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RickSilmser
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Escapes are a serious business, especially water escapes. I have a great respect for water escapes and the people who do them. To submerse yourself into a closed and locked container filled with water takes a special type of person to execte.

I was booked into a venue called The manor Motor Inn in Guelph, Ontario in 1981. The manor was once a huge mansion that had been turned into a motel of sorts. The Manor had it's ups and downs and I was booked when it was on it's way up from one of those downs. In other words, it was a bit of a dive.

I was doing a Thursday, Friday and Saturday with my regular escape act plus the milk can. The can was on display at a local mall with a huge poster, the press had been out to the Manor to do a story on me, so I did a USD jacket for them. On the Saturday night, the night I was doing the milk can, the room was packed. The owner was happy and the servers were busy, and I had a feeling I couldn't shake.

The first half of my show was Joe Tanner's belt and muff, the cocoon, the jacket and I tried to do Randi's tied to a chair with 50 feet of rope. Notice I said I "tried" to do the tied chair escape. I was so bad at that escape, I just couldn't get it down properly.

I took a 30 minute break to get changed and set the cabinet and milk can up.
The set up of the can was very dramatic with these big, huge, guys bringing huge pails of water in on a dolly and pouring it into the can and I had this feeling that I just couldn't shake. people would come up and test the water and make sure they were really seeing what they were watching.

I usually filled the can to the brim but something told me not to and my feeling was not as bad as it was after that decision. The locks were hanging on the staples, the lid was leaning up against the side of the can, the cuffs were hanging over the lid of the can and the axe (there for effect) was leaning against a stool...everything looked to be in order.

The owner of the cub reintroduced me, I hauled my committee out of the audience and everything was checked out to be solid and I did my patter usual to the milk can escape. The energy in that room was high, it was packed, people were standing on their chairs to watch and I just...I just felt that something was not right.

When I got into the milk can that night...I went in like a baby elephant into a teacup, the water went everywhere, I even soaked the committee. I never, ever, did that, I usually edged my way in. My wrists were cuffed and that was the cue for my music bed for the escape. I usually wore ungaffed cuffs in the can, but that night I wore bridge jumpers.

On my music cue, I took a deep breath and went underwater, the cuffs were off before the lid was down all of the way. It's really strange, for the 20 seconds I had to wait for the committee to close and lock the can, my mind went back to a young lady I had eyes for back in high school, named Elen Van M--- B*A*N*G - B*A*N*G broke into my thoughts,that was my cue that the can was locked.

I gave it to the count of ten to give the cabinet time to be closed. My first attempt to "do what I had to do" to escape, failed. My second attempt failed and even the third attempt failed. Horror tore through my body. After the thought went through my mind that "this was it", "this was the end", you know what went through my mind ?........My Mom.

You know how they say your entire life flashes before your eyes? It's true, it does. For some reason, still unknown to me to this day, I raised my hands above my head...and...I felt the dry air hit my hand, about 3 inches of air from the water level to the lid. I turned my nose and mouth up and kissed the underside of that lid, and sucked in a lung full of air and my mind went to the Tony Curtis movie where Houdini got air from between the ice and the water.

I knelt down as far as I could and thought "can I break the hinges with my head"? And let me tell you, I pushed up as hard as I could and....I was free. I set the can back up and I didn't need showmanship to fall out of that cabinet...it was real from fear and weakness. The room went nuts and it was a standing ovation.

Remember that young woman I told you I thought about when the can was being locked ? I guess she went to the University of Guelph and had come into the room half way through the milk can. Later, after I was off stage, she said to me "I thought I'd come by and say hi". Hello Elen.

~Rick~
Wolflock
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Interesting story Rick. I know Robert Gallup Had a similar experience with his can escape. He talks about it on an EA Show done by the BBC. Ian Sent me the Video (For which I am eternally grateful).

Not an escape problem but, during a practise on my tour last week, I almost did slice my assistant's head off with the head chopper. Thank heavens I twigged on that something was not right as I was bringing the blade down and I caught the blade before it did any damage. Cut my hand a bit though. Thank heavens it was a practise session.

Regards
Wolflock
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RickSilmser
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That would have been enough to turn me off of that for a while. Is the blade on your chopper that sharp?? If so, why???

Rick~
Wolflock
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Not inthe center area, but on the ends it is. For visual purposes. That is where I caught the blade. I was extremely nervous of performing it but no one, including the young lady assitant who alsomts lost her head, would not let me tak it out of the show. So we performed it. Successfully at least. Thank heavens. I am still nervous with it.
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RickSilmser
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Wolfie...take some advice from an old guy...if your gut tells you NOT to do something, or tells to to DO something, forget what everyone else says. Follow your gut...it's your show.

