The screen went black, and then masses of grey clouds spewed across the display as the music started to grow in volume and intensity. Eventually, there was a loud bang and flashes of light as the word ’MYTHBUSTERS' exploded across the screen in large blocks of stone. I opened my bottle, sat back and waited – I had been told in advance that this edition, on this channel, would be very special indeed...
The scene opened on an open courtyard, as two men in casual clothing walked into shot.
“Good evening, and welcome to a very special edition of MythBusters, where we reply to questions sent in from our viewers following our Damsel in Distress special from last season. Jack?”
“Thanks, Jeff. Yes, after the show where we explored the Hollywood myths of the damsel, we received a huge mailbox asking us to look at various other myths that have sprung up in this area. We’re joined again by our usual assistants – say hello girls.”
The camera panned to four women, in t-shirts and shorts, who waved and said “Hi.”
“And, of course, by Jill – who should be hanging around somewhere around here. Jack?”
Jack had walked over to a box, with “DO NOT OPEN” clearly stamped on the side. Lifting the lid, he beckoned to the camera, which panned in to show Jill in a white sundress and heels. She was hogtied, as if she had been left that way from the last episode, with her wrist and ankles nearly bound together and a scarf over her mouth.
“GTHSFM” she mumbled as Jack let the side of the box drop, before removing the scarf and pulling the saliva soaked cloth that had filled her mouth out. “Don’t worry, folks – Jill has not been like this for too long. Her position, however, does bring us to the first of the myths we want to look at this week.”
“That’s right, Jack,” Jill said as she glared at him. “This question was sent in by Bill Kropfhauser, who asks ‘Is it true that a hogtied woman is completely helpless?’ Well, Bill let’s find out.”
Jack reached down and began to untie her, as he said “Let’s go over to Jeff with the Test Models to find out.”
In one of the buildings, Jeff was standing by four mattresses, on each of which was one of the models. “As usual, we have Miss Black, Miss Brown, Miss Blonde and Miss Red here to help us, and you can see that we have them already well secured around the wrist and ankles.
“For each of them, we have placed them in a slightly different form of the hogtie. For Miss Red, we have run a length of rope from her wrist to her ankles, but not pulled it too far back, so that she is mildly inconvenienced. For Miss Brown, her ankles are perpendicular to her knees, and we have knotted the rope near her wrists.
“In the case of Miss Black, we have a similar hogtie, but this time the rope is knotted near her ankles, while for Miss Blonde we have almost connected her wrists and ankles. How does it feel, Miss Blonde?”
“Tight,” the strawberry blonde woman said as she looked over her shoulder.
“Good – now our villains have not gagged these ladies, so they have the chance to reach the phone and call for help. For our first test, they have to try and free themselves or get to the phone and raise the alarm. Are you ready, girls?”
“Ready” they shouted in unison.
“In which case, on your marks, get set... GO!”
Miss Brown immediately looked over her shoulder, and started to probe at the knot holding the long rope in place with her fingers. Miss Black had a similar idea, but had to bend her legs back in order to do this, and seemed to be taking longer to make a start.
Miss Red took a different approach, rolling over from her stomach to her side and starting to push herself into a seated position with her legs by her side. It was clear what her intention was – to try and scoot over on her bum.
The real surprise, however, was Miss Blonde. She did not even try to undo her binding, but instead rolled over and off the mattress onto her side, and started to push herself across the floor, using her body to move like a snake across the tiles surface. She almost made it first too, before Miss Red over took her at the last and reached the table first, moving onto her knees and knocking the receiver off the telephone set.
“Congratulations to Miss Red,” Jill said as she walked into the room. “Let’s look at how the others did.”
Miss Brown had managed to undo the rope linking her wrists and ankles, and had forced herself onto her feet, making it halfway across the floor. As for Miss Black, she had got as far as sitting on the mattress, staring at the other three.
“I think all four of them made a fantastic effort, and they have shown us that, as often seen in Hollywood, the simple hogtie is not a restriction to the damsel moving. Let’s look at why – Jeff?”
“The hogtie is intended to restrict the victim’s ability to use their legs to free themselves or raise the alarm – but as a general rule, the tighter the hogtie, the less likely they are to move. As Miss Red showed, a loose hogtie is useless in the simple form, as it is very easy to get into a seated position.
