Recently, for a Fourth of July celebration, I found myself booked with a one hour stage show of magic and escapes in St. Louis, Missouri. To publicize these events, I decided to incorporate an underwater handcuff escape in, nowhere else, but the mighty, muddy, Mississippi River; the river of a thousand short stories, the river of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
I created several different posters for the event but finally settled on a wonderful poster inspired by a Mondrian painting which I had seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. See below.
I arrived in St. Louis on July 3rd and immediately was driven to the site at the river so that I could see the location again and notice if any changes had taken place since my first visit. My first visit was done months before and at that time, the temperature was considerably colder. I was told that the City of St. Louis and especially the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were under a flood warning as it had been raining for several days prior. In actuality, the Mississippi River was a full seven feet ABOVE flood stage (its normal at about 30 feet). Though at first, this appeared to be a curse, it was actually a blessing as the copious amounts of rain diluted the mud in the river and from a swimming and diving and seeing point of view, it actually made my escape easier.
Whereas I might have had to deal with very murky water, I instead felt as though I had dove into a lake.
At approximately, 11:10am, I was driven to the landing at the river. I was met with a crowd of about 200 and within minutes, I was handcuffed with four sets of regulation police handcuffs. The handcuffs were being provided by a local man and he was adamant about my not losing his restraints in the river. So, an added piece of chain was secured around the four sets on my wrists and secured to the life line so that they would not be lost. The river was crested very close to the edge so there was only a small gap between where I stood and the water. On my first scouting of this location, there was actually a drop off of about seven feet before I would actually come in contact with the water and over the ensuing months as I prepared for this event, that fact caused me much anxiety. I was actually glad to see that the river had risen so much.
It was about 11:35am when I finally dove into the river. As I hit the water, I noticed first the cold. Though it was July and the air temperature was in the upper 80's, the river still felt cold. I wore only blue shorts with no shirt and was barefoot. The river was noticeably cleaner than I expected, again due to the amounts of rain in previous days. The water was still cloudy enough that I could not see and that I had to do the release simply by feel alone. I worked quickly on the restraints at the same time trying to stay deep underwater and not surface prematurely.
Within a minute, I had released myself from all four pairs of handcuffs and surfaced to a cheering crowd. I was helped back up to the landing and the handcuffs were pulled out of the water on the separate lifeline I attached them too. I met with many individuals afterward, signed posters before I was able to get into a car and get back to my hotel for a hot shower and some lunch.
It turned out to be an easy escape, much easier than I had anticipated.
That afternoon, at 4pm I performed my stage show which includes magic an escapes for a crowd of about the same. Fireworks capped off my evening in St. Louis and I flew home on the 5th of July.