~Rick~
Wolflock
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Problem is I hate failure and would rather die than let any trick gone wrong, get the better of me. If I fall off the horse, I jump right back on. I did not really feel that I shouldn't do it. I was just shaken up a bit and afraid that if anything went wrong with the act while the show was on, that someone other than myself would get injured. I will not let that happen. I would rather lose my arm than let a cut happen to my stage hands and assistants.
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The Donster
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Wolfie if your going to be doing a head chopper have it styled after the lester lake design.
Cliffg37
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You know Rick, I really like the word "almost" as it appears in the title of this thread. You didn't address what went wrong with the escape, and I guess you don't have to, but I am curius, was it a mechanical breakdown or poor planning. If it was the former, bless you for being alive to tell the story. If it was the later, well, you broke the cardinal rule of escaping. I failed an escape exactly one time, and it was due to an act of mechanical sabotage, not planning error.

Glad your still with us.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
KerryJK
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One of my projects last year, when I was still setting up my fledgling act as a magic duo with Helen as a supporting character, was a self-built sword box illusion with iron rods for the swords and the victim's hands visible throughout cuffed on the outside, pantomiming reactions as the rods were inserted. My partner and I spent a good nine months rehearsing and developing that illusion, which we planned to perform at our first proper magic show at a big free festival here in Leeds. After all that time and effort, come the big day we felt we had it down pretty good.

My major mistake came as a result of letting the festival organisers talk me into running the theatre tent where we were set to perform for the day. In my naivety I saw no problem with the prospect of both co-ordinating a performance stage used by numerous groups in a festival attended by thousands of people and debuting what was at the time quite an involved magic show (another sign of how green I was is just how complicated we made the set, complete with numerous character and costume changes, different illusions and so forth). Come the day I found myself faced with a catalogue of stressful situations, ranging from a company who'd failed to respond to any of our previous requests for technical requirements before showing up on the day and arrogantly demanding a raft of facilities that would test the Magic Castle, never mind a tent in a field, to a PA which developed a fault and the decision of the communications people to leave all the walkie talkies on open channel, so I had a constant barrage of completely irrelevant messages yabbering away in my ear the whole time I was meant to be sorting things out. So by the time it was time for our show I was completely exhausted, physically and mentally.
I dropped Helen's part in the act as I didn't feel able to complete the necessary costume change in time but apart from that we carried on as best we could. Not to put too fine a point on it, we sucked; we were at least getting through it, but I was in such a stressed state it was all I could do to hold it together performance-wise without the added technical difficulties of some of the tricks, and as we approached the final illusion I was getting a terrible feeling of crisis. I wasn't entirely sure I could cope enough to finish it safely, but after all the effort we'd both put in I didn't feel able to let both the audience my partner down by pulling it.

Anyway, the routine started OK, we did the dance, my partner got shut in the box and the first few rods went in fine. But once it got to the ninth or tenth rods I started having real problems finding the guides to get the rods through in the right position, my head started swimming, I couldn't remember the routine and I did the one thing I'd trained so hard to avoid ever since I started performing; I panicked. I put the remaining rods in wherever I thought my partner wasn't, totally forgetting that she was following the routine and wouldn't be prepared for the arrival of unexpected rods in the box. This was stupid and dangerous of me, we somehow got through the routine safely without anyone in the audience being any the wiser, but immediately afterwards I realised (and not just because my partner told me in no uncertain terms) just how dumb I'd been.

As a result of that show, I re-evaluated my talents in magic very fiercely. One thing that did come out of it was as a result of my pulling the section I was going to do as Helen; my partner was disappointed in that, so I resolved to perform the routine the following week at another venue just to tie up loose ends. That performance ended up going down a storm and resulted in a booking, so from that point on Helen became my full time magic persona, I stopped trying to do everything at once, put most of the props in the cupboard and focused on just a few relevant things, mostly escapes.
The demons of that day are finally being laid to rest as I took that illusion back out of the cupboard again this past week (it was only luck that I put it in a cupboard rather than in a skip following that show, such was my mood at the time) and wrote the routine to make it fit into Helen's modus operandi, this time with me in the box and my current assistant putting in the rods. As a result of past experience, I've been able to find ways to reduce the error margin through design rather than relying on rehearsal as I did before (this is another aspect of my shift in attitude; last year I was still thinking like a juggler, now I'm starting to think like a magician).

