OTTAWA, Illinois (AP) — A U.S. escape artist on Tuesday is being handcuffed, chained and locked inside a wooden casket that will be dropped out of an airplane at 14,500 feet (4,420 meters).

"How many of us have never been in a situation that we wished we could get out of?" 47-year-old Anthony Martin asked recently with a grin.

He is revisiting arguably his most dangerous escape — a 1988 stunt in which he escaped from a casket dropped from a plane at 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). It was just his 17th skydive.

This time, Martin will lay inside a wooden 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 be held tight with a prison door lock for which no key exists; a locksmith scrambled the tumblers.

The box will be rolled out of the plane in flight. Two skydivers will stabilize the box by holding handles on the side while something similar to the parachutes used to slow drag-racing cars and fighter jets will steady it from the top as Martin picks the locks.

He expects to be free and tracking away at around 7,000 feet (2,130 meters) after about 40 seconds of free fall.

"You try to get yourself to the point where there's really not a lot of fear involved," Martin said. "Fear is one of those emotions that kind of distracts from your ability to think clearly and be effective," he said.

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.

"By the time I was 13, the sheriff was locking me in his handcuffs. And I was getting out," Martin said.

Jumping from a raft into a lake at age 11 —with his hands cuffed behind his back — fed his appetite for high-risk escapes.


Associated Press writer Andrea Thomas contributed.