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James Randi, illusionist, on:
"The Mirror" escape

James Randi I think that Bess Houdini, this frail little lady and a great actress, and the wife of the guy that was in big trouble out there on the stage, I think she went to the reporters and said: "Look, you got two possibilities. He gets out or he doesn’t. If he gets out, everybody’s happy. Exultation [everywhere], parades in the streets, torchlight parades, the whole thing. You’ll be happy because you’ll have a wonderful story. 'Houdini beat our handcuffs. We admit, he’s the greatest escape artist [in the world]' He’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. The hotel, the management. Our contracts will be renewed. Everyone will be happy. Then there’s the other possibility. He’ll fail. I won’t like it. You won’t like it. Your readers will look on you as bullies. The theater audience will boo and hiss. They’ll tear the place down. The management will cancel the contract. Everybody will be unhappy. Happy, unhappy. Which one do you want? Let’s get real, guys."

I’m sure that that’s what she told them, not in those words, but they saw through it right away, and they said to themselves: Yeah, we bit off more than we can chew. And the guy looks sad out there. He’s sweating. He’s standing there in the tatters of his jacket. And they got the key to him. And it wouldn’t have been difficult to get the key to him. And I’m sure he was rather happy to have it. And when he finally emerged from that little cabinet on the stage, free, the predictions of joy everywhere, joy reigning supreme, were absolutely fulfilled. Everyone went nuts. They were happy. And the other way, it would have been a disaster. They did what they should have done.

And I’m sure he was desperate. He could see his whole career going down the drain. It hadn’t worked the way other challenges had worked. In other challenges, he would always sweet talk them into seeing the equipment in advance so he could plan something for it and prepare himself for it. In this case, they kept them sealed up. He didn’t see them until the moment they put them on his wrists. That’s not a situation that he could deal with easily. And he didn’t. But eventually he beat them. That was the big thing about Harry Houdini. He always won.

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