“With Miss Brown, the seated position was not possible, but by tying the rope off near her wrists she could reach the rope and unravel the knot. So could Miss Black – although she had to bend her legs, gaining slack and more manoeuvrability.
“What Miss Blonde showed, however, is that even with wrists and ankles nearly touching, it is possible to move if you have the will and flexibility or strength to do it.”
“What this does not mean, however, is that a hogtie cannot restrict movement to the point of immobility.” Jack walked into the shot as he said this. “One way my be to, as shown in the previous episode, secure the damsel’s arms to her side, and then secure the ankles to the ropes around the arms. If we also secure the wrist to the waist of the damsel, it makes it more difficult to move or undo the knots.”
“As always, however,” Jeff continued, “the only way to genuinely stop someone moving is to secure them to something heavy – say, a bedstead with more ropes, or has been seen elsewhere doing he hogtie over a chair.”
“But that may not be enough,” Jill said, “As we will see in the next part of MythBusters.”
Well, the program was off to a good start. A few adverts appeared, including one for the upcoming annual telethon, before they returned to the program.
“Welcome back to MythBusters, and our next question is from Jim from Michigan. Jim asks ‘Is it really true that tying damsel to a chair means they cannot raise the alarm?’ Well, Jim, let’s find out.”
“Thanks, Jill. Here we have our Test Models, sitting comfortably and ready to put that theory to the test. As you can see, we have secured them in different ways.”
This was indeed the case. They were still in t-shirts and shorts, and were sitting on identical wooden chairs with high backs. This time Miss Red had her wrists taped to the back of the chair, and her ankles to the front legs. Next to her was Miss Blonde, who had her arms pulled behind the chair and I presumed her wrist bound with rope, as he ankles were tied together with a length, as were her legs above her knees.
Miss Black had obviously drawn the short straw this time, as she had her upper body lashed to the back of the chair, her arms pinioned to the wood as they stretched back, and her feet pulled back. As the camera panned round, it showed that they were bound and attached to her wrists with rope.
As for Miss Brown – she was sitting facing the chair back, her arms wrapped round the rest and tied together in plain view, while her ankles were lashed to the rear legs of the chair. There was rope around her waist holding her tight to the support.
All four had a knotted bandana, the colour matching their hair, pulled between their lips and secured at the back of their necks. Jack walked round, pulling the ropes and tape loops as he checked their bindings.
“Now, all four of our Models have been secured in ways that you commonly see in films or on the television, but the question is are they incapable of raising the alarm? Well, their task now is to try and raise the alarm, by any means they see fit to try. Let’s see how they get on. Ladies – start your hell raising.”
There was an open door fifty feet away, and it was immediately obvious the way to raise the alarm was to reach the door. For this one Miss Black was at an obvious disadvantage, as she was totally unable to use her body to move anything – her or the chair. Instead, she started trying to work the knotted scarf out from between her rouged lips.
Miss Brown spent a few minutes looking down at her wrist and ankles, before planting her feet firmly on the ground and pushing the front legs of the chair off the ground. It was obvious that the other two had had similar ideas, as Miss Red started to use her body to move the chair slowly, inch by inch, in a shuffling motion across the room.
While Miss Blonde also pushed down with her feet and raised the rear of the chair up, standing as she leaned forward, you would be forgiven for thinking she would head for the door as well. As she started to shuffle in a different direction, however, it looked as if Miss Brown may be the first person to reach the door and raise the alarm.
So all three were surprised when Miss Blonde stopped by a large stick on the floor, picked it up between her feet and started to thump it down on the floor, making a loud banging noise as she did so. This brought both Jeff and Jill through the door, just as Miss Brown reached the open doorway.
“We heard there may be some damsels in distress here,” Jeff said as Miss Brown sat back down with a dejected look on her face. “But at least one of them managed to raise the alarm. So, I think we’ve shown that been tied to a chair, no matter how restrictedly, does not mean the alarm cannot be raised. Isn’t that right, Miss Black.”
“I guess so,” the dark haired model said as the saliva soaked knot fell onto her chest, “but it helps if you can move with the chair.”
