(Photo: Anthony Martin)
An escape artist and evangelist has planned a death-defying stunt to celebrate the release of his new book and the 25th anniversary of one of his most daring feats. He's going to be handcuffed, locked in a freight box and shoved out of an aircraft.
Anthony Martin, who was dubbed "King of Escapists" at one point by Ripley's Believe It or Not, plans to be dropped from a height ten times that of the Empire State Building next Tuesday. But before he's shoved out of the plane's cargo bay, he will be handcuffed by a locksmith, have a parachute put on him and will be closed in a box locked by an essentially "keyless" lock.
Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 22, Martin successfully accomplished a similar feat, though this time around he is using a different type of lock. Locksmiths will scramble the combination of the lock he's using in the stunt to ensure sure the existing key will no longer work on it.
Martin claims on his website to be the only escape artist in the world to offer a $25,000 reward to whoever can prove he used fake handcuffs or locks in any of his escapes.
The evangelist's book, Escape or Die: An Escape Artist Unlocks the Secret to Cheating Death, is a combination of stories and biblical lessons that parallel one another. Martin says people who have found it difficult to share their Christian faith have already begun using the book as a tool to help "break the ice" with their non-believing friends or family members.
The 47-year-old says his feats of escaping difficult situations are a metaphor for escaping oppression of all kinds.
"How many of us haven't been in a sticky situation and wished we could have got out of it? Or a job where we feel like we're just confined in this little cubicle and we wish we could just escape? So it has that powerful metaphor, but spiritually Jesus said, He whom the Son sets free is free indeed," said Martin.
Death-defying feats require him to make timely decisions. In the same way, he says, people only have so many moments in this life to decide what they will do about their life after death. He compared people's lives to his first mid-air escape in 1988, because during that jump he could neither see out of the box nor did he feel a falling sensation, though he could hear the air rushing by him.
"A lot of times people live their lives like that – in incredible danger, not knowing the fact that they've broken God's laws and that there will be a Day of Judgment," said Martin. "And they don't know how high up they are. They don't know how long they're going to live. And, in the meantime, God has provided this wonderful escape plan by which we can be set free from our sin and land safely on the other side of this life with the perfect parachute of Jesus Christ."
Martin says he has been collecting jail locks and handcuffs since he was young. While other boys were playing basketball and baseball, he was tinkering with various locks and figuring out how they worked. The escape artist, who is also now a registered safe technician, says his work is rewarding, "like working on a puzzle."
In addition to his freefalling feat, he has also survived being buried alive and, among other things, being lowered through the ice into a water-filled quarry while in a steel cage.
Martin, who also performs and evangelizes at local churches through his Ambassador In Chains ministry, is scheduled to be dropped out of the plane on Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. CT in Ottawa, Ill., if weather permits. The event is being sponsored and hosted by Skydive Chicago.