are extra long so that they can be fastened in the back of the magician. Usually, the sleeve ends are sewn shut so that the wearer is unable to use their hands. Another use of the straitjacket is to tie the sleeve to the back of the wearer so that they cannot move their arms. This element of the jacket adds to the intrigue of the trick.

It’s clear that it’s pretty hard to get out of a straitjacket without the help of another. The wearer must also overcome six belts and buckles located on the back of the jacket. To make matters even more difficult, it is common to see a crotch-strap attached to the jacket, which prevents the wearer from lifting it over their head and getting out.

Performing the Trick

Houdini made escaping from a straitjacket a popular trick to perform. He also worked on different ways to entertain his audiences. One of the most popular approaches to completing the trick involved Houdini hanging upside down from a skyscraper while attempting to escape from a straitjacket.

Usually, he would have someone from the audience look over the straitjacket. Next, the belts and buckles were tied behind Houdini’s back. With arms crossed and belted together behind his back, a crotch strap was put in place. Rope secures his ankles and he is put in such a position that he cannot reach the buckles. Moving any part of his body is virtually impossible. The audience would watch the magician twist and turn, as he tried to free himself. Then, all of sudden , he emerges victorious and escapes.

Escapology as an Art Form

Houdini elevated his escape tricks to an art form that entertained the masses with the possibility that he may not actually escape from whatever peril he positioned himself in. The straitjacket test is just one method of escapology, which includes any exercise that uses restraints that a magician must get out of. Performers may escape from steel boxes, oil drums, milk cans, handcuffs and leg irons. To further entice the audience, they may combine more than one accessory to elevate the difficulty of the trick.

Houdini truly serves as motivation for performers interested in escapology acts, who is sometimes referred to as the “the father of escapology”. It’s funny how Houdini got into escape acts, as it’s thanks to his skepticism of mediums. He learned that people put on a show at seances by pressing concealing buttons and other contraptions to allow them to escape from ropes and disappear. Seeing the potential of incorporating this element into his shows, he added escapology to his ‘bag of tricks.’