Definitions

predicament

Predicament escape

A Predicament escape is any form of magic trick or escapology stunt in which the performer is trapped in a dangerous situation and is required to escape from it. Classic examples include the Table of Death, Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell, Princess Tenko's escape from an exploding boat and the Upside Down Suspended Straitjacket escape, in which a performer is suspended high in the air from a burning rope.

While many such feats are pure and simple escape acts performed for real, the predicament escape is also employed as a set-up or theme for certain illusions. These can end either with the performer emerging from the escape prop or appearing magically at another point in the performance space. Examples include a trick in which Melinda Saxe escaped from a tank filled with snakes during the 1998 television special The World's Most Dangerous Magic and a performance in the sequel show the following year in which the magician Margo was shackled in a coffin filled with rats and escaped to re-appear from behind the audience.

One sub-variant, sometimes known as "escape gone wrong" tricks, are presented initially as escape acts but then appear to go wrong, giving the audience the impression the performer must have been killed or badly injured. The artist uses illusion techniques to re-appear unharmed. The Table of Death is sometimes classified in this way. Another example is a stunt performed by Paul Daniels in which he was placed in a crate in the path of a race car, later emerging as the driver of the car after it had smashed through the crate. The Drill of Death illusion can also be presented as an "escape gone wrong".

Some escapes involving a performer in a box or crate are just upstaged versions of classic cabinet escape. The magician has already escaped from the cabinet via a cabinet escape method before it is even placed in the predicament situation. Thus once the cabinet escape has been mastered the only limit on predicament escapes is how much money and influence the magician has, to obtain the cooperation of racing drivers or spend money on speedboats to blow up.

Another variant on the "escape gone wrong" illusion ends without the performer re-appearing. Such a trick was performed by Paul Daniels on the halloween edition of his BBC television show in 1987. He was chained up in an "Iron maiden" type device where a set of spikes were set to close on him after a timer ran out. The broadcast showed the spikes closing on Daniels before he had appeared and then the titles rolled. It was only revealed later that he was alright and the intended effect of the trick had been to shock viewers.

When performed by a female artist, these types of stunts sometimes involve aspects of the damsel in distress archetype, although with the damsel rescuing herself rather than waiting for a hero to come to her aid.

References

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