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Challengers & Friends

 If there is any one out there that thinks they can hold me prisoner, I want them to challenge


There is nothing on earth can hold me I’ve never been beaten”

David De-Val Sept 1984

David's bold statement above was made on his first appearance on the BBC TV Hotline show. From this he indeed was challenged. His first escape on the Hotline show was in the TV studio where a Police constable came on and handcuffed him live as he was answering calls! By the time the show was ending David indeed had escaped them. From this several challenges were made from viewers and others over the shows and David performed live escape attempts.

As time progressed he was challenged by others and so the escapes began to happen more. With this people challenged him with various restraints and apparatus inc a wooden crate, thumb screws, iron mask, handcuffs on some of them.

The Tribute site has been in touch with some of those involved in David’s escape attempts and challenges over the years. Although many of the events were a long time ago here are some extracts of there thoughts and memories.

Thanks to all who feature and took the time to contact the site. And share there memories of there involvement no matter how big or small.



 On October 31st 2014, UK Escape Artist Weasel Dandaw will attempt to escape the condemned cell at York Castle Prison. Renowned escapologist Harry Houdini was challenged to escape from this very cell and refused. In March of 1983 UK Escape Artist David De-Val was also challenged to escape from this cell after declaring that he had worked out Houdini's method of escaping from jail cells. In the April of 1983, De-Val was successful and proved he really had worked out Houdini's secret. This brings us to the present challenge. Weasel was contacted via the United Kingdom Escape Artists (U.K.E.A), by Rebecca Taylor who is the daughter of David De-Val. She put up a challenge to escape the very cell her father managed to emancipate himself from.

Rebecca is a member of the Pontefract Paranormal Society and they were planning to conduct a ghost hunt of York Castle. She had heard that the United Kingdom Escape Artists (U.K.E.A.), a select/secret group of escapologists (the escape artists equivalent of the Magic Circle) were planning their first Houdini séance on the 31st October 2014. The Houdini séances have been held in America every year since Houdini passed away on October 31st 1926 and as Houdini had spent the vast majority of his famed career working in the United Kingdom, the U.K.E.A. wanted to see if they could actually make contact with the great showman. Rebecca said that Pontefract Paranormal were willing to host the séance, but there was one condition. Would one of their members be willing to accept the challenge of escaping the condemned cell that her father had beaten? As Weasel Dandaw has been successful in escaping many cells/prisons all around the globe he was the man selected by the members to accept the challenge.

When asked about the challenge Weasel said, "Although I have done many cell escapes, it has been a few years since I have attempted one and this is going to be the toughest one yet. Not only will I have to escape the restraints I am locked in, I will have to find a way of getting out of the cell. It has walls that are several feet thick, I guess the floor and ceiling are the same, it has a window that has two sets of bars and a solid oak door which is double locked from the outside. This will be my hardest cell escape yet, but I am up for the challenge. David De-Val was a great escape artist who worked out Houdini's method and the fact that he was from the United Kingdom means a lot to the U.K.E.A. I will be doing this as a tribute to him. I hope I don't let him down".

So, on the 31st October 2014, Weasel will be lead to the condemned cell. The cell will be thoroughly searched, he will have a full strip search by a medic to make sure he has nothing concealed that could aid his escape, be locked in restraints of the period and chained to the wall at the far end of the cell. At the opposite end of the cell, the door will then be double locked. Will Weasel manage to free himself? We don't know, but if he doesn't, he won't be happy about missing the first U.K.E.A. séance!

1) Houdini allegedly refused the York condemned cell in 1920. His last tour of the United Kingdom.

2) The condemned cell was reported to be the cell Dick Turpin spent his last night, before being executed at the Knavesmire on the 7th of April 1739.

3) This is the first real attempt at De-Val's methods as set out in his notes.

4) Weasel Dandaw is a Guinness World Record Holder. In 2004 he achieved the Fastest Underwater Escape from a 20 metre chain in 10.76 seconds. A record that still stands today.

5) Dan will be asking for sponsorship to raise money for, a charity close to his heart.


My friend David – master escapologist


The name David De-Val came to my notice way back in 1960 when I joined Edwin Hooper at his magic factory The Supreme Magic Company based in the small town of Bideford, North Devon.

Although living miles apart from each other, we soon corresponded and telephoned on all aspects of magic. I realised that here was a man who was dedicated to the craft of magic and in particular, Escapology. David told me that after he watched the motion picture Houdini, starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, escapology was the branch of magic he most wanted to pursue. An extremely talented inventor, David soon created an extensive range of items suitable for all who were interested in this fascinating field. And because David was skilful at manufacturing such items as gimmicked padlocks, handcuffs, leg-irons, straitjackets and lock picks, he was soon established as the main maker and supplier of this type of equipment. David’s first book dealing with escapology, Key to Lock Picking was published by the Supreme Magic Company and the firm carried and promoted his complete range of items, all of which became best sellers.