Anyway, there's a tale of a horrible experience which has none the less provided some very valuable lessons in my still fledgling career.
JoeJoe
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Quote:
On 2005-01-07 05:57, Wolflock wrote:
Problem is I hate failure and would rather die than let any trick gone wrong, get the


I used to think like that when I was younger, and I think most people generally do. But I learned something the hard way ... there are worse things than death: survival.

Imagine, if Rick had not been able to break the hinges. Eventually, someone would have figured out something was wrong ... sooner or later, someone would get the bright idea of opening the can to see what was going on. They'd find him all blue in the face sucking down water and call 911. The paramedics would arrive ... and bring him back and ship him off to the hospital.

The problem here is Rick's brain would have went without oxgyen for a prolonged period of time ... chances are, he would have suffered brain damage that could never be repaired. It is possible that it would have been his last performance ... and he would live out the rest of his days as a vegetable in a nursing home unable to get out of bed unassisted, yet alone a pair of handcuffs. He wouldnn't be able to dress himself, and might even end up eating from a tube the rest of his life.

You say you would rather die then fail, but the most likely scenario is that you won't actually die. Death is such an easy way out! I've been to the rehab hospitals, and I've seen the result of stupidity first hand. You end up living a long painful life and dying a lonely old man.

I think you should reevaluate your statement ... only this time, realize that the odds are ... the end result could be something much worse than death.



I myself put too much pressure and too much stress on my back while levitating ... I somehow landed in a chiropractors office where I have underwent 5 years of manipulations on my spine. Chiropractors can't prescribe meds, and without insurance I've had to go through it without pain killers ... I've had a headache for 8 years now, at the peak of my pain they were so intense would I threw-up from the pain. My headaches are worse than migraines: migraines come and go, I always have a headache - every minute of every day for eight years now, I am even writting this with a mild headache rubbing my shoulder which is all tense from my spinal misalignment.

I am lucky, I was able to start performing again last summer ... but now, it is differnt. I perform for myself, not for my audience. I don't care if they don't feel like I went that extra mile for them, I'm not going to. I perform because I want to, not because my audience wants me to. I don't care if they like my performance or not, it's my performance not theirs. I am not going to take that chance, everytime I do a show ... I tell myself I am going to do whatever it takes to walk off the stage on my own two feet, and if that means not doing a paticular stunt or trick then I don't do it. If I get an uneasy feeling about something, I skip it - period.

I've been in that limelight, and I know the rush you get ... you get high from it. You want to do your best, you want to be the best, you want to do it like noone has ever done it before. But try to always remember ... the most important part of your show is being able to get to the next one.



Anyway, sorry to have dumped on everyone ... I just felt compelled to say something about all this. Bottom line: your job is to entertain, not kill yourself ... most suicides end up in failure, and result in a lot of pain in suffering - not just yourself, but the people that love you who often suffer the most.



JoeJoe
Amazing JoeJoe on YouTube[url=https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazingJoeJoe]
RickSilmser
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Hi JoeJoe, nice to meet you. You said it all there, my friend. The can was hard to escape from due to dirt in the neck ring. WD-40 was my best friend after that. JoeJoe, you are a wise man, thanks for the insight, and the things you just said are very personal, thanks for that as well.

~Rick~
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Wow,that's pretty scary...I'm actually thinking of putting it at the end of my show.I was informed that there is a safer version of the milk can,I think it was a drum...can anyone lead me to a source where I can either buy one or build my own.In training as we speak.
AJP807
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Hi Scott, here's a link where you can obtain information on the 55 gallon drum escape manufactured by Cannon's Great Escapes: http://www.cannonsgreatescapes.com/spectacular.html
Hope this helps you out.
Best regards, Tony Parisi
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Thanks for the warning, I don't think I'll ever want that to be the way I go. VEry dangerous, God Bless

Houdini
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The only thing that spererates genius from insanity is success.
RickSilmser
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Thanks for your kind words, folks...that was the only time I was in danger doing an escape. By the way, I'm a billet reader now (and have been for the past 23 years) and it's 100% safe !

~Rick~
magicofCurtis
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Thank you for psoting your post Rick.....
I am getting into water escapes more..... This refreshes the idea that we are performers and this is a stunt and we are not gods with complete control..

thank you
Curtis Eugene lovell II
Ian McColl
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Hi, here is my story. Back in 1980 I built my water escape from an Australian 44 gallon drum (same size as a US 55 gallon) Back then I could fit into the drum and crouch down. I constructed a circular wooden lid, 1 ½ thick. Sawing it across, one third was fitted to the top of the drum with angle brackets to the sides.