“The point we need to make, is that just been tied to a chair is not enough – it is perfectly possible, if the chair is light enough, to move the chair and yourself if it is possible to put your feet down on the ground in some way. Even if that is not the case, the chair could be moved by sliding.”
“Very true, Jill,” Jeff said as she walked towards Miss Blonde. “The other thing to remember is that, if the feet are not secured to the chair, they could be used as a way to raise the alarm, even if they are tightly secured together. So, next time you see that damsel in the chair, do not assume she is entirely helpless.”
“We’re going to take another break while we give our models a break,” Jack said as she moved behind Jill,” and we get Jill ready to tackle another question sent in by a viewer.”
“Get Jill resdeeee” she said as Jack hand gagged her. “We’ll be right back!”
OK, they got my attention with the one. I opened another beer, wondering how they were going to rope (and please forgive the pun) Jill into their plans. The question was soon answered – as was another I was pleasantly surprised by – when the program started again.
“The saying goes that there is strength in numbers,” Jack said as he walked across the courtyard, “that there is strength in numbers. Where Hollywood seems to defy that is when two damsels are tied together, and they cannot do anything to help themselves. Now, KP from the UK has written to ask ‘Is it really true that two women who are tied together cannot free each other?’ Let’s put that to the test. Jeff?”
“Comfy,” Jeff asked Miss Red as she looked up at him, her cheeks bulging and a thin strip of material pulled between her teeth. She nodded as she looked over her shoulder at Miss Black, who was sat behind her. Both girls had their legs stretched out in front of them, ankles crossed and roped together and ropes holding their legs together below their knees. Their arms were pinned behind their back, with ropes around their upper bodies and waists.
“Well, here we have two sisters, captured at home by the dastardly villain who has tied them together on the floor, and made sure they cannot talk to each other. The question is, can they manage to free each other? I don’t think they’re going to get any help from Jill or the others, are they Jack?”
“I don’t think so, Jeff,” Jack said as he finished smoothing a length of tape over Jill’s lips, She was sat with Miss Blonde and Miss Brown in a circle, their arms linked and their wrists tied together with ropes that ran down to their ankles. Ropes had also been sued to secure their arms together where they crossed. “Of course, they may be trying to free themselves as well – who says it has to be two damsels tied together?”
“Very true, Jack, very true. Anyway, ladies, your job is to prove that you can free each other. On your marks, get set – GO!”
Miss Black looked over her shoulder at her partner, and grunted “RDE?” Miss Red answered with a nod as they seemed to sit still, but as the camera moved closer it could be seen that they were checking with their fingers to see if either of them could reach the knot holding the rope around the other’s wrists.
“GTEET” Miss Red said, and Miss Black leaned as far forward as he could to give Miss Red more room to manoeuvre. As for the flame haired model, she was probing with her fingers at the knot on top of the raven haired one’s wrists, eventually starting to feed the short ends back through the knot that had been tied. It was a slow, painful process, but it was obvious she was trying to get her friend free.
“While they work on this,” Jack said as he walked across, “Listen to the sounds our two groups of maidens are making.” It was obvious there were different levels of noise, and of understanding, of the noises that the five gagged women were making, as the microphones moved between the two groups. “Later in the show we’re going to look in more detail at the mechanics of the gag, as we seek to explore two more myths that have been raised by the viewers.
“For now, however, let’s go back to the red and black – and it looks as if some real progress has been made.”
It had indeed, as Miss Red nodded while Miss Black brought her arms round and rubbed her wrists. She then started to push the ropes around her upper body up and over her head, Miss Red leaning into her back as much as she could to give some additional slack in the loops.
“Well, they seem to be making real progress here, and should be free in a few minutes,” Jack said as Miss Black started to try and turn herself round. “The main reason this was possible, of course, was because they could reach other’s arms. Even if that is not possible, however, the two women can still free each other. Here’s a short film where you can see how this could be done.”
The film lasted about ten minutes, and showed tow women tied facing each other, their arms above their heads and tied together with loops of rope that went from their wrists down past the elbows of each woman. They were also bound together at the waist and chest, as well as secured around their legs and ankles. Large ball gags filled the mouth of each woman.