Channel 4 Television asked me to appear on their popular Collectors’ Lot programme and on this I arranged a huge display of many of my magic props. A Fez, which once belonged to Tommy Cooper, a magic wand which once belonged to TV magician David Nixon and chains which once belonged to none other than Harry Houdini were a few of the rare items I showed on the programme. It was David who loaned the chains to me for that particular presentation, and I was most grateful to him.

During the 1980’s the Supreme Magic Company made and released some 21 video films under the title of The Reveal Series, of which I was the producer. These video films covered most branches of magic and I managed to obtain the services of top performers and inventors who featured in them. I didn’t have to think twice in offering David to be the star performer in one which covered escapology. I arranged all the table and display settings, plus a young man to assist him, and David and his wife journeyed down from Lancashire to the video studios located in the town of Ilfracombe. David came over as a very pleasing personality, one with charm and charisma. He not only demonstrated his many locks and cuffs but exposed their workings. The video film was one of the most enjoyable ones I worked on.

David would often visit my home here in Barnstaple whilst he was on his way to Cornwall where he had a holiday caravan. We would talk hours on all things magical and he would show me his latest effects. I had the great pleasure of writing numerous instruction sheets for his products as well as seeing a few of my own ideas manufactured under his company name.

Magicians should be very grateful – we shall never see the like of such clever and well-made pieces of equipment again … and we shall never see another David De-Val.

David has also various mentions throughout the Book “Dealing” with Magic, The rise & fall of The Supreme Magic Company Published 2010


A “Supreme” Lifetime in Magic, From the pages of Adair`s diaries Published 2013

Under the heading “Magical Thinkers”

David was one of my best pals. A master-maker of all items connected to escapology, his faked handcuffs, padlocks and leg-irons were always in demand. I had the pleasure of being the producer of his video film 

(The Reveal Series –David De Val`s Secrets of Escapology) His Seventh Key, De-luxe Strait –jacket and his famous lock picking sets were all precision made. He published several books on this branch of 

magic including Key to Escapes, The key to lock-picking and possibly his finest work Escapology Secrets of David De Val.

 The Tribute site would like to thank Ian for his thoughts and permission to use his book content as above, Thanks to Allan Taylor for the 

link support with this article.


ESCAPE: Blackpool Roller Coaster.

LOCATION: Blackpool Pleasure Beach. England.

DATE: April 1983.

RESTRAINT CHALLENGED: Iron mask, Thumb Screws, Hamburg 8 Handcuffs.

INVOLVED: Chris Tarrant

OCCUPATION: TV, Presenter.

INFO: Memories of Revolution escape.

Chris Tarrant sent this letter for the Tribute site recalling his memories of David.


ESCAPE: Burnley Cell Escape


DATE: May 1984.

RESTRAINT CHALLENGED: Handcuff & Prison cell escape

INVOLVED: Kevan Dickin

OCCUPATION: Police Constable

INFO: Memories of the lead up and escape involvement to the escape.

In 1984 I was a community bobby in Lancashire Constabulary stationed at Burnley. One Wednesday in 1984 I was called in to see the Divisional Commander who said he had a little job for me the following week. All he would say was that I should wear my best uniform and have a pair of old fashioned handcuffs.

The following Wednesday I attended his office at 09:00 and found that the Chief Superintendent had a two people and their daughter in his office. I was introduced to David De-Val his wife & daughter. I was immediately struck by how friendly and ‘down to earth’ they were.

The second blow was when I was told the purpose of him being there and that the press and both local ITV and BBC news would be filming it.

We went across to the nearby Town Hall and into the basement. Also there was a doctor who was to do a full search of David before he was placed in one of the old police cells there and from where Houdini had previously escaped. David had previously told me that he would hold his hands out in front to be handcuffed but I insisted on handcuffing him behind his back.

Needless to say he escaped from the cell and we spend most of the morning doing different angles for the TV and press. It received good coverage in the media and a few months later it appeared in The Mail on Sunday ‘YOU’ magazine in July 1984.

The last I saw of David was when he was interviewed on ‘Wogan’ a year or two later.

I was going through some old photos and decided to do a Google search on David and found your excellent site.

I was sorry to read that he had died in 2002.

Best Wishes

Kevan ( yes they spelt my name wrong in the article )


ESCAPE: Blackpool Roller Coaster.

LOCATION: Blackpool Pleasure Beach. England.

DATE: April 1983.

RESTRAINT CHALLENGED: Iron mask, Thumb Screws, Hamburg 8 Handcuffs.

INVOLVED: Jenni Barnett.

OCCUPATION: TV, Presenter.

INFO: Memories of Revolution escape.

As you can appreciate 'Hotline' was nearly thirty years go. I just remember that we went round the REVOLUTION three times.I screamed a lot and David unhinged himself over the three rides. I was too busy being nauseous to remember any more.


jeni B

good luck with the site

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