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Topic: Successful Jail Escape!
Message: Posted by: schwartz (Jun 16, 2003 01:03PM)
I did it! With the help of Ian McColl, I performed a successful jail escape from the Old Jail Museum in Valparaiso Indiana. I emphasize that it was a real legitimate escape. I was searched, the cell was searched and I received no outside help once I was locked in the jail.

The escape was part of a fundraising event for the museum and they raised $2,500.00 of badly needed funds to keep the historical society operational.

Many thanks to Ian without whom this escape would have been impossible. Using his methods and advice I was able to escape from a locked cell with formidable Folger Adams locks after everything, including myself, was searched thoroughly. Ian coached me every step of the way and yet again I am blown away that his methods really work.

I am posting the link to the article if any of you would like to read it. It made the front page of the local paper! Any of you interested in the basics of escape artistry should check out Ian's stuff on Mark Cannon's website or Ian's website. Congratulations Ian!


The great escape

Times Staff Writer

VALPARAISO -- Harry Houdini may have been rolling over in his grave.

But if so, it wasn't in dismay at having his name evoked so often at Friday night's
"Great Escape" from the Old Jail Museum. He would simply have been itching to do some escaping of his own, inspired by the derring-do of amateur escape artist Mark Schwartz.

Dressed in authentic Porter County jail garb, Schwartz was bound in padlocked chains and marched to one of the 130-year-old jailhouse's 10 original cells. He had been patted down by Porter County Sheriff Chief Deputy David Lain and found "clean" of any aids to his escape.

The cell was inspected by a handful of observers and the door was swung shut and locked. Then the waiting began. To protect Schwartz's trade secrets, spectators were not permitted to watch the actual process.

Earlier, Schwartz warmed up his audience at the neighboring Memorial Opera House by making quick work, first of handcuffs locked behind his back and then a straightjacket Lain had strapped and pulled tight.

One technique that Schwartz shared with his audience was an ability to dislocate his shoulder in his contortions. And there was an awful lot of ungainly thrashing in Schwartz's successful attempt to shake free of the straitjacket in less than two minutes.

Schwartz, a Northwestern University archaeology graduate student, brought his brand of escapism to Valparaiso to help raise funds for the historical museum, called "a really neat diamond here in Porter County" by the evening's emcee.

And within 15 minutes of his binding incarceration, Schwartz was somehow back among the crowd enjoying refreshments outside the 1871 jail.

Debby Cook of Valparaiso had no idea how he did it. She attended with her daughter, Shannon, 10, and family friend Samantha Pluard, 10, who thought Schwartz may have cheated -- "sort of."

"I don't think it was rigged," Cook said.
"It was fun, rigged or not."

The threesome had made their first visit to the museum earlier in the day.

"(The girls) had no idea what a chamber pot was before today," Cook said. "They had no idea you had to spin thread."

That's the sort of thing Shirron Soohey, co-manager of the museum, hoped to achieve with the event.

"Half the people who come into the museum say, 'I didn't even know this place existed,' " Soohey said. The event's proceeds, she said, would go to keeping the museum open, free and continuing its mission of preservation and education. "It's to keep Porter County history alive," Soohey said.

After his feat, Schwartz said he did not
"cheat" in any way, defining that as receiving outside help or being in a cell that wasn't really locked. He declined to share any tricks of the trade other than to emphasize the importance of physical control. And he added cryptically, "The obvious way is not the only way."

Schwartz said escaping has always been a hobby of his and that he learned much of his stuff from a magician whose father had worked with the great Houdini.

"There's something about Houdini ... that's always struck a chord in me," Schwartz said. "He's kind of my hero."
Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 16, 2003 02:18PM)
Congratulations Mark.
Regards, Steve Santini
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 16, 2003 02:26PM)
Alright Mark, WAY TO GO!!! :applause: :applause: :applause:
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Jun 16, 2003 02:48PM)
Great job Mark, thanks for posting the article!

Living Illusions
Message: Posted by: AJP807 (Jun 16, 2003 02:57PM)
Great going Mark! Great story. Very inspiring! Tony Parisi
Message: Posted by: VampOfVegas (Jun 16, 2003 04:33PM)
Congrats Mark, good job.
Message: Posted by: James Peters (Jun 17, 2003 03:27AM)

Excellent escape. Well done!! :)

What can we look forward to next?

Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 17, 2003 06:49AM)
This is awesome! Was it hard getting permission for the escape?
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 17, 2003 07:55AM)
Ghost of Houdini! Well done! Very well done indeed!!!! A big congratulation to you for doing it so well and to Ian for the good training and assistance he provided.

:applause: :applause:
Message: Posted by: schwartz (Jun 17, 2003 10:05AM)
Thank you guys very much! Getting permission was a little tricky but because the museum had its funding cut and because the chief deputy was a big supporter of the museum it was a lot easier than I thought. The director of the museum was smart enough to see the potential as a fundraising event and it worked out well for everyone.

