Thomas Solomon-Escape!

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Postby Guest » 08/22/03 12:20 AM

Reading the Thomas Solomon's Escape issue, brings to mind that books by Houdini, T. Nelson Downs and others, described effects/methods that they wouldn't/couldn't do themselves, to both impress and discourage would-be imitators. Mr. Solomon infers, suggests, (if not claims)that he used lockpicks to free himself from handcuffs, while underwater in the Hudson river. He claims using "The Belt",(page 43)a pick-concealing device for underwater escapes. Those I know in the escape world, have told me positive things about Mr. Solomon. I do not know if his reality is: A) He really uses gimmicked "jump cuffs", but lets others believe he is picking locks, underwater, while holding his breath, to impress and discourage others with his daring "skill".
B) He is a purist,(like the finger-flinger who would rather do a complicated slight, instead of just using a stripper deck) who feels above using gimmicked cuffs/props, prefering to actually perform his escapes, "for real", feeling proud of his prowness. EITHER WAY, despite the disclaimers in the issue, THIS IS VERY IRRESPONSIBLE WRITING AND PUBLISHING. Even those who have used the simplest of gimmicked cuffs have gotten into trouble with water/oil/mud/kelp-clogging locks, or getting caught/mired with something underwater so they needed to use their hands right awayand not be trying to pick/shim cuffs with something that can be dropped or broken... It was correctly said the hardest part for the best escape artists, was keeping the cuffs from falling off, before they got underwater!
Too many have been killed or hurt trying to do what an ego-driven Houdini would never have risked his precious own self to do. Mr. Solomon, if you are suggesting that you are doing the risky process of picking locks underwater, when you are not...OR if you ARE actually using these reckless methods, despite all the disclaimers you wish to use, there are those, who are accidents-waiting-to-happen, because like too many who accept the dealer ad or instruction sheet on face value, take risks they don't/shouldn't have to.
If someone does something wrong, OR if the escape takes a wrong turn, even if someone is doing all the RIGHT things, because of not taking the safest route, it is still tragic for someone else.
Yes, these arguements would also pertain to others who perform their "stunts", as well.
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Postby Guest » 08/22/03 12:42 AM

From the famous "Steranko World of Escapes", issue of GENII,(Oct./1964)James Steranko, in block letters,quote: "MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO PICK CUFFS UNDERWATER."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/22/03 08:42 AM

Thomas is in London filming a TV special, so he won't be able to respond to this. However, for Diego to write such a scathing attack without actually speaking to Solomon about whether it's true that he shimmed his handcuffs underwater seems pointless. Solomon states in the article that he did it. Unless Diego has specific information which directly contradicts this, what's the point? That Solomon does something most other escape artists don't do?
There are numerous disclaimers throughout the article warning against attempting anything unless one is a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL. I think those are sufficient.
I believe my words in "Genii Speaks" regarding this are that anyone who puts himself in any kind of restraint and jumps into any body of water, even a bathtub, is NUTS!
I think that summarizes it nicely.
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Postby Guest » 08/22/03 10:16 AM

Richard,
Not having any contact information for Mr. Thomas, and it not being stated that I had to contact the author of an article before leaving a post in the GENII Forum,(as well as a private email to you)is why at Midnight, I wrote, what I would like be regarded as a concern, rather than an "attack". Because, (and only Solomon knows this) if he is not really picking locks underwater, while letting others believe this is what he actually does, and someone gets hurt trying to do it anyway, would be terribly tragic. (I really hope this is not the case) I realize this is a damned-if-he-does-damned-if-he-doesn't arguement, but if he has/is using lock-picking to escape after plunging underwater, my concern is for others(albeit using their own judgement and free will) following in his folly.
In perspective, more injuries/deaths are probably caused by those using skateboards, than handcuffs...and other writings have attempted
to "teach" escapes, others have hurt themselves trying to emulate other performer's stunts...but I felt this concern should be raised for those who don't know the larger picture.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/22/03 12:01 PM

