06 April 2007

The Water Escape

A few of you left comments on my last post, wondering about the near-death experience I mentioned. Yes, it's true - here's the story.

In the last semester of my senior year of college, my friend J and I took a class called Psych 483 - a Directed Study in Cognitive Psychology. Unofficially, we called it Magic 101. It was just the two of us, working with a psych professor we really liked, and we spent the semester designing a magic show, which we eventually presented to an audience of 250 people. How was this a Psych course? Easy - we just wrote a paper describing the psychological principles involved with each effect. Mostly, we hung around the theater, dreaming up cool illusions. Occasionally we rehearsed... but not much.

The final effect of the show was a homemade version of Houdini's famous Milk Can Escape. I built my own container out of large plastic garbage cans, rigged so that the cover could be locked with three padlocks (and rigged in other, secret ways too, of course). I spent a lot of time that semester in the college swimming pool, and could hold my breath for about 90 seconds. Plenty of time, I figured. In rehersal, I'd usually be out in about 30 seconds.

Well, the day of the show arrived. As we filled the tank with water, we discovered there was no hot water available back stage. The water was freezing. We had several hotpots back stage, and we dumped boiling water into the tank, to no avail. I then spent about an hour running around on stage, eating fire, etc. By the time we got to the escape, I was hot and tired, the water was still cold, and when I got in, it literally took my breath away. The lid came down anyway.

I was supposed to bang on the side of the tank if I ran into trouble, and J was supposed to get me out. On the video, you can clearly hear the banging. What you don't see is J letting me out... because he didn't.

Fortunately, and much to my surprise & relief, the lid didn't fit flush against the top of the can - there was a gap of an inch or two, and I was able to get a little air. I got myself out. The first thing I recall hearing was a voice saying "45 seconds..."

The music swelled, I waited a little longer, then pulled aside the curtain and took a bow.

I'm probably not going to do that particular trick again anytime soon... like, never. I did, however, get an A.


Deb said...

I can't believe I never heard that story! Thanks for sharing and I am ever so glad you made it out of the "milkcan". :)

Kim said...

I was in the audience for this performance and it was a pretty cool trick. Especially for those of us who thought that the banging around was for added affect, and didn't realize the actual danger til it was over and Dan was safe and sound (althought a bit soggy).

Passante said...

Dan, you never cease to amaze!