To freshen his act, Jasper invested in a new illusion to be the feature item in his 1949 repertoire.
The ‘Escape from the Coffin’ was an escape from a wooden coffin, laid horizontally on trestle supports. It was like ‘Maskelyne’s Famous Box,’ in that Jasper invited spectators to examine the box and secure a person inside, after which the individual would escape in a quick time. However, unlike the Maskelyne box trick, where an assistant was locked in the box, Jasper allowed himself to be secured in the coffin, as it was a larger box.
His son, Alistair Maskelyne, negotiated its purchase from The Amazing Chang (Samuel Whittington-Wickes) the summer before, when he’d been working as stage manager for his father.
Jasper received good publicity from ‘The Escape from the Coffin’ after performing it at London’s Kings Court Hotel, Bayswater on 1 April 1949. The press reported that the manager of the hotel, Captain A. G. Forbes, had challenged Jasper to escape from the coffin having seen him perform it at a theatre show. Forbes oversaw the sealing of the coffin with screws. Out within 20 seconds, Jasper won a bet for five pounds.
Incidentally, Leinster Gardens, the address of the hotel, hides its own illusion, for in the middle of the street there are two false houses. The houses are just facades, hiding behind them a short area of uncovered tracks for the Metropolitan Line, part of the London’s underground transit system.