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Escapology is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps. Escapologists escape from handcuffs, strait-jackets, cages, steel boxes, barrels, bags, burning buildings, fish-tanks and other perils, often in combination.

Some escapologists' tricks are accomplished by illusionists' techniques: others are genuine acts of flexibility, strength and daring.

The book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay[?] by Michael Chabon (winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize) features escapology as an important plot point.

The imagery of escapology is closely related to that of sexual bondage, with a similar fascination for restraint techniques.

Techniques of escapology

Escapology in its purest form is generally related to ropework, and problems are set with rope, cord, or string. However, most anyone who does shows professionally is very much a showman, and their act will include anything from handcuffs (rigged or otherwise) to chains, mailbags, and even Houdini's famous escape from a prison cell[?]. The strait-jacket is now a staple feature in any show; again, either rigged or 'official' versions are available.

Escape from handcuffs is a good trick for showing friends: they're predictable, and you can control what's going to happen (i.e. the only pair of cuffs in use are the ones you supplied). Although many cuffs sold in toystores or adult stores don't even need a key to release, similar types can be opened with any thin, rigid object, such as a watchmakers' screwdriver: push 'up' from the keyhole, towards the chain. Spare keys are easy to find, and useful to carry. You might also find a shim[?] useful; a flat metal strip, which can be pushed into the 'bow' of the cuffs, to release the lever holding the cuffs in position.

For ways to make handcuffs more secure against these attacks, you might try hinged handcuffs[?], which prevent twisting the wrists, or you might put the keyholes facing upwards, towards the person's elbows. (this works best in conjunction with hinged, or rigid cuffs[?]). For more of a challenge, try putting the person's hands into thick gloves or mitts before applying the handcuffs, so they have less use of their fingers.

Typically, one of the best ways to prevent a bound person escaping is to secure their thumbs together. (the other way being to secure elbows... more later) -- when thumbs are bound, it becomes impossible to use your hands as normal, for gripping, and they become relegated to paws[?], which cannot be used to untie knots or handle keys. Thumbcuffs are available which secure the thumbs with a key, or use thread (thinnest you can find that's strong enough)

With ropes, there are secure ways to tie people, and there are safe ways to tie people: rarely can you manage both! Especially when someone is struggling, slippy knots can cut-off circulation, and perhaps even strangle if the rope is around the neck (it should't be)

To make a rope-tie inescapable, your best bet is to start with a hangman's noose (jack ketch's knot), and pull the loop tight around whichever part of your volunteer's body that you need to secure. This knot is solid, self-tightening, and difficult to undo. However, be very careful when tying, showing, or describing this knot, as it has some very negative associations: people may think the knot is intended for your escapist's neck, or they may associate it with KKK and lynching, even where your planned use of the knot is benign.

Useful ways to tie ropes include the jacobi[?] or reverse-jacobi[?] positions, where arms are crossed, and the ropes tied around the body, straitjacket-style, or japanese positions, where the hands are tied high up behind someone's back. See more details on japanese rope bondage. Generally, any position which ties the elbows behind the back is difficult to escape from, as you can't reach that area with either you hands or your mouth to untie things.

With all such roped bondage, your escape strategy will be to move slack around until you can get it somewhere useful to untie a knot, or to release a part of your body. Most people will leave plenty of slack when tying you up, in their knots, in the bits between knots, and even around your wrists. Try each loop of rope that you can feel in turn, and go to work on the most promising ones.

When you're being tied, it's possible to get a head-start, by making yourself bigger as you're tied (breathe in, make fists, pull away from knots), so that the rope-loops are looser when you're finally tied, and let out that breath. If you're wrists are tied together, you can push them apart (either during or after their tying) to get more slack, and you can pull on any other rope loops to make them looser also.

You might want to consider setting some rules if you plan to demo any of this stuff: like, for example, that the person tying you up has to say when they're done, and they're then not allowed to 'repair' anything while you're escaping!

As for straitjackets, well I guess they have their own section.

If you find anyone with a secret stash of leather bondage gear that they bring out when you suggest an escapology challenge, you shouldn't need to be too worried about accepting the challenge, as nearly everything around is easy to escape from. Assumed wrist sizes in leather gear is normally too large (you're a lithe person anyway, to be considering escapology, right?) and the distance between subsequent buckles is quite large. You can nearly always find major weaknesses in leather gear, most of which involves being able to reach buckles.

Chains? You'll need to read-up on locks[?] and lock-picking for those. Get some padlocks, make (buy?) a lock-pick set, and play with them until you can open any padlock you find.

All you need do now is practise... and find someone else with the same interest to help you (hint: another escapologist, preferably a friendly nice one, as we all are!) -- good luck!

Practitioners of escapology:

See also:

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