The Escape Report
This is the first issue of Cunning. Cunning could refer to how clever we are as Escape Artist. It can also refer to one of, if not the greatest escape artist who ever lived. In any case we are in good company with Houdinis greatest rival. Cunning the grand master of escape. My plan is simple. Have a paper that will keep escape artist in contact or in touch with each other without having to travel or cost anything, just for the love of the art.
My plan at this time is to give escape artist up to four pages each to post articles, photos or what you have to say. Nothing will be changed.
Lets try to make the art grow in-spite of this economy. The fact is now, more than ever, good escape artists are needed. Even if potential clients do not realize it, our job is to make sure they do. During the depression Hollywood was doing great. Now I know some will say that was the movies. So true, but it was also entertainment something that seems good during hard times. As a rule most clients don't just say, I want to hire an escape artist. We have to make them want us. Now here is a little secret, you need to create a market for you, not an escape artist but rather an individual. In the wake of Copperfield, Blaine and Angel, a mass of magicians who can't get out of their own shirt are calling themselves escape artist. Separate yourself from the group and get people to want you because they love what you do. That is the secret of any great performer. Do something different, and do it well so you stand out in the crowed. Some acts will give up during these hard times and that is too bad. Some will not work and that is too bad. But think of this, some will work. That could be you.
This is for the record. When I was sixteen I started to apprentice under a great locksmith. This was on the job training for John Sagarian who owned the Worcester General Repair Shop. I also graduated from safe school a few years later and mastered what is called "The Art Of Manipulation." This is opening a safe by sight, sound and feel with no damage at all. I also studied under master locksmith and safe expert owner of Caola Brothers Locksmiths in Worcester Ma.
Next door to us was a bookie joint in a respectable business. The owner would come over to our shop every few months while the police pulled a raid. He had an inside man who tipped him off. Anyway I met a long list of colorful characters. Fresh out of safe school I was called to open a twenty-ton vault that had not been opened since the forties. There were explosives and arms in this safe left over from world war two. Several locksmiths wanted the job but they wanted to drill or cut it opened. My chief said give Norm a shot at it. It was both because he was worried about the explosives in it and it was also a challenge to me. So I decided to take the long route to open it and play safe. I made every move very slow and to the letter of what I was taught. The doors swung open in an hour and a half. It was headline news. You can't get that kind of publicity without drawing attention from colorful characters. I had many criminal offers and offers from the police. In Fitchburg Ma I became a go to guy for a long time. I did many different things. I was called out at three in the morning to open a car trunk because the police were looking for a body. I got people out of handcuffs that malfunctioned. And I did some covert work, which was serious, but being young and foolish it seemed ok. My contact was one detective who I liked and a few regular officers. One night walking down the street out of no where the police rolled up and said we are looking for a girl in that house can you open the door for us she is in danger, it is a life or death matter. I joked and said do you have a warrant. The officer said, "it's on the way." After I unlocked the door I was told, " remember the door was open."
In time I opened several buildings for them also, In Worcester on my day job I made a key for a car trunk, just a regular job. But it was anything but. My boss introduced me. The man was Specs O'keif and he was one of the Boston Brinks Robbers. One day my boss Louie and I went on a call to Friendly Ice Cream. There had been a break in. When we got there we could see someone knocked the dial and handle off the safe but did not get in. A detective asked the manager, "how much money did you have in the safe?" The manager said, "three thousand dollars. " The detective said, "well you can kiss it goodbye." My boss said, "no the money is in there. " The detective said, "look I have been doing this for thirty years and the money is not in there." My boss said, "well I have been doing this for thirty years and the money is in there." I had already started on the safe and the detective started on me. He said, "we have not taken finger prints yet and if your are on the safe you will be coming in for questioning. " To which I added, "like hell I will." Anyway after we got the safe open my boss said to the manager, "here's your money, why don't you call the detective and tell him how stupid he is? The manager said, " why don't we split the money and I will call him up and tell him how smart he is." Of course Louie would not do that. I was once approached to do a job off the record to open a safe in Rhode Island. I was even shown photos of the house and drawings of the safe. My detective friend explained these are very bad people. It turned out the house belonged to the head of organized crime in Rhode Island. I had two young children and a wife. If something went wrong on this black bag job it would not have been prison, it would have been a death sentence. Just pulling off one of these things even if police were involved, if it was off the books I could get up to life in Ma for cracking a safe. I know that because a superior court judge explained it to me. My friend who was worried about my night job got me to read a book called, "Bringing Down America. " It was about a college student in the sixties who heard memebrs of the SDS planning to bomb a place. He told his local police and of course they called the FBI. These guys got the kid to get more info and then arrested the group and the kid with them.
