FRESNO — A magician who compared himself to the legendary Harry Houdini and had himself buried inside a plastic-and-glass coffin for a Halloween night escape trick was killed when the coffin collapsed under tons of dirt and wet cement.
Joseph Burrus, 32, a recovering drug addict, was performing the stunt at a local amusement park, Blackbeard's Family Fun Center, when the coffin unexpectedly collapsed.
As trick-and-treaters watched in shock, rescuers frantically dug Burrus out but were unable to reach him in time.
"I consider myself a master of illusion and escape artist," Burrus said before the stunt. "I believe I'm the next Houdini and greater."
Harry Houdini, considered the master of escape artists, died on Halloween night in 1926.
Burrus had done the escape-from-the-buried-casket stunt successfully a year ago in Oregon using only dirt over the coffin.
Wednesday night, wearing a white tuxedo, Burrus was handcuffed, wrapped in chains, locked inside the see-through coffin and then lowered into a seven-foot-deep hole.