By Haley Huston
She fumbles for a second with the last lock as her lungs begin to burn with a lack of oxygen. The last shackle falls off and she launches herself to the top for the chamber to a roaring crowd.
Kristen Johnson is an escape artist who travels the country preforming many great feats such as the water torture cell and the casket crash. Breaking records set by Harry Houdini himself, Johnson is a well-known escape artist who will be preforming this year at the East Texas State Fair.
Basing many of her escapes from feats accomplished by Harry Houdini, she was named Lady Houdini by an Inside Edition producer at CBS Studios in New York. “He [Houdini] is pretty much the quintessential of the escape artist,” said Johnson. “I think that he is the name most people come up with when they think of escape artists.”
An escape artist and magician are very different, Johnson explained. An escape artist uses no illusions and, to prove this, she does many of her escapes so that the audience can see her the entire time.
“There are people who do water escapes,” said Johnson. “But if they show up in the back of the room, there was some kind of trick involved.”
Johnson has escaped the water torture cell over 1,400 times and it is her most well known escape but says that it is her least favorite.
“It’s stressful,” said Johnson. “It’s not something you ever get used to.”
Johnson worked with a dive master to learn a shallow diving technique that allows her to hold her breath for up to five minutes if she’s not stressed out. She has been recorded staying in the water torture cell for as long as three minutes and 18 seconds.
On two separate occasions, Johnson has suffered from a hypoxia-related seizure — something common to shallow water divers and is caused from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Johnson claims it’s not dangerous as long as someone pulls you out of the water before the seizure ends.
“What I do is a matter of working hard at it. I’m not a natural athlete,” said Johnson.
Johnson started her career with her husband and began learning more and more until she could eventually stand on her own at a show.
Her favorite escape is called the casket crash where Johnson is locked in a casket-like box and her hands are put through two separate holes and handcuffed out side of the box. Her husband drives a car at 45 mph over the box, forcing her to get out before he gets there. She has only preformed the stunt once, but described it as exhilarating.
Johnson says she is excited about coming to Tyler and will preform weekdays at 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and weekends at 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. except for Oct. 4 when show times will be 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.