Written by the Associated Press. Posted by TheBlaze's Billy Hallowell.
OTTAWA, Ill. (TheBlaze/AP) — Imagine the terror of being handcuffed, chained and locked inside a wooden casket that is subsequently dragged out of an airplane at 14,500 feet.
That's the scenario Anthony Martin, described by Ripley's Believe it or Not as the "King of Escapists,"faces later Tuesday when he takes to the sky over Serena in northern Illinois.
In this July 2012 photo released by Anthony Martin, escape artist Anthony Martin of Sheboygan, Wis., poses in front of a plane at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Ill. On Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, the escape artist will lay inside a plywood box that is subsequently shoved out of an airplane at 14,500 feet to the sky over Serena in northern Illinois, with his hands cuffed to a belt around his waist and his right arm chained to the inside of the box. Credit: AP
On his website, Martin describes what, exactly, an escape artist is -- and what he or she does:
Webster's New World Dictionary defines an escape artist as: "An entertainer, as in vaudeville, who is SKILLED at escaping from shackles or other confinement."
The expressed nature of the definition requires that the "shackles or other confinement" be legitimate and devoid of trickery. The use of "trick" devices negates the need for skill, and therefore fails to meet the Webster's definition.
Performers who use locking devices that have been secretly altered to facilitate escape would best be defined under the term "Magician" or "Illusionist." The emphasis of their skill being on the presentation (lighting, theatrics, camera editing) rather than the actual manipulation of lock mechanisms under controlled conditions.
Considering today's feat, it will be intriguing to see how the dare-devil handles it -- and how the public reacts.
"How many of us have never been in a situation that we wished we could get out of?" the 47-year-old escape artist asked recently with a sly grin.
And he's quick to insist, he's no fake.
Here's video of Martin skydiving (from his perspective) while handcuffed:
Martin said his father shattered his early fascination with magic when he explained the trickery behind a floating pen illusion. So at age 6, he resolved to find a more respectable means of impressing an audience and began studying the art of escape.
"I thought that skill and knowledge could surpass trickery and magic," he said.
Martin took locks apart until he understood how the mechanisms operate and are put together.
"At 10 I had pretty much started to specialize in escapes," Martin says. "By the time I was 13, the sheriff was locking me in his handcuffs. And I was getting out."
Jumping from a raft into a lake at age 11 — naturally, with his hands cuffed behind his back — whet Martin's appetite for high risk escapes. So in February 1990, he performed his most dangerous water stunt, in which he was locked in a cage and lowered through a hole in the ice and into the frigid water at a Wisconsin quarry. It took him one minute and 45 seconds to emerge.
"It was very, very cold," Martin said. "It doesn't take long for your fingers, even with gloves, to get numb and lose effectiveness ... you have to work very quickly."
Martin now is planning to revisit arguably his most dangerous escape — an August 1988 stunt in which he escaped from a casket dropped from a plane at 13,500 feet. It was just his 17th skydive.
On Tuesday, Martin will lay inside a plywood box with his hands cuffed to a belt around his waist and his right arm chained to the inside of the box. The casket's door will then be held tight with a prison door lock for which no key exists; a locksmith scrambled the tumblers.
And here's some of Martin's most shocking stunts:
The box will be rolled out of the plane — a Short SC.7 Skyvan — at about 14,500 feet. Two skydivers will stabilize the box by holding handles on the side while a drogue similar to the parachutes used to slow drag-racing cars and fighter jets will further steady it from the top as Martin picks the locks. He expects to be free and tracking away at around 7,000 feet after about 40 seconds of free fall, and plans to land on a farm in Serena, 70 miles southwest of Chicago.
On Monday, Martin exuded calm, saying his only concerns are for the other people involved in the jump.
"You try to get yourself to the point where there's really not a lot of fear involved. Fear is one of those emotions that kind of distracts from your ability to think clearly and be effective," he said.
And how did Martin plan to prepare the night before his escape-or-die skydive?
"I'm just going to find something cool to watch on television," he said. "I'm not going to change a thing. It's just business."
For a full list of Martin's stunts, check out his website.