Blantyre Picture House – Escape Act

 

1935 Blantyre Picture Dookit Theatre

1935 Blantyre Picture Theatre (the Dookit)

Following the death of Houdini, the world famous escape artist in 1926, there was a  keen rivalry among escapologists all over the world to who should assume the mantle of Handcuff King!

There were immediately several aspirants, and the press in different parts favoured their own. Murray, the Australian escapologist, Val. Q. Walker, the wizard of the navy all did not live up to a rival contender, Atelenta, who happened to be female.

But Atelenta during the 1920’s was working her way to the forefront of escapology as entertainment, and some of her experiences and escapes are well worth recording.

Around the mid 1920’s, Blantyre was fortunate enough to secure the big attraction of bringing Atelenta to this mining town.  At Glasgow Road, she appeared in the picture-house with the intention of amazing her Blantyre audience with her talents.

However, (and I’m not adding, Blantyre being Blantyre here), a local man whom himself was aspiring to be a “handcuff king” took exception to one of her escapes whilst Atelenta was performing it in full view of everybody!

The heckler demonstrated his disapproval by challenging Atelenta to perform the same feat with his own manacles. Atelenta not wishing to be embarrassed and confident in her abilities, accepted his challenge.

The local man then came up on the stage with 22 invited gentlemen to put the handcuffs on Atelenta and inspect them.

Placing a table close to the footlights, Atelenta was placed upon it and a wooden cabinet placed around her, leaving her in full view of the audience but in such a manner than nothing could approach from the sides of from the back. Atelenta stood on the dimly lit stage, facing her audience and the local man prompted her to “start” by inviting her to free herself from his chains with the invited committee all around. The Picture house fell silent.

Atelenta escaped in two minutes flat to cheers from the audience as her heckler admitted she was “good”.

Another of Atelenta’s escapes was recorded as a singularly dangerous one. Tightly strapped in a straight jacket used for controlling dangerous lunatics or violent criminals, she allowed herself to be hoisted by the feet to the roof of the building, and in short space of time she accomplished the task of freeing herself.

On July 29th, 1927, Atelenta was strapped in a straight jacket by two well-known Ju-Jitsu exponents, and thrown into the sea in Buckhaven, Scotland. The escape was accomplished in twenty minutes. Mr F. Dodd, joiner and coffin-maker, South Wellington Street, Glasgow, S.S., challenged Atelenta to escape from a coffin box made by him. Atelenta accepted the challenge, and escaped from the box in just under thirty minutes.

It was widely advertised and published in the 1920’s that the opportunity of seeing and listening to this little lady should not have been missed. It would appear, it did take a Blantyre audience to throw a curveball into the intended agenda of her show!

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016

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