The 5 Keys To Becoming A Real Life Escape Artist

As children, many people wanted to become escape artists. It is the reason why so many kids are fascinated with the game of “hide-and-seek”. It is a fun and exhilarating way to see how elusive people can be. As time goes by, people grow older and can get a similar joy out of our escape rooms in Cozumel. For those that stay the course, a career as an escape artist normally opens up. If you have no idea what an escape artist does, or even who some of the most famous escape artists have been, then you are sorely missing out. Does the name Harry Houdini ring a bell? No? Well it should. He was one of the greatest masters of escapology to ever walk this planet.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a real-life escape artist, but there are some key hurdles that any aspiring escapologist must cross. These keys are essential to the escaping from any situation, and they will undoubtedly come in handy for anyone who wants to actively pursue the life of an escape artist. Without further ado, I present to you the keys to becoming a real-life escape artist.

1. Understanding How Locks Work

In order to be a great escape artist (or even an average one), it is important that you have a basic understanding of how locks work. This does not mean you need to become a professional locksmith (like Harry Houdini), you merely need to understand how locks function. Locks are an important part of the trade and you will most likely find yourself in many situations that require you to break out of a lock. Locking mechanisms vary, but most operate on the same basic principles. As such, it is important to familiarize yourself with an assortment of locks and learn to understand what makes them tick, but more importantly what makes them unlock.

A basic understanding of locks will set the tone for many more things that will come over your career as an escape artist. Escaping is essentially a much broader form of unlocking, you just need to find the right key. Understanding how locks work will help you save time and it will help you learn of the other methods that can be used to bypass locks. The most common ways to unlock something are with a key or by picking said lock, but there are some other methods that can get the job done faster. Learning about these methods and knowing how to properly implement them all depend on understanding the underlying principles behind locks.

2. Knowing How To Pick Handcuffs and Locks

The next key to becoming a great escape artist is knowing how to pick handcuffs and locks. As I stated earlier, it is crucial that every escape artist understands how locks work, and this is necessary so that you know how to bypass them without a key. The challenge and allure of being an escape artist stems from being able to do things that most people can’t. Most people cannot open a lock if they do not have the key, however, an escape artist is a different breed. It is important that you learn how to pick handcuffs and how to pick locks.

Make sure that you start off slow and gradually work your way up in the difficulty of the locks and handcuffs. This will also help ground the basics that you learned about the way locks work. Lock picking requires patience and it cannot be done without understanding how locks work. However, once you learn how to pick a lock, any lock can be picked.

3. Learning To Conceal Tools

A great escape artist is only as good as the tools that they use, and as a great escape artist, you never want to show all the tricks you have up your sleeve. Learning about locks and how to pick them, will fall flat if an escape artist does not have the necessary tools for the job. In order to become a real-life escape artist, it is important to learn how to properly and effectively conceal the tools that you need to escape. Obviously, you will not be able to conceal your entire lock pick set, but you should be able to conceal key components. This can be done in a variety of ways. However, it is important to make sure that your tools are easily accessible, well concealed and that they do not place you in any danger. If you happen to injure yourself because of the way you concealed your tools, it will make the task of escaping much harder.

4. Shimming (handcuff shims & padlocks)

Shimming is another great key that every escape artist should have up their sleeve. It is one of the best and easiest ways to bypass handcuffs and padlocks. The bypass methods for each of these are different but they achieve the same results since you will no longer be locked up. Shimming a padlock requires the use of a shim. If you do not have a professionally made shim on hand, you can improvise and make one from an assortment of materials. The process of making a shim is also a good skill for an escape artist to have.

Padlock shims work by aiding the retraction of a latch that keeps the shackle of the padlock securely in place. Handcuff shims work rather differently but are meant to achieve the same result. These shims are inserted into the bow of the handcuffs and are moved along the teeth to create a barrier between said teeth and the locking mechanism. This action ensures that the teeth in range of the locking pawl are able to retract outward until the handcuffs are unlocked.