I hope I will do another jail escape sometime soon but I don't know if I can take the stress. I don't know how guys like Santini, and Thomas Solomon could get away with doing so many of these. I didn't show it but I was a wreck beforehand.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 17, 2003 10:13AM)
You should be nervous, it gives you that edge. I have found finally, when I perform it eases me a lot more. This is probably because then I know I am successfully performing what I had been so nervous about. Just a little psychology for everyone!
Message: Posted by: James Peters (Jun 17, 2003 12:53PM)

The fact you were nervous is a great encouragement to me! Sometimes before a show, I get so nervous I can hardly stand up! Nice to know I'm not the only one.

Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 17, 2003 01:42PM)
Hi Mark,
Who says I was not a wreck before trying any of my jail escapes? I was! (Ha Ha).

Especially because on a number of the cell escapes I did, the Police or people looking after the jail would not even let me have a look at, or handle, the key to the cell beforehand. The people running many of these places are not stupid and often, at least in many of my personal situations, they went the extra mile to make it as difficult to get out as they felt it should rightfully be.

Everyone has heard about Houdini and some of his methods and they now know to look for things like this. In fact, in many of the correctional institutions in the U.S.A. and here in Canada the guards have special hinged metal sleeves fitted over the tips of the cell keys they carry around with them. Why? Because inmates have been known to
"decode" by eye the cuts on a cell key from looking at it from a distance and then make a duplicate from memory!

Yes indeed, jail and cell escapes are certainly not for the faint of heart. Nor are they for the escapist who buys a book or instructions on how to do it and then figures they know how to pull it off. Merely reading about how to impression or pick a jail cell lock is only half the battle. Tons of practice to develop picking skills, a comprehensive working knowledge of all of the locks one may encounter, knowing how to conceal your tools, and most importantly a good working foundation in psychology, human nature, misdirection, and the power of suggestion is a must.

Like I said earlier... it is often not as simple as it seems. To boot, many modern cells have solid steel doors or have steel mesh over the bars to prevent anyone from tampering with the lock. It is no wonder almost no one does jail escapes these days. Not to mention how hard it is to get permission to even try.

Once again, congratulations Mark.

Regards, Steve Santini.
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jun 17, 2003 02:27PM)
Steve has nailed it! The logistics of a successful cell escape is daunting to say the least!

I do know that many modern (built in the mid- 90’s on) jail cells not only have solid doors with “feed-up” slots in them and a small, wire-glass window but also do not have key-ways at all! Most modern jails have electronic or pneumatic doors controlled from a control center. When the doors close a steel rod, built inside the door, falls into place locking it securely.

There is no direct access from the inside of the cell. In fact, if the door malfunctions, the track cover must be entirely taken off (it is a steel plate above the door movement mechanism. The standard track cover is held in place with a half dozen “security-head” screws.

While these cells are not totally escape proof they come close!

I admire anyone who can escape from an old style cell, i.e., open bar door with a Folger Adams lock on the door. I admire anyone who can escape from ANY cell. Again good show!
Message: Posted by: schwartz (Jun 17, 2003 04:56PM)
Thanks Harry and I totally agree with you Steve.

To quote Star Wars:

Luke: (after shooting down tie fighter)
I got one!

Hans Solo: That's great kid, don't get cocky!

I will not get cocky. I'm pretty happy after this jail escape but realize I am far from a master prison breaker. If the local police really wanted to stump me they probably could have come up with something to really throw me for a loop. One of the talents of Houdini was to control the situation somehow to prevent anyone from throwing a wrench in the works or leadhsot in the lock. If you can get the police to open the food tray so much the better.

The Texas seven actually escaped from a maximum security prison where the cell doors were controled electonically. One of the seven hid in the bathroom after a basketball game in the prison yard and caught the officer in the control booth off guard. That was only the first step in an elaborate escape. Obviously this method wouldn't work too well in a escape publicity stunt.

There are many ways to get out of jail, I'm just glad that I was able to use one of these methods successfully.

Just a few more thoughts.

Steve-Even though I agree with you it may not be such a good idea to imply or state outright what some of the jail escape methods are. Most of the people who read these posts are escape artists but some are not and a lot of these methods need to remain secrets. That's what PMing is for.

There are some criminals who are more clever than escape artists. Police reports on the web talk about finding belt buckles on criminals where the end of the prong is actually a tool for opening handcuffs. So maybe it's best not to mention all the techniques for getting out of jail so openly. Some of the methods you mentioned were actually used in jail breaks by real prisoners. Granted that security is better now-do we still want these secrets to get around?

At best all it does is give people in the audience an idea of how you got out that you can never get out of their heads. At worst it ruins the effect.

