Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Burton Dives Deep for Magic Effect

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Burton Dives Deep for Magic Effect

Article excerpt

LANCE Burton thought being buried alive was a tough gig.

But that was before he attempted a water-torture stunt that magic legend Harry Houdini concocted but never performed.

"It was the scariest illusion I've ever done," Burton said, referring to being strapped in a straitjacket then padlocked in a cramped, water-filled chamber. "When you can't get oxygen, your mind begins to do funny things." After taping the stunt twice for his NBC special "Lance Burton, Master Magician: The Encounter," airing at 7 p.m. tonight on Channel 5, Burton thinks Houdini had the right idea. "I know I'll never do it again," he said recently, munching on a Big Mac between shows in his dressing room at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. "It was just too dangerous. "When you're under water, you have no sense of what's going on outside the tank," he explained. "You're in your own little world. Everything's a blur. It's very surreal." In the trick, Burton is strapped in a straitjacket and lowered into an airtight tank filled with water. The lid is padlocked and chained, and Burton begins struggling to free himself from the tight confines. He is submerged for 2 minutes and 30 seconds before a tarp is thrown over the tank. Seconds later, he emerges on stage, dripping wet. Burton conditioned himself to hold his breath by submerging himself in a bathtub filled with water and doing cardiovascular exercises to strengthen his lungs. Still, when the 2:30 mark passed, the assistants on stage - armed with axes to break into the tank if the stunt went awry - went from concern to near-panic. "It didn't get to the point where I thought I wouldn't get out," Burton said. "But I was very close to the panic point. This was much more intense than I had expected. There is something in your DNA about being under water. Either you handle it or you drown." Burton said he had hoped to get what he wanted from the water-chamber trick during the first night of mid-January tapings, so he wouldn't have to do it a second time. …

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