5. Constant Practice

Constant practice is by far the most important key to becoming a real-life escape artist. Even virtuoso’s practice to make sure that they continue to progress in their fields. In order to become good, escape artists need to practice and learn constantly. A good example of a practice routine involves running through the basic understanding of how locks work, in order to make sure that you remember the principles you have learned. Also, escape artists can practice with locks, handcuffs, padlocks and other restriction devices so that they are comfortable working with them and also to help them get better at bypassing these devices.

Practice and patience go hand in hand, and together they will help you achieve the results necessary to become a real-life escape artist. In order to practice it is imperative that you get your hands on the necessary tools to help you out, like practice locks for example. Lock picking is a perishable skill, and that means that the longer you go without using it the faster it disappears. A lack of practice will atrophy your skills and you will have to spend time getting your footing back.


The path to becoming a real-life escape artist is paved with hard work, dedication and practice. The art of escaping is a great skill to have in your arsenal. It will help you see the world in a unique way and it will make you a premier problem solver. Hopefully, the skills discussed above come in handy as you begin your journey to becoming a real-life escape artist.

Author Bio

Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.

Decoding a Playfair Cipher – Escape the Room in Cozumel

Though named after Lord Playfair, who insisted on using this method of encryption, the Playfair cipher was was invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1854 and was subsequently used by English-speaking militaries during both World War I and II. It is the first digraph code meaning that decoding the cipher is performed on blocks of two letters at a time. With the advent of computerized code breaking methods the Playfair is no longer considered safe or secure.

Hint: You will see this puzzle in Cozumel Detective Agency room escape experiences and live action puzzle hunt spy games in Cozumel, Mexico.

Once you have the all important key, deciphering a Playfair encrypted message isn’t difficult. See the video and the accompanying information below!

Once you know the key, the rest is very simple. You only need a pencil and paper to work out deciphering the rest of the coded message.

1. Draw a 5 block by 5 block grid.

2. Fill the key, one letter at a time and one letter per block, into the grid starting at the top left block. Work across the grid moving from left to right, one row at a time and from top to bottom.

Decoding a Playfair Cipher Tutorial3. Then fill in the rest of the grid in alphabetical order omitting all of the letters all ready included in the key. Because there are 26 letters in the English alphabet and only 25 block in the grid, some Playfair ciphers omit the letter ‘Q’ or substitute the letter “I” in place of “J”; it’s important to know which rules you are working with.

4. Next, draw a box around each cipher letter pairs you will find in grid and replace letters in cipher with decoded letters following these rules:

  • If the resulting box uses more than one row or column then replace the cipher letters with the decoded letters you find in the opposite corner of the same row.
  • If the resulting box forms a single row then replace each cipher letter with the decoded letter to its left in the same row; replace cipher letters in the first (furthest left) with the letter from the last column (furthest right) in the same row.
  • If cipher letters are in the same column, replace them with the decoded letters above them in the same column. Decode ciphers in the top row with the letters from the bottom row of the same column.

5. Lastly, make sense of the message by removing all unnecessary “X”s from the deciphered letters, add any “Q”s that are missing and fix spacing to read the deciphered message!

The Playfair cipher is used in many escape the room games around the English-speaking world due to its complexity, ease of use and the ease with which escape room game players can learn it while immersed in a game. Players of our room escape games in Cozumel have always enjoyed discovering and using this method of encryption (and a few have even sent their testimonials back to us encrypted using the Playfair cipher)!

Cozumel Detective Adventures LogoThe Cozumel Detective Adventures’ “Spycraft 101” article series was created for our arriving detectives to study up before heading to Cozumel and participating in our Cozumel Escape Room adventures, live action ISpy Cozumel spy game and our exciting underwater puzzle hunt, Sea Hunt Cozumel!

Every spy worth his salt is well-versed in the techniques used in espionage and the activity of intelligence.

We want to help you be the very best Cozumel Detective Agent you can be!

Solve the Puzzle. Save the Day!™