One of my favorite and most challenging performances in the world of entertainment is performing escape acts. I do have a few comedy escape acts, two of which I perform as part of the street performer program every Friday night on Pleasant Street in Malden, Ma during the Summer and Fall months. But that is a comedy escape, not too much excitement or danger element to it, just some laughs. I do finish each magic performance though with a real, legit escape. Whether it is the 100 foot rope escape, chains and padlocks or a straitjacket escape, these are all escape acts that have no tricks involved, only pure knowledge and skill. I have been pushing myself a lot harder and further over the past few years to learn more about escapology and also to learn more about myself. I often have people ask me, "Are you crazy?” I’ve found the most sincere and reasonable reply to be, "No, just determined."
I honestly can't explain why I have the desire to perform these escape acts and progressively make them more dangerous and challenging. I don't know if I am trying to prove something to myself or perhaps prove myself to those who witness me performing the escapes...maybe there's something more to it that even I don't understand yet. It is an amazing feeling to present a challenge to myself, practice and fail, practice and fail and then eventually succeed at it. I know there are more than a few times throughout my life where I always fell short, many of them on purpose because I just didn't feel like doing something or I just didn't really care about the outcome. Other times, I knew someone else wanted me to do something that I just didn't care to do so I never gave 100 percent to the task at hand. Perhaps that is why I push myself so hard with these escape acts. There is just something about performing escape acts that is so amazing and self-fulfilling. With an escape, failure can come in many different ways. It could result in merely looking foolish being stuck inside a tangle of chains which I could not free myself from while standing on a stage or something with a much more serious consequence such as my underwater escape. If I am unable to get out of the ropes, find the key and then unchain myself from the cinderblock at the bottom of a pool failure basically means a painfully slow, drowning death.
While almost every person who sees me perform asks the question of, "why would you do that?" I can only answer for myself. I cannot explain to people why I do it and why they should also because I honestly don't encourage this type of behavior and would never tell another person, "why not?" I can only tell them that somewhere deep down inside I feel as though I know why, but it is an unexplainable feeling. Perhaps I feel bad about letting people down in the past by not trying hard enough for them. Perhaps I let myself down too often in the past and am trying to make up for it. Not that anything I do now can change the past, but perhaps this is the reason I do this. Maybe I just want to see what I am truly capable of accomplishing? One thing I do know is that this is something I cannot do half-assed or only put in a little effort. This is something I need to give 100 percent effort and dedication towards or I will only fail. There is no, semi-escape artist. No escape artist “kind of” gets out of handcuffs or chains. You either do or you don't, it's win or lose, black or white, so simple yet so complex.
I do have to admit, I am highly bothered by the amount of people I know who tell me how they spent the entire day playing a new video game. People have told me they went to a store at midnight for the special midnight release, bought a $60.00 video game, got home at 1am, played the video game until noon that day when they finally beat the game. I have no idea where the satisfaction comes into play, wherein does the success lie. You get to tell your friends, who are waking up at 10am, that you have completed 75 percent of some new game and how great the game is. I don't understand that. I've had people argue that what I do (escaping from straitjackets, chains, handcuffs and ropes) is pointless or stupid. But that is how I see sitting home and playing video games. I don't think by playing a video game that one is truly challenging himself. How can someone feel satisfied or accomplished by doing something that does not help you or get you ahead in life in anyway. To me, playing a video game is honestly a complete waste of time. What does it do for you, how does it develop you as a person, what have you learned from it, what has it helped to teach others? I admit I do enjoy the brain strain/thinking type games actually, the ones where you need to remember a picture then answer questions about it or figure out a logic puzzle or find differences in two pictures. But the sports games and war games....I just don't get it. Yes, they can be fun, but it’s a complete waste of time when an entire day is used up playing a video game.
I'd like to think that somewhere, somehow people may be inspired by watching me perform an escape. Perhaps they will see something they once thought to be impossible then when I escape from it, they will know that it is possible. Perhaps they will then be able to take on a task of theirs that they once though to be impossible or find the courage to do something they never thought they could do. I can honestly say that I inspire myself when I successfully complete an escape act. I tend to think, “ok I did this, what else can I do?” More importantly though, I hope I am inspiring those who witnessed the escape.
On September 22nd, 2012 the 4th annual Malden River Festival took place. I was there performing magic throughout the day. Also on that day I was supposed to be attempting an escape that I had never tried and had trained for four months to accomplish. I was to be strapped into a straitjacket, hung upside down from a crane 70 feet in the air and escape within the time limit. Apparently most humans can remain upside down for approximately 3 minutes before they start to get dizzy. After 4 minutes of being upside down motor skills slow down, vision becomes blurry, ears sound as though they are blocked up and the ability to think clearly is hindered and some people tend to pass out. Between 5 to 7 minutes of being upside down, the “average human” will pass out due to the amount of blood rushing to the head. The crane takes approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute to reach its height and another minute to come back down. That leaves me only 2-3 minutes to safely escape from the straitjacket before the 5 minute mark. And I still don’t know if I can even remain upside down for only 5 minutes before I am affected by that position. This was going to be a great publicity stunt not only to advertise myself, but it was to help the City Of Malden draw more people to the festival. I had a speech written that I was going to make before the escape and talk about the struggles Malden has gone through and how it is slowly getting better and “breaking free” of it’s negative image.
Unfortunately, the law firm for the land that the Malden River Walk is located on, did not agree that this escape act was a good idea. Although I had the Malden mayor (Mayor Christenson), Kevin Duffy (Strategy and Business Development Officer) and a few of the Local Police officers backing me 100 percent the law firm would not budge. First they told me it was too much money to get a crane, Mr. Duffy got Deathwish Piano movers to donate a crane free of charge. Then I was told that I would need insurance for such a stunt, I explained that I had a one million dollar policy for myself and two million dollar policy for any damage or injury I cause to person or property (was my head going to dent the asphalt in the parking lot if I fell?). I was then told, a crane would damage the grass and there was no way to get a crane there. The crane was not a crane used for skyscraper building, it was a crane that was part of a large truck that, get this, drives on the road!!! And Deathwish Movers is located less than 2 miles from the festival grounds. Also, I assumed we would park the truck in the parking lot, not on the grass. Her next complaint was that children would be present, and if one climbed the crane and fell off it would be bad. Well, I couldn’t argue with that, of course it would be bad. But do these children not have parents? Why would a child be left unattended, then feel the need to climb to the top of a 70 foot crane where they could possibly fall off? First off, that’s bad parenting. Secondly, do these people really assume that every time a child sees a tall vehicle he or she is going to climb as high as they can on it until they fall off? I did have caution tape and barriers to put around it so people wouldn’t go up to the crane or under me where I would be dangling from. But seriously, this was the reason I couldn’t have the crane escape. Not once, did she mention me or what could happen to me, which I assumed would be the reason hat they didn’t want me performing. So after retorting to all of the reasons that I shouldn’t perform, she was silent and then said, “well, there will be kids there and we can’t have you doing this”. And that was that, no crane escape…
Luckily for me, Mayor Christenson told me that sometime next year during an event held around the City of Malden, he wants me there to do an escape act. Not just any ol’ escape act. Yes, you guessed it, a 70 foot high, upside down straitjacket escape…dangling by my feet from a crane. Why, you may ask? Because dreams are pointless if you don’t turn them into a reality.