|Steve Baker & Milbourne Christopher|
In 1969, I had the opportunity to be presented with a challenge by none other than master magician Milbourne Christopher. Mr. Christopher at the time was the author of 17 books and had just completed "Houdini-The Untold Story." He was an authority on Harry Houdini and owned some of Houdini's handcuffs and other memorabilia.
The challenge was for me to free myself from a pair of Houdini's own escape proof handcuffs. The exact cuff that was shown to me was a pair of Plug 8s which is known to be a formidable handcuff. I accepted the challenge. I owned a pair of Plug 8s and had been practicing with them. I developed a special way to escape that would be the ideal way to handle this challenge.
This was to take place at the Magic Extravaganza Convention sponsored by the Oakland Magic Circle. The actual challenge would be presented during the evening show. Before attempting the challenge, I liberated myself from a torture device which consisted of chains, spikes and thumbcuffs. This helped established me as an escape artist to anyone unfamiliar with me. However, because this was taking place in Oakland, basically everyone knew me because of my Tribune Tower Straightjacket escape two years previous.
The time had come for the challenge. Mr. Christopher walked on stage with a pair of handcuffs that were different from the ones I was shown previously. I mentioned that fact immediately. I looked over this new set of cuffs and determined that I would be able to escape from them also. This set of cuffs, also owned by Houdini, were known as KingBreakers.
You may be asking, how on earth could I determine so quickly that I could escape? Upon quick examination I realized I would be able to slip my hands out. Not easily by any stretch, but with a great deal of effort I knew I could pull them free.
In full view of the audience and Mr. Christopher, I proceeded to do just that. It took me a little over a minute to get both hands out. The audience went wild! Milbourne Christopher took the microphone and said, "I didn't believe he could do it. But I firmly believe that Steve Baker is the true successor to Houdini."
Milbourne and I remained good friends and stayed in contact for a number of years following the challenge event. He was quite an interesting fellow. One of my most prized possessions was a first edition copy of Houdini the Untold Story, that Milbourne gave to me with the inscription, "To Steve Baker the true successor to Houdini."
Of course that was Milbourne's opinion and I appreciated the compliment. When I began my escape career I promoted myself as "The Man Who Outdid Houdini". But later, I realized it was best to leave all reference to Houdini behind. Why be the second Houdini when I could be the first Steve Baker.
(by the way, there is a write-up of the challenge in the March 30th, 1969 Oakland Tribune Newspaper by Del Lane)