The Great Goliath Escape
BY Michael Williams
In an event that would have amazed even the great Harry Houdini, Pigeon Forge comedian Danny Devaney became the first person to ever escape from a strait jacket while crossing a zip line Friday in Sevierville. Devaney made his escape in a fraction of the time it took the master magician.
Devaney escaped the strait jacket in an event billed as “The Great Goliath Escape” at Foxfire Mountain. The Goliath is the highest zip line in the south hovering 475 feet off the ground. Devaney, an entertainer at the Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge was fitted with a harness before an expectant crowd of more than 200 spectators. Once the harness was secure, Devaney was strapped into a strait jacket then driven up to a mountain peak at Foxfire Mountain, a 150 acre adventure park, accompanied by three zip line tour guides. At the top of the mountain, Devaney descended three flights of stairs to a platform where his harness was attached to a trolley on the Goliath zip line. A lead guide rode across the line to catch Devaney as he landed on the far platform.
Once secured to the zip line, Devaney stepped off the platform and began a white knuckle ride careening across the cable where he reached speeds of as much as 55 miles per hour. The height of the zip line started out at 475 feet, which is 170 feet above the torch on the Statue of Liberty, and took a gradual descent to a height of 350 feet. High winds caused the escape artist to sway precariously from side-to-side. As he struggled to slip free of the restraints of the jacket, Devaney had to be mindful not to mistakenly slip out of his harness which could have caused him to plummet to the ground.
The zip line gradually began to ascend to a height of 475 feet as he neared the far platform at the end of the 2,200 foot cable. While hanging upside down, swaying in the wind and racing against the clock Devaney successfully slipped his arms free from the sleeves then unbuckled the straps on the strait jacket and wriggled out seconds before reaching the other side of the 2,200 foot zip line becoming the first person in history to escape a strait jacket from a zip line.
In the valley below the crowd cheered with excitement as Devaney made the escape. The Comedy Barn Band provided entertainment as Devaney prepared for his second escape. His second escape was from a zip line dubbed “Big Bertha” which hangs more than 300 feet above the ground. Devaney was again harnessed to the zip line and fitted with the same strait jacket. A zip line guide rode across the line followed by a videographer. Seconds later, Devaney stepped off the platform speeding across the 2000 foot cable while working feverishly to escape the restraints. Gliding directly over the heads of the crowd Devaney successfully slipped free once again.
“Harry Houdini first escaped from a strait jacket almost 100 years ago,” said Stephen Knowles of the Comedy Barn. Knowles served as emcee for the event. “Houdini would have been impressed. When he did it he was hanging upside down from a crane with a cable tied around his ankle. It usually took the Great Houdini at least 4-6 minutes to make his escape. Danny had only one minute to make his escape. Houdini was hanging from a stationary crane. Danny was traveling almost 55 miles per hour.”
Once across the zip line Devaney was driven down the mountain where he met with fans of the Comedy Barn and guests of Foxfire Mountain who congratulated him on his escape.
“The Comedy Barn is celebrating 20 years of clean family fun and we wanted to mark the occasion with something big and bold that had never been done before. This was a lot of fun and it was challenging,” said Devaney who issued a disclaimer to young fans in comedic fashion. “I have been a huge fan of magic for many years. I want to caution anyone who might have a large zip line in their back yards and particularly those that own a strait jacket. Don’t try this at home.”
The event was designed to promote milestones for both attractions. Along with the Comedy Barn 20th anniversary, Foxfire Mountain is celebrating its sixth season and has introduced a new and innovative adventure package.
“We are the only zip line in the area that offers a full day of adventure you can come to Foxfire and experience 10 extreme adventures for one price,” said Stephanie Postlewaite, general manager at Foxfire Mountain.
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