Norman Bigelow does the Houdini act

Norman Bigelow

Just Hangin’ Around


He claimed to be Harry Houdini’s reincarnation. Students on Albright’s campus on October 17, 1973 saw with their own eyes that his claims just might be true.

Tied up and dangling upside down from a pulley in mid-air, escapologist Norman Bigelow shocked his Albright audience.

Throughout his one-hour presentation, Bigelow was bound, chained, padlocked, straightjacketed, submerged and imprisoned.

During the evening he successfully performed acts such as the fire escape, the board of death and the water torture cell. But, according to an article in the October 1973 Albrightian, all escapes involved deadly outcomes if they were not accomplished within a short, specific time frame. So, as Bigelow performed his miraculous feats, tension mounted on the campus.

During the fire escape, Bigelow was handcuffed to a table, kneeling over a line of gunpowder. The object was to free himself before the fire reached him.

The board of death act allowed him three minutes to free himself from chains and shackles before an automatic timing device plunged eight-inch razor blades through him.

Anyone familiar with Houdini knows that the water torture cell leaves only seconds to flee. Bigelow escaped from being chained, padlocked, and bound in leather harnesses, and completely submerged within an underwater tank.

Bigelow didn’t only shock and baffle Albright students, he toured college campuses and universities nationwide with his performances. And according to the Albrightian, he always sent challenges to local police officials to bring forth handcuffs and straight jackets to test his ability.

— Jennifer M. Hawriluk ’01