buried alive

Joe Burrus: The Wannabe Harry Houdini


This is a post on the true story of magician Joseph Burrus. This man had plans to become the greatest magician who ever lived. Burrus was so confident, he compared himself to the famous illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini. Despite his determination to become the best, one night it would all come to an end. Unfortunately, an extremely risky magic trick would take his life.

If you read our post on the true story of Angelo Hays, you were probably in shock to hear that a man actually lived for 2 days buried alive. Of course, the story had a surprising and happy ending. Although Hays was lucky and survived his premature burial, in this story, there is no happy ending.

The Dangerous Trick Burrus Tried To Accomplish

dangerous trickAt age 32, Joe Burrus wanted to take his current success as a magician to the next level. He wanted to the show the world that he could perform a trick that not even the craziest magician would ever attempt. Burrus wanted to be buried inside a plastic-and-glass coffin. He attempted an escape trick that would take place on a Halloween night back in 1990. The performance took place at a local amusement park called Blackbeard’s Family Fun Center. The act was filmed while a crowd of people watched anxiously. There were also many people who listened to the performance on live radio.

The plan was to for Burrus to be locked inside a coffin that would be lowered into a 7-foot grave. Of course, he didn’t get to just lay in the coffin without being handcuffed and wrapped in chains. All dressed up in a white tuxedo, Joe Burrus was ready to begin his trick which would be his last.

To begin the performance, there was three feet of dirt that was thrown into the 7-foot-deep hole. Then, it was then time for a cement truck to pour three feet of wet cement into Burrus’ grave. This is when things went wrong for Mr. Burrus. The coffin suddenly collapsed under an estimated seven tons (some sources say nine tons) of dirt and cement. It wasn’t the dirt that prevented Burrus from succeeding, it was the wet concrete. Although crews rushed in to save Burrus, by the time they got to his body, he was already dead. It took about 30 minutes to finally find him.

On October 31, 1990, Burrus died. The cause was asphyxia. However, it is remains unclear whether he died because of the dirt and concrete that filled in his available air pocket, or because the extremely heavy weight that pressed on his chest, which prevented him from breathing.

The Mistakes That Lead To Burros’ Death

Unfortunately, Burros chose to perform an act with intentions to become even more famous than the greatest magician who ever lived (Harry Houdini). Instead, he made a crucial mistake that would shatter his dream into pieces. Burrus failed to calculate the heavy weight of the dirt and wet concrete that was going to be poured on his plastic coffin. Plus, he only tested the strength of the coffin by jumping on it. His weight was nothing compared to seven tons of dirt and wet concrete.

The Two Things Burrus Had In Common With Harry Houdini

Although Burrus was no comparison to the amazing Harry Houdini, at least he had a couple of things in common with him. These two magicians both died on Halloween. Plus, they both became more famous after their deaths. Perhaps magician Joe Burrus knew he was not going to succeed with his deadly trick. He obviously would do anything to become famous. Even if it took his life.

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About Joseph Caltabiano

Joseph Caltabiano is a writer, oddities lover and a former surgical technologist. He left the field of surgical technology to pursue a career in blogging and internet marketing. As clearly shown in his posts, Joseph is very passionate about unusual topics. His two most favorite topics are medical and weird science.