Escape artist braves Coney Aquarium plunge

Don’t try this at home: Escape artist Thomas Solomon will attempt to escape from handcuffs while in an underwater tank at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island on March 18.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Go for the penguins and walruses. Stay for the daring underwater escape act.

Magician Thomas Solomon promises to break free from multiple sets of handcuffs — in less than three minutes — while submerged inside an underwater tank at the New York Aquarium next week in the latest stunt to bring more visitors to the aging Coney Island attraction as it undergoes a lengthy, $100 million overhaul.

Solomon crowed that he’ll dive into the 40-degree swimming pool-sized tank, wearing only a bathing suit and manacled by five sets of NYPD-regulation cuffs — administered by the Finest themselves — in a daring bid to escape unscathed.

“I’m an expert at opening handcuffs underwater [without a key],” the daredevil bragged. “I’m very confident I can do this.”

The act is child’s play, according to the Wisconsin-born escapologist who has performed similar feats in the Hudson River and Atlantic Ocean, once even bolting free from a titanium bank safe while underwater — a trick that landed him on the History Channel and British TV.

Experts say Solomon’s Houdini act is no joke.

“This is deadly serious,” said Adam “Real Man” Rinn, the dean of Coney’s Sideshow School, where he teaches classes on sword-swallowing, fire-eating and glass-walking. “If he runs out of breath [before escaping] he’s done.”

Solomon remains undaunted about showing off a gig he’s perfected for more than 20 years, earning his chops on the Chicago nightclub circuit, where he performed basic magic tricks before becoming obsessed with escape acts. The illusionist wouldn’t give up any tricks of the trade, but promised he won’t disappoint.

“People are going to see something they’ve never seen before,” he warned.

Organizers said the stunt will promote Coney Island USA’s summer-long season of magic, which kicks off with a variety show at the Sideshows by the Seashore theater on March 24.

The 55-year-old, city-run aquarium is also adding two new shark tanks as part of the rehab, expected to be completed in 2015.

Aquarium Director John Dohlin supported Solomon’s cool caper.

“The exploits of Thomas Solomon will no doubt add a touch of drama to the New York Aquarium,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the Aquarium has grabbed headlines with wacky attempts to increase its attendance.

Last summer the museum held a naming contest for an Amazonian electric eel, and drew attention for adopting an 18-pound, 75-year-old lobster.

Thomas Solomon at the New York Aquarium [Surf Avenue at W. Eighth Street in Coney Island, (718) 265-3473] on March 18 at 2:20 pm. Free with the museum’s price of admission.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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