Phoenix Drive-In Magic Show: Thomas Poole’s Houdini Escape

Update: Thomas Poole’s drive-in magic show has been rescheduled for Friday, September 25.

When inventing new magic tricks to perform, Thomas Poole asks himself two questions: “What would be the craziest thing to see? and “How could I make it work?”

The result is a new trick that took the Arizona-based magician and mentalist two years to figure out how. He won’t reveal what it is just yet, but Arizonans can catch him performing live in Mesa on Friday, Sept. 25, during a 90-minute drive-in magic show called “Unforgettable.”

Poole also has other tricks up his sleeve. He will perform illusions and close-up magic on stage and street magic, such as card tricks in participants’ cars. The surprise trick will happen in the middle of the show, and a camera will follow it the whole time so that visitors can see everything on the big screen.

“I wanted it to be different from a normal magic show and take advantage of the fact that we’re in a drive-in,” Poole said.

A Houdini-style underwater escape

The other highlight of the evening will be a Harry Houdini-inspired underwater escape.

One of Houdini’s most famous tricks was escaping from a “water torture cell” while he was locked face-first in a tank full of water. Another is his escape in a straitjacket while hanging upside down from a crane.

Why not combine the two?

“How cool if I could do both together – a straitjacket in a bedroom,” Poole said.

It will go like this: Poole will be wrapped in a locked straitjacket and submerged in water inside a glass chamber. He’ll only have a few minutes of oxygen to pull through.

He had to learn how to pick a lock, escape a straitjacket on land and in water, and practice breathing.

“I have to get comfortable with more (carbon dioxide) and condition my cells,” Poole said.

Fully relaxed, he can hold his breath for 3½ minutes, Poole said. But moving and exercising your muscles, it lasts just over a minute.

Part of his training involved holding his breath until he passed out – “so I’m aware of that when I get close,” he said.

Watch the magician practice for the stunt:

How a drive-in magic show became reality

When Poole’s company gigs were postponed earlier this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, he wasn’t quite sure how to spend his time.

Not much was planned this year: he thought he was also going to play this season of “America’s Got Talent”.

After several auditions, the producers recorded an hour-long interview with him, Poole said. Even though it couldn’t happen, it was still a good experience, he said.

Poole decided he had to do everything he could during the pandemic. He also thought people needed entertainment.

“It’s a really good opportunity to give people not only something to do now, but also something new,” he said.

When Poole entered talks with the owners of Digital Drive-In AZ, a pop-up venue that began operating as indoor movie theaters closed due to COVID-19, his plans became increasingly elaborate.

“I was originally only supposed to do the aquatic escape,” Poole said. “It’s become more and more of a spectacle.”

Before he knew it, “it became a huge thing,” he said.

Coronavirus Safety at the Salon

Audience participation is optional during the show, Poole said.

He will not be wearing a mask on stage, and those wishing to join him on stage or participate in his street magic in their cars may choose to wear a mask. Participants will not be socially distanced if they choose to participate.

“If you’re not comfortable participating, let the staff know,” Poole said.

He will go around the cars to perform card tricks. A staff member will “follow up with hand sanitizer” and a new bridge will be used each time, Poole said. Masks will be made available to volunteers.

Participants can sit inside or next to their car. There’s no limit to how many people can be in a car — “as long as it’s safe and legal,” said Bob Bentley, co-owner of Digital Drive-In AZ. The venue will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, he said.

“You have to respect social distancing,” Bentley said. “Stay in your designated space.”

He asks guests to be respectful of others; if you are uncomfortable in your space, a staff member can help you move.

“Do what you’re comfortable with,” Bentley said.

‘Unforgettable’

What: A drive-in magic show by Thomas Poole.

When: 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25.

Or: Digital Drive-In AZ, 1901 N. Alma School Road, Mesa.

Admission: $100 per car, plus expenses.

Details: https://thethompsoneventcenter.ticketspice.com/unforgettable.

Contact the reporter at kimi.robinson@gannett.com or 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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Brian L. Hartfield