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October’s Extraordinary Escapes: The Town of Eureka Springs and Illusionist Sean-Paul
Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
(Eureka Springs, Ark.) -- Eureka Springs bills itself as “The Extraordinary Escape.” Sean-Paul of Intrigue Theater plans to add to that idea in a literal sense with two incredible feats in October, along with a séance to contact Harry Houdini.
Through Intrigue Theater, Illusionist Sean-Paul and Medium Juliane Fay take guests back in time for a Victorian, turn-of-the-century experience in traditional mentalist performances like seen in the movies The Illusionist and The Prestige. Their show takes place in Eureka Springs – a town known for its Victorian architecture, art galleries, restaurants, music shows, ghosts, and numerous other attractions.
Sean-Paul’s upcoming special performances include freeing himself from a straightjacket and sealed oversized milk can, feats influenced by America’s greatest and most famous illusionist Harry Houdini. Before each escape, Sean-Paul will explain the relevance of it to Harry Houdini as well as provide a little insight into how and why Houdini did these things.
The straightjacket escape is set for noon on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Crescent Hotel, which holds plenty of tales of being haunted. The historic hotel has received exposure over the past few years on such television programs as NBC’s “Today Show,” Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” and A&E Biography’s “My Ghost Story.”
“The editor of the newspaper will be there to verify authenticity of the straightjacket,” Sean-Paul explained. “A committee of people will put me into it, tie my feet to a cable attached to a plank extending off of the Crescent Hotel, and they won’t let me down until I get myself out of the jacket.”
Sean-Paul has been escaping from straightjackets for the last 20 years, “but not upside down, and certainly not that high. Under those circumstances is a different thing completely.” He added, “It will not be a day at the office for me by any means.”
His second escape will be from a large, water-filled milk can, which is something Houdini made famous. Houdini promoted in advertising his show that “failure means a drowning death.” Sean-Paul said other magicians have performed the escape over the years, and a few died attempting it.
At 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Basin Spring Park, Sean-Paul will pass the milk can lid out for inspection. He’ll be handcuffed with Hamburg Chicago-style handcuffs, which he said are very difficult to get out of. “Besides that, the only thing I go in with is a monkey wrench to use to bang on the milk can to get myself out if I run out of air before I can escape,” he explained.
The 40-gallon milk can will be filled with water. “Water will be coming out and over the top as I go in,” Sean-Paul said. “It’s also pitch black darkness as well.” Just as Houdini used to do, Sean-Paul will ask the audience to take a breath with him just before he dips his head under and is sealed into the can.
Sean-Paul’s extraordinary shows end with a two-part special event at 10 p.m. on Halloween night, Oct. 31 at the Crystal Ballroom of the Crescent Hotel. Sean-Paul with wife and partner Juliane Fay will perform a “Best of Intrigue Theater” show. “I’m also putting in our show one of the few tricks that ever fooled Harry Houdini,” Sean-Paul added. “The Cube a Libre.” Sean-Paul said Houdini was sitting in a room full of magicians watching it and sat there stumped when he first saw it.
After the show, Medium Juliane Fay will conduct the séance to try to contact Houdini, who died on Oct. 31, 1926. “We’ll be doing the escapes to celebrate Houdini, but he was a skeptic of ghosts,” Sean-Paul said. “But at the same time, he told his wife he would come back from death and try to contact her. He died at the age of 52 and for 10 years she had séances on the night he died, but his wife felt he never came through.” It is said that when she quit holding the séances she stated, “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.”
Hundreds of séances have been held over the years to try to contact Houdini. “No one’s tried it at this haunted hotel,” Sean-Paul said. “We may make contact with Harry Houdini and we may not. Regardless of what happens, it’s still a pretty cool way to spend Halloween in a séance in a haunted hotel.” He added that if not Houdini, they will likely make contact with others.
To get an idea of what Sean-Paul does and why, visit www.IntrigueJournal.com. For ticket information to Intrigue Theater, visit www.IntrigueTheater.com or call 479-244-7028.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
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