I watched as they struggled for a while, before one had the idea of trying to ease the ropes around their arms with her hands, loosening the coils and seeing if they would move more easily. To be honest, I could have watched for hours, but they returned to the studios Jill was rubbing her wrists.
“We let Jill go,” Jeff said as Jack stood to one side, “because we think it is time she got her revenge – at least in part. As you can see, the other models are having a little rest as well.”
The four were sat round a table, sipping iced drinks and talking as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be repeatedly tied and bound. The camera returned to Jack.
“We had a letter from a man who called himself Anton, asking if we would explore a myth that seems to have taken hold, particularly given the increased use of these things by the police and armed forces. Anton asks ‘Is it really true that it is impossible to get free from a zip tie once it has been tightened?’ To help us with this, please welcome a very special guest, Agent Z from All Secured Security Services.”
“Thanks guys,” an incredibly well built man said as he walked into shot, drawing some admiring looks from the Test Models and from Jill in particular. “Welcome to the show, Z – so, do you have a zip tie available?”
“I do indeed,” he said as he held up a strip of plastic, about five foot long with a small plastic square at one end. “Jill, will you please secure my wrists together in front of me with this?”
“Oh, my pleasure,” Jill cooed as he held his wrists out in front of him. She passed the strip round, pulled the ends through the little square and tugged at it, the rasping sound sounding as the strip tightened around Z’s wrists. “There is no way you are getting out of that.”
So, when he raised his arms up and brought them down sharply, pulling the strip off as he did so, Jill let out a gasp of astonishment. “Try again,” Z said as he handed Jill another tie, “but this time tie my hands behind my back.” This time Jill tried to pull the tie through as hard as she possibly could, but with a little more effort Z was soon holding the strip in his hand, his wrists free.
“That is amazing,” Jill said with her eyes wide. “Can anybody do that?”
“With a little practice, yes,” Z said smiling. “The key is to remember that, formidable as it looks, a zip tie is basically a ribbed piece of plastic, held in place by a small plastic tab here.” He pointed to the small square if plastic protruding as he said this. “Enough force, and that small tab will break, releasing the bond.”
“I see – but what of you do not have the strength?”
“Well, if you can find a small enough piece of metal or plastic, you can insert it into the top of the square and force the tab out, thus releasing the tie. IT does take time, but it can be done. Of course, it does depend on you or somebody else been able to use the pick, so it is not a foolproof system. It does mean, however, that a zip tie is not impossible to get out of.”
“Z, thanks for dropping by today and showing us that,” Jack said as he shook the guest’s hand. “Coming up in the final part, we settle an argument for a couple about what the best way to stop the damsel talking is – we’ll be back in 5.”
So far, so good – this was proving to be another fascinating episode – and it looked like they were building up to a climax. I sat back and let the adverts pass me by, before the program came back on.
“Welcome back to MythBusters – for our final set of tests, we return to what seemed to be the most popular and talked about part of our last show – shutting the damsel up. Jack?”
“Thanks, Jeff – we had a letter from a man called David, who said the following.
My girlfriend Caz and I loved your show, but afterwards we talked about your demonstration of the cloth gags, and an argument started. I think a tape gag is effective on its own, while Caz thinks the cloth gag is better. I’ve seen enough movies to show a strip of tape silences the woman, but she thinks it’s like the thin OTM gag – totally ineffective.. So, is a tape gag on its own an effective silence r- and what is best, a cloth gag or a tape one?’
“Well, we aim to answer all your questions here, David, so let’s deal with the first one – is a tape gag an effective silencer. First, the science bit.”
The scene cut to an animation, with Jill providing the commentary. “In the most basic form, speech and words require three things to be heard clearly and unambiguously. First, the air has to be propelled from the lungs, through the vocal cords and out of the mouth. Second, the tongue has to be free to move and make the shapes that form certain sounds. Third, the lips need to be free to move to form other sounds.
“Now, for a gag to work to any degree it has to be able to stop one or more of these. Stopping the air coming out is impossible, but the air flow can be restricted by blocking the mouth in some way. In the last show, when we looked at cloth and cleave gags, they worked by restricting the movement of the tongue and the air. In theory, the tape gag should work by restricting the movement of the lips and the air. It is not, however, as simple as that. Jack.”
