City daredevil prepares
for underwater challenge
Dean Jacob cut a relaxed figure at the Crystal Leisure Centre Swimming Pool on Wednesday morning last following another intensive training session.
Speaking to The Munster Express, the city native detailed an escape act he’s set to perform at the Cork Road venue on Sunday, October 28th, showing off some of the hardware he’ll be chained and locked into, some two and a half metres below the surface. “These are the hand and ankle restraints I’ll have on,” said the 26-year-old, as he spoke about an escape which, to the best of his knowledge, has never been previously attempted by anybody in Ireland.
“There’s some padlocks which I’ll be using,” Dean added, while handing me a pair of Garda-issued handcuffs before producing a 40-foot long chain that will be wrapped around him during the challenge. “I wanted to do something unusual that has never been done before and this kind of an escape involving this amount of chains is a really big challenge to take on – and I’ll be doing it three days before the anniversary of Houdini’s death, so it’s really good timing! Houdini never even attempted this stunt. I suspect he would have if he’d lived longer but to take on something the most famous escape artist in history never got to do is quite the thing.” Showing me a set of Houdini-designed shackles which he tracked down in New York, Dean went through each restraint he’ll be entangled in come the last Sunday in October. “All in all, there’ll be 40 feet of chain, 20 feet of rope, seven padlocks, the handcuffs, the wrist restraints, the leg restraints and 50 kilos of additional weight – we’re probably going to use rubber gym weights for that.” By then, my head was well and truly spinning!
Dean continued: “I’ve always been into magic, and our own Keith Barry has shown what’s possible if you pursue magic – he’s shown that you can go out and make a name for yourself and carve out a career.
“But right now he’s the only high-profile Irish magician and illusionist out there and I have to say he’s been an inspiration to me. He has shown what’s possible. So I’ve set about learning my craft, cardistry, sleight of hand, psychology and so on – and I’ve always been a fan of Houdini and his incredible escapes, so I’ve studied his career with great interest, so when the opportunity to learn how to do escapes came around, I took it with both hands. And the sum total of all of that has led me to the escape act come October 28th, which I’m really looking forward to.”
And why choose the Crystal Centre? “Well, I’ve a lot of ties to it. My grandfather worked in ‘The Glass’ and my mother swam out here a lot and was quite a talented, competitive swimmer, so hosting the escape act here felt like a natural fit. The pool also has a 90-seater viewing gallery right next to the pool, which is great in terms of holding an event like this. Now, given the limited seating available, we’re also hoping to have a big screen in the function room and set up further seating – there’s two bars in there too – it’s a Bank Holiday weekend as well, so hopefully it’s something that will generate a lot of interest the closer we get to the big day
Dean is no stranger to live audiences, having performed previously at Central Arts in Waterford, in addition to The Helix in Dublin, as well as venues in Cork, Belfast and the UK.
“But this is definitely the most high-profile event I’ve committed to so far, and I’m obviously hoping it will go down well with a hometown audience,” he added.
“I’ve been training for the past three months, but I’ve been working on holding my breath for the past year. You really have to build up your lung capacity.” Dean explained: “The technique I’ve been using while training is called ‘box-breathing’. You breathe in and you count for however long it takes you to fill your lungs. You hold it for that amount of time again and when you’re breathing out, your breathe out for the same amount of time that it took you to fully breathe in. You then let your lungs empty of air and then you repeat and keep doing that. Then you get into the pool and put what you’ve been doing literally into practice, while someone is holding you under the water. The lung is just like any other muscle. You stretch it and work it so that they become bigger and more efficient. In the space of a month, I went from holding my breath for 35 seconds to a minute and 20. The maximum I’ll be allowed under water is three minutes so I have to be prepared to the point where I can hold my breath under water for three minutes.”
A scene from ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ sprung to mind as Dean outlined an oxygen depleting scenario few of us would dream of taking on. “I’ve got people saying to me even now, ‘ah sure it’s just a nice magic trick and how are you doing it?’ but there is no magic trick. What I need to do involves holding my breath under water. I’ll be hiding nothing – now I’ll have lock picks there to pick the locks – but when you’re two and a half metres below the water line, things get tough. But what I’m doing is real. There’s no trick involved.”
And prior to the escape act, Dean will have his gear on display in the Leisure Centre so that attendees can see that the kit he’ll have affixed underwater is totally above board. “Some of those who will be poolside during the escape act – I might pick a few people randomly from the function room – so that they can see, up close and personal, how I’m being tied up and can actually secure some of the padlocks as well.”
So is Las Vegas, where Keith Barry has regularly performed, on Dean’s radar? “Absolutely! If this goes well, the next thing I’ve got to work on is how to develop and carve out a career from this line of work. And being buried alive in Vegas, for me, would be the ultimate. Six feet under in the sand sounds like my kind of gig!”
Having picked Keith Barry’s brain (“he’s been a huge help”) and with his family fully behind him, Dean comes to the October 28th challenge, and the magic business in general, with some life-altering perspective. “I’ve always loved the water – I’m a qualified scuba diver – so the water never bothered me. And when it comes to being tied up in restraints and all that, I’m not going to lie, there’s a certain level of fear there. A little bit of fear is good, but I nearly lost my life in 2013. I had emergency open heart and lung surgery. I had massive blood clots. I was after breaking my leg and needed reconstructive surgery on it and the clots travelled up from the legs and into both lungs and three out of four chambers in the heart. And I was basically given a death sentence out at Ardkeen. I had a 98 per cent chance of a massive heart attack or stroke so when I came through that, and having also been told that there was a good chance of ending up in a wheelchair for life, I thankfully came out the other side of all of that.” He added: “So I swore that when I came through all of that, I was never going to let anything hold me back, so something like this (on October) doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve already gone toe to toe and come through it. And here I am. It’s got its own challenges but it’s an exciting time for me. I can’t wait for October 28th.”
For more details on ‘The Plunge’ with Dean Jacob, please, visit https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/dean-jacob-the-plunge-tickets-47736307581