“My brain is the key that sets me free” – Harry Houdini
The suspended straightjacket (one of his mightier straightjacket escapes) was the one feat that helped establish the very identity of Houdini as a performer and make him a legend.
In this post, we’ll give you everything you need to know about…
- Houdini’s Straitjacket Escapes
- Houdini’s Suspended Straitjacket Escape
So without further ado…
Harry Houdini’s Straitjacket Escapes
The straitjacket escape began as a challenge from the police when Houdini was performing his famous handcuffs act.
A regulation straitjacket is made of heavy canvas, reinforced with leather with a collar, cuffs, and various straps.
The cuffs do not allow the hands to be free, but instead resemble elongated bags, ending in leather straps that wrap around the body.
Its purpose is to restrain the strongest and most violent criminals or insane people.
Now since Houdini is arguably insane, (my opinion after seeing some of his escapes like the Chinese Water Torture Cell), as well as being the world’s best escape artist.
I think the police’s challenge was a rather fitting one don’t you think?
From the moment he put on the straitjacket, Houdini’s goal was to obtain slack by gripping as much loose cloth as possible.
Chest expansion was also important. Houdini had the ability to expand his chest to enormous proportions, giving him, even more, slack when he let the air out of his chest.
Most important, was the placement of his arms.
Houdini would cross, not fold, his arms (one of the oldest little ticks in escapology), to allow him to work his arms over his head, with the upper arm as well as giving him extra slack.
However, if forced to fold his arms, Houdini could dislocate one or both of his shoulders in order to provide the slack he needed to escape.
Once loosened, the arms were brought in front of the body so the buckles of the sleeves could be undone with the teeth.
Next, the hands, working beneath the canvas, would unhook the neck and body buckles.
Lastly, Houdini would remove the straitjacket from the arms and body by stepping on the ends of the sleeves and giving an upward, backward pull.
Harry Houdini’s Suspended Straightjacket Escape
Though the initial version of the straitjacket escape caused a stir, Houdini gained even more fame when he began to perform this trick while suspended upside down and bound at the ankles.
Houdini would be placed into a canvas and leather regulation straitjacket and his feet would be bound.
A crane would then hoist the magician upside down high up above the ground below.
Thousands would gather in the streets to watch Houdini flail around erratically and violently as he dangled above.
After a while, Houdini would free himself from the straitjacket and be lowered back to the ground to the deafening cheers of the crowd.
In a way, hanging upside down was actually helpful to Houdini.
During this time, he was able to shorten the trick from thirty minutes to only three.
Being upside-down made it easier for Houdini to work his arms over his head.
In addition, he used a special straitjacket for this new version of the escape. This “trick” jacket had overlong sleeves and only single straps looped around the neck, chest and body. This insured slack for the arms and let Houdini free himself more quickly.
If you want to watch the legendary escape artist perform his signature escape then click the video below.
How to escape a StraitJacket?
If you’re feeling inspired after watching the master escape artist at work then here is Wikihow’s theory of how you would perform the classic escape.
Thank you for reading The Escape that made Houdini Legendary.
Hope you enjoyed it.