I have several, what you might call traditions. I always say a prayer before an escape and whenever I do the hanging Straightjacket Escape, I hold a scarf in my mouth that I drop the moment I begin the escape. The scarf helps to focus the attention on me and also for anyone recording the time of my escape, it signifies the start.
In 1967, when I presented the upside down Straight Jacket Escape from the Tribune Tower building, I had my scarf tightly held within my teeth. It stayed there while I was raised10 stories in the air. The Mayor of Oakland, John Reading had a stopwatch in his hands and was waiting for my signal to start the clock. The signal of course was the dropping of the scarf.
All of my focus and energy centered on escaping as fast as I could. The crowd below me, which was later estimated to be close to 20,000, came to see something special. I was not going to disappoint. I dropped the scarf and immediately went into action.
Seconds later I was free and the enormous crowd went wild! From my upside down position all I could see was a sea of colored motion. When I released my feet and climbed to an upright position, I got a better view of the thousands of Oaklanders and others who came out to see me.
I am sure that all but 2 of the 20,000 people were on my side. How could I know that two people were against me? Well, two people held up signs which read, " Don't Ruin Houdini" and "Hang it up, Baker."
Once I was lowered, the crowd started to push and swell in my direction. One man compared the mass of people to what it was like to see the Beatles. Eventually, we were able to control the crowd and I signed autographs and greeted my new found fans. One of those fans was an 18 year old kid named Dan Sutter. He was on the roof of the Tribune Tower building watching my escape. As I dropped the scarf from my mouth a strong gust of air carried it up to the rooftop, almost into his waiting hands. A cool souvenir for an admiring spectator.
Young Dan Sutter, came down and fought the crowd so that he could have me sign the scarf. I was more than glad to sign the scarf and leave the fellow with a memento to cherish.
That was was 1967, forty four years ago. At the time, the Oakland Tribune Newspaper even did a write-up on Mr. Sutter and his Scarf which you can see below.