Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Galvanized Iron Can Escape

In January 27th, 1908 Harry Houdini debuted his Milk Can Escape at the Columbia Theatre in St. Louis. He called it the Galvanized Iron Can Escape and added "Failure Means a Drowning Death". To read more about Houdini's escape please visit my magic history blog here.

I have a special affinity for the Milk Can Escape that goes back to my very early days learning magic. The first biography I got on Houdini was called Houdini The Untold Story. The first photograph in that book is of the Milk Can Poster. I must have looked at that image a million times in my youth.

I grew up on a farm with no neighbors, magic was about the only thing I had to do. When I got my first set of handcuffs, I kind of went wild with escapes. One day I had an idea, that I would eventually do many times. I would clean out the water troughs we had for cows and horses to drink from. I mean I'd really scrub them clean and then refill them with water. They were made of a galvanized metal and I would practice underwater handcuff escapes. It was safe because if I got in trouble all I had to do was stand up, the water was only about 3 ft deep. It always reminded me of the Milk Can Escape, I guess from being surrounded by water and galvanized metal.

Today the Milk Can Escape is out of date. IF Houdini were around today he would not be presenting this but instead be escaping from steel drums and similar devices. Still the Milk Can does have an iconic image to it and in the right setting could thrill audiences once again. I'm not saying the routine or escape are out of date, what I'm referring to are 'milk cans'. It doesn't have a connection to the 21st Century. Now, having said that, with my new steampunk approach, the old milk can would actually work for me. But I would still have to alter the look of the can. Many years ago now, I made a sketch of what I thought the 'Milk Can' should look like. I based it on the look of the Nautilus from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Fast forward to the present and I understand what I had drawn was a steampunk version of the can.

I suppose my brain has always been in a steampunk world, it just took me all this time to make the connections. But that doesn't mean I'll be doing the Milk Can. I think I'd rather create something different than duplicate what Houdini had done...(but then again, who knows). 

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