My point was that you have no idea whether he really picks handcuffs underwater or not. Since you haven't asked him the question, you really should take what he wrote in the issue at face value until you can confirm otherwise.
And if he wants to pick handcuffs underwater and write about it, what's the problem?
I like to do the Pass rather than a Double Undercut. Am I to be condemned for my preference?
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Postby Bill Mullins » 08/22/03 02:44 PM

Diego says it is irresponsible to publish this whether or not he really does it. It would be a shame for us readers of Genii not to be able to read about this, or bullet catches, or slamming your hand onto a paper cup which may or may not have a knife under it, or chewing light bulbs, or the swallowing needles/razor blades, simply because some dummy might get hurt doing something he shouldn't be doing anyway.

Some of us can appreciate what Solomon does, and how he does it (or at least says he does it), without ever wanting to do it ourselves. Solomon should be able to write about it, RK should be able to publish it, and I should be able to read it, without Diego stopping any of us. There is an appropriate forum somewhere for any subject under the sun. If Genii isn't the right forum for (dangerous) escapes, what is???
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Postby Michael Edwards » 08/22/03 05:02 PM

I, for one, believe this exploration of escapes is an important contribution to understanding the variety and complexity of the world of magic. My only regret is that Solomon didn't tip how he managed to win a decathalon by running 10 miles, biking 25, and swimming 5. :D
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Postby Guest » 08/23/03 12:47 AM

The GENII Forum IS the right place to discuss this. That is why I offered my contributions to the matter as well. Magic and other magazines print stories of escapes and exploits of Mr. Solomon and others. The concern starts, not when these escapes/stunts are reported, but when alleged methods, are presented/perceived as instructive, for others to maybe "learn" from. I certainly would/can not keep anyone from writing/publishing anything. But others,(including myself) contributing to this Forum will hopefully give the knowing and naive a bigger picture. I'm glad to have raised these concerns...It would be shameful if no one had not.
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Postby Robert Allen » 08/27/03 02:46 PM

I greatly enjoyed the story on Solomon and his escapes. Having a decent education and at least a smattering of common sense I am under NO illusions that I can do anything which is partially explained in the article, despite having practical knowledge of lockpicking, installing and rekeying locks, etc.

That said, after reading Diegos initial post I went back and looked at the article in question. The photo of the event is quite clear. The cuffs are secured in FRONT of Soloman, and they have at least 2 feet of chain between them. His feed do not appear to be secured. Being in excellent physical shape he could probably swim with his feet alone even if he could not unlock the cuffs. With the long chain he could just about use his arms to swim, but he could at least secure and use tools in the belt described if it were concealed under the bathing suit.

I'm familiar with how handcuffs operate. As a youth I even had a (regrettably now lost) vintage Handcuff act set of picks including a set of ratchet shims with an extended handle to use with standard cuffs. Finally, I am trained in use of handcuffs for self-defense. Oh, and I grew up with a stepdad who was a locksmith and I did some of the work for him. That said, I am NO expert. But I have no trouble believing that someone who was trained as an escape artist, skilled, and in excellent physical condition could use a shim on a set of ratchet handcuffs while underwater, by touch. Why you would do this is beyond me however as most cuffs use a key you can purchase for under $5 at any gunshop or police supply. I would expect that a professional escape artist would have every key known as well as custom picks. For that matter he could have a freaking frogman with a rebreather under the water to free him. As Soloman noted in the article, it's all about entertainment and presentation, not method.

Anyone who would risk their life based on reading an article in a magic magazine would almost certainly do something equally stupid and lethal on their own given time. Mature subscribers who are interested in exposure to new ideas for their edification should not be denied based on the alleged presence of morons in the world.

