Local magician Spencer Horsman's great escape

Magician Spencer Horsman, 24, of Baltimore, returns to the spotlight Friday, when he attempts to escape from two straitjackets while being suspended upside down, 50 feet above the street in front of his family's business, Illusions: Magic Bar & Lounge in Federal Hill. A Park School graduate who grew up just five blocks from where he will perform, Horsman has performed magic around the world and on major television shows. Before his latest feat, he answered questions from b.

So, just how dangerous is what you're doing?

I'll be hoisted 50 feet in the air upside down from a 40-foot crane. If something mechanical fails, that's instantaneous death. Besides falling to my death, there are also complications from being upside down that high. You can get heavy nose bleeds, vertigo and panic. If I panic, then I'm screwed.

What's the best technique to get out of a straitjacket?

A lot of it is patience. A straitjacket is designed to work on a mental patient who struggles against himself. The traditional method to get out of it is getting your arm over your head and then unbuckling the buckles behind you. With two straitjackets, that makes it a lot harder. Some of it is flexibility. Part is staying calm. Houdini used to dislocate his shoulder to get out of it. That's a last, last, last resort.

You've done this escape before. What do you think of that performance?
Last time, I did it in 4:29. I'm hoping to beat that time. We did this three and a half years ago, and 8,000 people showed up. I don't do the double straitjacket all that often. Last time I did this, something went wrong, and I did get stuck a little bit.

How did you get into magic?

I grew up literally right here in my father's magic shop. I've been doing magic for 20 years. I started learning magic when I was four. I've been paying taxes since I was eight. My main training is sleight of hand. I picked up ventriloquism, too. I don't do big illusion stuff. That's not my character. My stuff is comical, classic vaudeville humor.

Where's the coolest place your magic has taken you?

I got to spend two months working in Japan. I loved it. I've been fortunate enough to be on ["Late Show with David] Letterman," ["The Jerry Springer Show,"] "The Simple Life" with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as well as performing with David Copperfield and Lance Burton. I've been very fortunate.


Photo courtesy of Spencer Horsman. 

IF YOU GO: Friday 8:30 p.m. in front of Illusions: Magic Bar & Lounge, at 1025 S. Charles St. in Federal Hill