Harry Houdini was known for his escape acts and played a huge part in the shaping of escapology routines. We spoke to three modern day Houdini’s, Chris Cross, Rob Roy Collins and Roslyn Walker on how Harry has been a big part of their careers and how they became the performers they are today.
All three artists said Houdini played a major role in their life, not just with his routines but with his performances and ability to capture an audience. “Houdini obviously influenced me – it’s difficult for him not to have. He took a very old art form and transformed it into a massively successful performance piece,” says Roslyn. “Before him magicians would use the ability to escape from cuffs and other restraints in order to perform pseudo psychic demonstrations. He was the first to see the potential of using the escape itself to entertain.”
Rob Roy Collins too is mesmerised by Houdini’s ability to entertain, “What I love most about him is not just his ability to perform escapology stunts, but his ability to sell himself. He was the best PR guru I’ve ever come across!”
Chris Cross envies Houdini’s ability to pull a crowd, especially “his marketing skills and his ability to create hype. He got people’s attention and was a master crowd-puller.” All three artists highlight the power of Houdini’s work and how charisma was an important element in Houdini becoming a household name.
Roslyn Walker is such a fan of Houdini he recreated some of his most famous routines, “One of his most famous stunts was the Mirror Cuff Challenge where a pair of escape-proof cuffs was created. Houdini was locked in and had to escape. It took him over an hour to get out. But he did it and the audience went mental!”
Roslyn explains how he took the challenge to escape from the same kind of cuffs: “I wasn’t allowed to see them until they were snapped on my wrists and I wasn’t allowed to have them taken off unless I admitted defeat, or I escaped on my own. The only difference was I did this in full view, so my audience of 3000 could see everything, whereas Houdini did the escape in private. Houdini took over an hour, as I said, but I took just over four minutes to free myself. I was given the cuffs as a souvenir.”
Roslyn, Chris and Rob obviously love what they do and would encourage others to get involved but with precaution, as “the world of escapology is littered with horror stories of escapes going wrong and people being injured, or worse,” says Rob. ”If the person has practiced enough and has all safety precautions thoroughly in place then this should not happen.”
Roslyn Walker thinks experience in performing arts is the key to escapology, “Most escape artists get into the art through magic. They train as magicians first and then find escapology. Personally I think it’s an advantage to also have knowledge and experience in other performance arts. My background in circus has really helped me.”
Find out more about Roslyn Walker, Chris Cross and Rob Roy Collins here.