I can hardly wait for an article on pick pocketing and the flamage that might accompany that....
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Postby Guest » 08/30/03 08:51 PM

I thought the article was great! I knew very little about this area myself, although I do have a regulation set of handcuffs I can pick <not shim - haven't made one yet but NOW I know how> and have picked several locks before. Frankly <heresy to follow> I'm pretty much tired of the whole Houdini thing and don't get the mystique. To me, it's like Frank Sinatra: a phenomenon of a different era as pointed out in the article. Nonetheless the concepts and descriptions of the tools were a fascinating read. Thank you Richard for publishing it and also thanks to Mr. Solomon for tipping the work.
And as far as idiots going out and doing dangerous things after reading this article...way to strengthen the gene pool! <if only they haven't reproduced yet...>
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Postby thecardman » 08/31/03 03:38 PM

Well, for my 2 pence (since I am in Scotland), I found the article fascinating and, personally, on the back of it, cannot wait for October to arrive and for his special to be shown on Channel 4 here in the UK.
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Postby Conus » 09/05/03 09:55 AM

A great article with plenty of interesting sidebar diversions!

Thank you for publishing such an interesting piece. (It brought back boyhood memories of the Siberian chain that was included in my Royal magic set.)

One of the best reads I've had in a long time...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/05/03 11:23 AM

One thing that Diego Domingo seems to have not fully understood, is that Thomas Solomon's handcuffed and manacled jumps into water are, more often than not, CHALLENGE escapes--which means the manacles are supplied by others. This means that the cuffs and manacles are NOT gimmicked.
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Postby Guest » 09/05/03 01:21 PM

Richard,
I remember when you criticized the premise of David Blaine being buried alive, as no human body could survive that ordeal, I writing you, reminding you he is a magic/mystery man, someone, (like sawing women in half and restoring them)who is supposed to do the improbable,if not impossible. It is illusion, what is PERCEIVED, not actually done. That said, my concern was for what is being explained,(instructed?) as what he supposedly does, for others in our(inside) world. Whatever Solomon/Houdini/Blaine want to present in their performances to be realistic, is showmanship...regardless if the cuffs are made of crepe-paper, or if multiple picks and a blowtorch are needed to remove them.
(those who want to criticize Solomon or Hulk Hogen, for what their performances influence, may have their arguements, but that isn't the issue here.)
Again, I do present a damned-if-he-does, damned-if-he-doesn't, stance...because (giving benefit of the doubt)IF he is letting himself, being handcuffed, with cuffs that are not his own,(were they tested to see if they work properly...once...twice...?) and going to pick/shim them FOR THE FIRST TIME, while underwater, (just like someone riding his motorcycle without a helmet)I,(like you) certainly wouldn't enjoy others following in his folly.
Now this is not a discussion for the N.Y. Times or even the London Sun, but among us magicians/escape artists, here is REALITY TIME:
Does anyone believe Houdini (more ego/allbays than all of us) would do a handcuff dive as described above? Are these "Challenges" like the "challenges" Houdini promoted, when Houdini supplied the cuffs/restraints for others to lock him in? The fact that Solomon/Houdini is "Challenged" with something, doesn't mean they are gimmicked? Do we see some Darby or Hamburg 8 cuffs, presented as the "regulation" cuffs, the police or______had supplied? Can you imagine a PR-conscious(and caring) N.Y. Police Dept., risking this headline in the Post: "Would-be magician dies attempting N.Y.P.D. challenge, drowns wearing their cuffs"(!) Again, what do we know? But if we might allow ourselves to believe that maybe some of the restraints Houdini was challenged with, were gimmicked,(shocking!) it may not be surprising,(actually comforting) to suggest the same for others. We certainly would not expect any performer to let their audiences consider such, this IS magic afterall...but I (like any of us) wouldn't want others to consider what, others are not, or shouldn't be doing themselves.

James Steranko,(Genii-Oct/64) "MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO PICK CUFFS UNDERWATER."
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Postby Guest » 09/05/03 02:05 PM

JUST SO YOU KNOW, (my opinion and a dollar will get you on the subway.)
I agree the body of articles presented are compelling reading, well laid out, and covers ground not seen in magic magazines in decades.
Those who have met Mr. Solomon, have only positive, kind words to say about him.
Like everyone else, I can only admire his public successes and wish him well.
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