The scene showed the four Test Models sitting in chairs, as Jack stood by the table.
“Thanks, Jill. So, for a tape gag to be effective by itself, it has to prevent the damsel opening her mouth – which means it has to be effective both in sealing the mouth, and in preventing the jaw from moving so that it can be forced away. With that in mind, our first question is, how different types of tape perform as gags on their own.
“We’re going to put strips of different tapes, commonly available in the house, over the models mouth, and they simply have to try and work them free. For Miss Black, we are going to use this wide masking tape.” He tore a long strip of the tape off the roll and smoothed it over her mouth, her lips showing under the light beige covering. Walking over to Miss Red, he then said “For Miss Red, we have the classic of the film and television world – Silver Duct tape.”
It only took a moment for him to smooth the tape over her mouth, before walking to Miss Blonde. In his hand he held a roll of shiny black tape. “For our strawberry blonde, we have electrical tape,” he said as he covered her pale lips with the black tape. “Finally, for Miss Brown, white medical plaster.” The tape stuck firmly to her mouth and lips, forming itself to the shape of her mouth as Jack firmed it down.
“Now, girls, without using your hands try to move the tape off your mouth. Go!”
All Miss Black had to do was yawn, and the masking tape came Away from her upper lip as her jaw dropped down. It looked for a while as if Miss Red wasn’t getting very far as she tried to move her jaw up and down, but it became apparent she was getting some give, and after a few minutes you could see the tape starting to come away from her upper lip. Miss Blonde seemed to be moving her tongue under the gag, and it also soon started to give way.
Only Miss Brown seemed to be in real trouble – no matter how she tried to move her mouth, the tape moved as if it formed a second skin, so while the other three managed to ungag themselves hers remained firmly attached.
“Well, our test shows quite conclusively that the type of tape is important – it needs to be firm, difficult to work loose and the more it fits to the skin the better. In old British shows of the seventies and eighties, they used a brand of sticking plaster called Elastoplast to great effect, and I think Miss Blonde has shown that is the best of the tapes we have here.
“But which is the better silencer – cloth gag or tape gag? One restricts the tongue, the other the lisp – so which keeps the damsel quieter? Jeff?”
“We’ll leave Miss Blonde as she is, and we’ll re-apply the duct tape gag to Miss Red for this test,” Jeff said as he re-gagged the flame haired model. “For Miss Brown, we have the classic knotted bandana gag.” He pulled the black and white scarf into Miss Brown’s mouth, the large knot forcing her lips apart a she secured the ends behind her head. “And for Miss Black, we have the gag used on Jill at the end of the program last year.” He took a wadded piece of white cotton and pushed it into Miss Black’s mouth, before rolling up a blue silk square and pulling it between her lips forcing the wad further back as he secured the ends together.
“So, our models are each going to say ‘Somebody help me,’ as loudly as they can. Our machine here will measure volume, while Jill here is going to listen and determine which she could understand more clearly. So, in order, girls, say your part.”
“smbdy hlp m”
The two men stood watching as the four models tried to speak, before saying “Jill?”
“I’m sorry, Jill, we didn’t quite catch that?”
The camera panned to the right to show Jill, sitting on a white chair with her arms and upper body lashed to the back of the chair. Her legs were crossed at the knees, and her ankles lashed to the opposite front leg, while there was rope around her knees and her lap. Her mouth was covered with a strip of brown sticking plaster, but it was obvious something else was underneath from the way her cheeks bulged. She stared at the other two as they walked over.
“Well, our machines indicate the adhesive plaster was the second best at silencing, while the best was the gag on Miss Black. That seems to indicate that, good as a tape gag may be, you need to both stop the lisp moving and the tongue for maximum silencing. Wouldn’t you agree Jill?”
“Well, that’s all the time we have this week,” Jeff said as the four Test Models came over. “Don’t forget, if you want a myth explored or debunked, just write to MythBusters. We’re here to help you. Say good night Jill.”
“GDNGHJLNDSNNGNDFANDFG” Jill mumbled as the four women started to tickle her, and the end credits rolled....