First a break-in. then a breakout Magic: Thirteen-year-old gets into a police cell, then out. The stunt publicized a fund-raiser to help drunken-driving victims.

June 19, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

There was a break-in at the Baltimore Central District police station yesterday. It was immediately followed by a break-out from the lock-up. After the security breaches, the officers stood around and marveled at the rascal who pulled it off: a 13-year-old magician from Dundalk named Ken Driscoll II.

Ken -- part of a sibling act called "The Future of Magic: Ken and James" -- claims that yesterday's stunts make him the youngest magician to escape from a jail cell and the only one ever to break into one.

"Magic," the boy said, "is not for people who don't believe."

Few of the reporters gathered at the East Baltimore Street police station believed the first part of the show: that without being seen, the boy had made it up three flights of stairs, past an officer posted at a desk, through a locked iron gate and into a solitary confinement cell.

"The whole idea of breaking in," said Ken, "was to do it in secret."

By the time the media showed up at 1 p.m., as requested, to capture the moment, Ken was already in the cell, smiling out from the tiny room through a small window and calling the district commander on a cell phone to say he'd broken into his sanctuary.

"I have no idea how he got in here," said Agent Chuck Megibow, on duty outside the third-floor lock-up that was used for female prisoners before the city's Central Booking facility was built near the Fallsway. "I'm the only guy who has the key."

Remaining uncharacteristically polite -- possibly because Ken's proud mother stood nearby -- reporters didn't press the boy or the officers too hard about the first stunt, even when the officers seemed to be biting their tongues and averting their eyes from questions. Nor even when Maj. Steven McMahon, the district commander, said he'd never known Megibow to tell a fib.

Perhaps the officers were adhering to the Society of American Magicians ethics philosophy, which holds that exposing a trickster's secrets is "immoral impairs our values of decency and respect for dedicated and hard-working magicians who bring mystery, laughter, wonder, to millions."]

In Act II, everyone got the chance to see McMahon handcuff Ken with standard-issue police equipment, secure the cuffs with a second lock, put the boy inside a prison laundry satchel and clip the bag shut over his head with a locked steel bar.

After leaving Ken in the cell, Megibow closed the electronic doors and stood sentry outside the door as reporters were shepherded to the other side of the iron bars, which were locked behind them. Some television camera crews headed for the first-floor lobby -- where Ken had declared he would emerge -- while others stood guard on the third-floor.

Less than five minutes later, the canvas bag was empty, and Ken was in the lobby.

"It was hard, and the security here is very good," said Ken, "but I knew I could do it."

The son of a city police detective who practiced magic as a child, Ken visited the cells earlier to check them out -- but swears he didn't practice.

Yesterday's stunts were staged to promote a show June 26 at Commodore Hall in Essex where Ken and brother James, 10, will open for comedian Gallagher in a fund-raiser for We Remember, Inc., which helps survivors and families of victims of drunken-driving accidents.

In awe of magic since he was five and saw magician David Copperfield on TV, Ken has a library of some 300 volumes on the subject.

"I know the kid and taught him some stuff but I can't believe he did it," said Michael Miller, head of the Magicians Alliance of the Eastern States, which judged Ken its most promising new act in 1996. "You have to study locks, know how not to break any bones and know your limits."

Ken adheres to the advice that an old-timer gave him: Study the history of the craft and make your tricks secondary to showmanship.

"Sounds like he's a young Harry Houdini," said George Goebel, a local authority on escape artists and the owner of A. T Jones & Sons costumers on Howard Street. "At 13, it's quite an accomplishment. I've never heard of anyone that young escaping. He must have a lot of nerve."

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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