think: Houdini
related: genre
anchors: notes | references | urls

A work in progress. Suggestions and comments are most welcome.


The Roped and Sealed Sack Trick

'Take the roped and sealed sack trick: one way of doing it.' O'Rourke was enjoying himself. 'Out comes the performer -- in the middle of a group of people, if you want him to -- with a light sack made out of black muslin or sateen, and big enough for him to stand up in. He gets inside. His assistant draws it up, holds the sack about six inches below the mouth (ie. of the sack. ed.), and ties it round tightly with a long handkerchief. Then the people watching can add more knots if they want to, and seal his knots and theirs with wax, and stamp 'em with signets -- anything at all. Bang! Up goes a screen round the performer. Thirty seconds later out he walks with the knots still tied and sealed and stamped, and the sack over his arm. Heigh-ho!'

O' Rourke grinned, made the usual play with his moustache (he could not seem to leave off twisting it), and rolled on the divan.

'Now, gents, here's where you take a poke at me. There's duplicate sacks, exactly alike. One of 'em the performer's got all folded up and stuck inside his vest. When he gets into the sack, and he's moving and jerking it around, and the assistant is pulling it up over his head -- why, out comes the duplicate. The mouth of the other black sack is pushed up through the mouth of the first, six inches or so; it looks like the mouth of the first. The assistant grabs it round, and what he honest-to-God ties is the mouth of the duplicate sack, with such a thin edge of the real one included so that you can't see the joining. Bang! On go the knots and seals. When the performer gets behind the screen, all he does is shove the loose sack under his vest, and walk out holding the duplicate sack roped and sealed. Get it? See? It's simple, it's easy, and yet people go nuts trying to figure out how it was done.'

(John Dickson Carr, The Hollow Man)



Chancellor, Henry

Colditz: The Untold Story of World War II's Great Escapes.

Eggers, Reinhold

Colditz: The German Story. 1991.

Ray, David

Colditz: A Pictoral History of Oflag IVC. 2001.

* Reid, P. R.

The Colditz Story.

* Reid, P. R.

The Latter Days.

Rogers, Jim

Tunneling into Colditz: A Mining Engineer in Captivity. 1986.

(Primary and Secondary Literature and Film)

Bioy-Casares, Adolfo

A Plan for Escape.

Cannell, John Clucas

The Secrets of Houdini.

"...details of ALL his famous escapes (except the water torture cell)..."

Bresson, Robert

A Man Escaped (film) 1956.

Meyer, Bernard C.

Houdini: A Mind in Chains: A Psychoanalytic Portrait.

Phillips, Adam

Houdini's Box: The Art of Escape.

Renoir, Jean

Grand Illusion (film) 1938.

Resnais, Alain

Last Year at Marienbad (film) 1961.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain

Last Year at Marienbad.

Robbe-Grillet's film script was apparently based on Bioy-Casares' 'A Plan for Escape'. See Thomas Beltzer's Last Year at Marienabad: An Intertextual Meditation for the scoop on the relation between the two.


Bucken, Hayo

Ausbrecher AG. 1988.

Published by Ravensburger Germany.

Colovini, Leo

Cartagena. 2002.

* Courtland-Smith, J.

Escape from Atlantis.

Also known as 'Atlantis' and 'Survive!' Dates from the 80's.

* Reid, Major Pat

Escape from Colditz. 1983.

Published under various names by various companies: Parker, Gibsons etc.


Escape from the Casbah. 1975.

Published by Selchow & Righter Co.


Vluchtweg. 1988.

Also known as '"En Fuite'. Published by Jumbo.

Weber, Bernhard

Alcatraz. 1999.

Published by FX Schmidt Germany.


Cannon's Great Escapes

"Escape artist/escapology supplies such as handcuffs, straitjackets, chains and padlocks." Cannon's seems to be one of the better supply houses.

Escape Artist Book List

A rather complete list of stage escapology how-to books.

ALAMUT.COM is artist owned and operated.
Page last modified: 19/12/02.
Mail: current address.