The two third section became the lid, hinged across the straight edge with two hinges and a hasp fitted to the front edge. The staple was riveted to the top face of the drum.

My set up was kind of complex . The hinges were both gimmicked. The hinge pins were designed to shoot out by spring pressure after releasing the secret catch within the drum. As soon as the drum was completed, I hauled it out of the shed to the backyard. I filled it with water, right to the top. I invited neighbours to see my performance. Before they arrived, I tested the drum and all worked well. Upon their arrival, I explained my escape attempt and allowed them to examine the drum.

For the attempt, I had strung a rope across the backyard and hung a sheet as a curtain to protect my secret. My father closed the lid and padlocked it shut. He then drew the curtain in front of the drum. About 2 minutes later I appeared from behind the curtain and threw it back to display the sealed drum just as it was before I escaped. My neighbours gather around it to check it again and all was well.

When I went into the house to dry off, the phone rang. Several friends said they were thinking of coming over for a visit and I told them about my escape. They said they would be happy to see it performed.

Having just emptied the drum, I again filled it from the garden hose. My friends arrived before the drum was full and they immediately wanted to see it. Quite excite and proud of my drum escape, I walked them out the back and allowed them to look at it.

As we were already at the drum, I naively thought that as it has just worked, there would be no need to test it and how would I make up an excuse for them to leave me alone with the drum and then just call them back again. So I proceeded there and then to do it.

I wasn’t too worried as I had told my father, that if for what ever reason I was in difficulty, I would bang three times on the inside of the drum for him to open the lid. Again my father locked me in and drew the make-shift curtain closed. My friends being more outgoing than my neighbours kept taunting my father and sneaking around to get a glimpse of how I was going to escape. This kept him busy from watching over me as he dashed from side to side of the curtain as each friend took turns to approach.

The wooden lid wasn’t a light fit on the top of the drum and moved up and down about ¼ inch from the hasp and staple side. When I pulled the secret release inside I heard the hinge pins shoot out as before. When I tried to lift the lid, it wouldn’t budge. It tried the interior release again, nothing. Within a flash, I contemplated what had happen, the hinge pins had only shot out half way and not fully out of the hinges. The way the lid had been closed this time meant the hinges were not parallel to themselves.

Calmly but with disappointment, I rapped on the drum, and waited for my father to unlock the drum. I waited. Then I rapped again, and waited. Then I thought maybe he hasn’t heard me so I rapped again. Nothing! I was starting to feel the need to breath. I started to squirm violently within the drum, just hoping on the remotest change that it would tear open on the seam and I would get out.
It didn’t happen and the brief moment of crazy panic had past. No life flashing before my eyes, no wondering of what I haven’t done and all that stuff. Just my fate! This was it - Time to die.

I held both hands over my mouth to stop me taking in water and I slumped to the bottom in a very calm and relaxed manner. I was just waiting until it happened.

Then suddenly I heard the sound of steel on steel which awoke my peaceful mind. My father was unlocking the padlock and then the bright sunlight filled the drum.

The switch had been set for life again and I was pleased. I surged up with all my might and gasped for air. Later that day when I was alone with my dad, I asked what had been happening and why he hadn’t heard my danger signals. He explained that he was trying to stop my friends for seeing behind the curtain and the sounds he heard he assumed to be the lid just rattling with the movement of the water. He calculated that I had been in there from 3 ¼ to 3 ½ minutes.

I leant several things that day.
Don’t make your method complex.
Don’t let your audience take liberties at your expense.
Make sure you safety person/crew are fully focussed on your welfare.
Don’t be angry at your Dad.
And drowning (in this circumstance) is very peaceful.

Ian McColl
The Donster
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Interesting stories please keep them coming.
RickSilmser
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Ian, I'm glad your still here to tell this story. Bless your heart that you kept with it, because of your mistake we have all learned a lesson, but you the biggest. That experience sure does make you take stock in your life, dosen't it my friend ?? So, it looks like we are both members of that elite club for those who have almost died in some sort of water can mishap.

~Rick~
Ian McColl
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Hi Rick, the biggest lesson I guess was to always look for the potential for anything to go wrong. Still do to this day I remember to stay alert, doesn’t mean I don’t task risks but I try to calculate all the possibilities wether its just driving my car or felling a tree. Any thing can happen at any time, any where and to anyone.

Ian
PS and don't we get a surprise when the unexpected things happen.
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