The FBI told him that it was for his protection because they did not want the group to find out he told on them. They got the kid out of jail but they did not clear him for about ten years. In the mean time he could not get a job, his mother died thinking he was a radical. That gave me a whole new view on all of this stuff. I once worked for an agent in Mamaroneck NY. She booked colleges but we had no contract. We were working it out until her lawyer tried to pull a fast one on my lawyer, so I would not sign. In time she approached me for a lawyer who wanted a safe opened in another law office. I was to take certain files. I would also be under police protection. I have this all on tape. I was offered three thousand dollars. I declined because I knew if I did that she would have a life-time contract on me. When I left her agency she sent three lawyers after me, one right after another. By the third one I had enough. I did not tell the third one what I told the first two. I let him get a court date and everything. I called him on the morning of court and told him I was not coming. Then I explained why. The first rule of being an agent was to represent me in the best way possible and cracking a safe is not that way. Then I explained I had everything on tape so he was going to drop the case or the tape would go to the press. He was livid that I let him set up the court date and never told him before. As I explained I might just be a country boy but I know how to play the game and when push comes to shove I can hold my own.
Then there was an incident about a man who financed a drug ring. These were just a bunch of hippies who were doing their acid and pot. One guy Ray would borrow money from an upstanding member of the community. Then Ray would buy drugs and sell off a certain amount of drugs and keep the rest for his group. When he paid the guy back he gave him profit. The police wanted to arrest the kids but did not want to arrest the man or hear any of what I knew. So I refused to cooperate and sort of backed off out my work with them. Years later I wrote under the Freedom Of info request to see what they might have on me. It seems J Edgar Hoover himself ran my fingerprints to see if I cracked a safe at Fort Devens.
I had no idea, no one questioned me. Anyway it is a funny story. There was sixty grand gone. Now, if I was going to steal money from a safe I assure you it would never be on Federal property, but I may have known who did it. I use to go to Fort Devens all the time on lock jobs and to visit friends. One time I was approached to crack the safe and I declined. They guys who approached me were working there in the credit union where the safe was cracked. Here's the fun part, they were inmates from the Worcester House Of Correction.
I had no idea I was on FBI radar but the slackers never questioned me and when I read about it in the paper I didn't say a word. I don't know if these guys did it, they might have found the combination or something. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket. I don't want to live under communism or a Theocracy of some religious fanatics. Even knowing all the things that could go wrong with black bag operations if the right agency contacted me and it was a matter of national security I would enter any building and crack any safe if I were asked. My children are grown and I am not young so it is the perfect time. So if I end up missing or in the big house you will know that I was doing something and it went wrong. I have no illusion about who will take the fall when things are done off the record. Nixon did not order anything that other presidents have not done, he just picked the wrong building to break into. I have seen a lot and much will go to the grave with me. I have never mentioned the names of any police that I have been involved with and I never will even though many have passed over. But I know this I am open for covert work as long as the agency is legal and it's a matter of security because I can bust open any safe there is one way or another. I have also studied covert work, fake identifications, opening sealed mail without leaving a trace and how to impersonate people of official status. So if youre the right people call me, I am looking for night work. Attached-Bigelow cracking 20 ton vault article-Bigelow summoned to Worcester Superior Court for handcuff picking demo and two others.
I escape artist Norman Bigelow am accepting this challenge made from the so called World's Greatest Escape artist Steve Baker! This challenge he tells my friends about but won't tell me. Steve baker has told several people he challenged me and I backed down. Mr. Baker you are lying and you can tell me yourself now because I accept your challenge! Baker claims, he can pick any lock there is, he is a fool. I am a professional locksmith and I don't even make that claim. I want Baker to meet me and I will just bring one pair of hand cuffs for him and he can bring his little trick leather harness that he claims I can't get out of. Steve Baker is a stuntman not an escape artist. Ninety percent of his escapes are done with chain link handcuffs. I don't believe he can even get out of police handcuffs without a key. I have studied Baker since the 70s. I can't find any articles on him in any challenge with police handcuffs.
When people I know talk to him about the challenge he says, "I won't even respond to that." Well he should because he looks like a fool for avoiding it, since it is him that issued the challenge in the first place. As for any escape artists who don't like challenge remember this, challenge is part of the art of escapes. He is the one running his mouth. I would really like to see magic shops copy this challenge and post it. This is not a publicity stunt. I am serious about accepting this challenge. Baker can man up or stop this nonsense about being greatest escape artist there is, Harry Houdini wouldn't make challenges then hide like a little kid. But he is no Houdini, he is not even an escape artist.