Since we have a forum on the subject anyway, Steve, why not tell us about the different jail escapes you have done. I for one would like to hear more about them.
Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 17, 2003 07:23PM)
Dear Mark, The "methods" I mentioned in my post are the general knowledge of Police, guards, escapologists, inmates, and practically everyone thanks to the modern media. I was giving nothing away as to methodology and no one should be in the least concerned. If one is concerned I am exposing jail escape methods, all one has to do is see one of the many Houdini biographies to see Sid Radner, (who himself was quite an escapologist and former student of Houdini's brother, Hardeen) showing how to make an impression of a jail cell key both sideways and end wise in a lump of clay.

There is nothing new or earth shattering here and everyone should know it. Folks have known about it and done it for decades. Besides, this "revelation" of mine in no way takes away from what you accomplished Mark. After all, you said you were searched, right? They found nothing and you pulled it off. So, I am certainly not revealing your method... That is what it is all about. Actually pulling the escape off and ending clean. Concerning some of my cell escapes, I am afraid I would want you to be more specific in your quest for information and then I will be glad to fill you in.

Regards, Steve Santini.
Message: Posted by: schwartz (Jun 17, 2003 09:07PM)
Yeah you do have a point--I have that video where Sid Radner demonstrates what you are talking about. Some Houdini biographies do mention those techniques but personally I liked the fact that Ken Silverman refused to reveal any methods at all. The Amazing Randi has a nice piece in his book where he shows a jail key and a house key side by side and says, how are you suppossed to smuggle in something 7 inches long into the jail with you (No innuendo intended). And I did start clean and end clean as you say.

Personally I would prefer not even to have these common knowledge secrets talked about in a public forum. That's just me. Wizard or stripper decks are sold in many drug store toy sections but most people don't know the secret. In many Houdini biographies they talk about how Houdini got out of some handcuffs. These "secrets" are still not known by the majority of the public and the police sure don't want people to know why any police officer can open any pair of regulation handcuffs at any time.

I know you didn't mean to take away from the escape, I just get itchy when any secrets are revealed no matter how small or large. I don't mean any ill will, I'm just a traditionalist. So maybe you can edit your previous post down a little bit, just a little.


oh yeah, what I meant was:

Where have you escaped from? (jails)

What kind of cells were they?

I don't want you to reveal any methods.

Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 17, 2003 10:19PM)
Hello Mark,

My first cell escape was when I was 14 at the Toronto Police Museum which used to be located on Jarvis Street in Toronto. This cell was a 4 lever lock which took a barrel key. It was deadlocking and did not slam or slide shut. Later in my teens I did a number of Police station cell escapes in the Toronto area. In all cases these cells were equipped with Folger Adams multiple lever locks. Later on in my mid twenties to mid 30's I also tried many historical cells located in various jails/museums throughout Ontario and Nova Scotia.

One of the toughest jail cells was one I did a few years ago in the Winnipeg Police Museum. This cell did not have a lock in the door but instead opened with a lever that was located out of reach outside the cell. Your new mentor, Ian McColl, was given a video of this escape by myself a number of years ago. After looking at the video, he called the escape, and I quote, "brilliant".

On a number of the cells I have tested, I often found many of the older ones to be the most difficult. While many were secured by merely a padlock, some of these padlocks were so secure they should still be using them today. In particular were cells I tested which were locked by "Scandinavian" padlocks. These locks, popular during the mid 1800's to the early 1900's operate by the key rotating a stack of discs to the correct degree to allow the shackle of the lock to be withdrawn from the body of the lock. Angled cuts on the cuts ensure each of the discs are rotated to exactly the correct rotation. These locks are rather difficult to pick because they have no internal springs. Henceforth, there is nothing to
"feel" as the discs are being picked or rotated to correct position.

I hope this answers some of your question.

Regards, Steve Santini.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 17, 2003 10:33PM)
I like the vault escape from the video clip on his site!

I have to admit that there are so many methods, that It would take a life time to learn them all! And we usually do. The art of escapology is just that an art. You learn the basics, then keep progressing. Each escape is unique and utilizes the most stunning artifice to accomplish a goal! Real magic....
Message: Posted by: schwartz (Jun 18, 2003 10:45AM)
Thanks Steve, very impressive. Some of the older locks really are more tough because they are so unusual. I've seen antique locks that are also puzzle locks where one has to move certain parts in a specific order just to access the key hole.

It seems each jail has its own challenges.

Thanks for the info.
Message: Posted by: Ian McColl (Jun 18, 2003 08:53PM)
Dear Mark, Congratulations on your jail cell escape.

As to my little involvement in the escape. I certainly wouldn't call myself a mentor.

Mark told me he had spent considerable time arranging and planning his escape. Having the right mind-set for the escape, meant that he had worked out one of the logical was to achieve his goal. He had worked out everthing which was needed to do the escape.

My only involvement was to follow his strict plans for what was required by himself.

Mark has obviously thought the escape through from the beginning to the end and each part in between at any stage.

All credit to you Mark. "Brilliant"