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On Thursday, Oct. 28, Illusionist Phil Dalton will bury himself alive and attempt to perform an escape live.

With no oxygen, nine tons of earth on top of him and trapped inside of a solid wood coffin, Branson Illusionist Phil Dalton will attempt to escape being buried alive.

For a world record setting third time, Dalton, who performs alongside his family in the Phil Dalton Theater of Illusion show at the Branson Star Theatre, will attempt a buried alive escape at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 28, outside of the theatre.

Dalton said what makes being buried alive a unique kind of escape, is there is no set technique in the magic world for escaping alive.

“A lot of the things we do, there’s kind of an established method to do and buried alive is not one of those. Actually, if you Google search magician buried alive, unfortunately what you’ll get are a lot of results of where it didn’t work out so well,” Dalton said. “Right now I hold the record. I am the only person in the world to have done this twice and escaped, of course escape being the keyword there. It always goes much better if you’re still alive to take the applause…When we first created this, I thought I’ve obviously got to come up with my own method here, which is not only workable, but of course is going to be safe.”

As a family magic show in Branson, Dalton does things on stage like where one of his kids saws him in half and he makes another kid fly like Iron Man. Dalton explained there is still the desire to always do something on a much larger scale to let people know he’s got a great show going on.

“Historically, I’ve always done a bunch of big larger scale escapes, just to let folk know we’ve got something fun you need to come and see,” Dalton said. “Over the years I’ve been hung upside down in a straightjacket a hundred feet above the air, dangling by burning ropes, I’ve been sealed in a packing crate that was thrown into a frozen lake and things like that.” 

The buried alive escape on Thursday is free to spectators and will include a little audience participation.

“You’re going to see a six foot hole dug in the ground. I’m going to be sealed, locked inside of a wooden coffin by a bunch of members from the audience. They’re going to pick it up and lower it into the ground,” Dalton said. “We’re actually going to have audience members be the ones to lower the coffin down kind of old fashion style with ropes. They’re going to lower me down six feet into the ground. I’m going to be covered with about nine tons of earth, of real earth, real dirt and we’re going to see if I can make my escape.”

In 2010 and then again in 2012Dalton was buried alive and sucessfully escaped. Dalton explained the danger he’ll be facing when he finds himself buried six feet beneath the earth.

“When I did this the first time I wanted to see just how possible it is. The old Hollywood trick where we see the person that tunnels out of prison using a teaspoon to dig a tunnel. Is that really possible? What I did, I made a small box. It was about two feet square like a cube. Two feet on every side. I filled it with dirt and I had a hole near the bottom just to see, can I put my hand in that hole in the bottom and can I press my way through about two feet of dirt. I can tell you right now, it might as well be cement. It is not possible. You cannot do it. You’d be dead, because what happens is anytime there is a void, earth it’s kind of like water at that depth as it fills in any void that’s there and at that point it’s heavy and it doesn’t move. If you were in some kind of void in the ground like that, you would literally be frozen in place and you would never move again.”

As for the escape on Thursday, Dalton previewed what he’ll be up against that night.

“My understanding, in Branson the soil is also pretty rocky. So we’re going to have all sorts of rocks to deal with on top of that,” Dalton said. “This differs a lot from what you’re going to see in a magic show in the sense that it really is me, really buried in the real ground and I really am going to attempt to really come up through the real earth. This isn’t an illusion where it’s going to look like I’m buried in the ground and suddenly I appear back in the crowd. In every respect it’s a very real thing and we’ve definitely got be on our toes to make everything happen the way it needs to.” 

To prepare himself for the escape, Dalton said he uses the same motto they taught him when he began learning to be a skydiver. 

“The rule we have in skydiving is, ‘Think it through on the ground. Don’t wait until you get up in the air to have to figure something out. Think everything through on the ground,’” Dalton said. “I’ve always believed there is a totally safe way to do anything as long as you think it through before you get somewhere dangerous. Anything can be done.”

While preparation is key, Dalton said it’s also important to have a wonderful crew of people behind him that he can literally trust with his life.

“The guy who’s going to be running the backhoe for us, we’re actually flying him in. This is the same guy that did my two previous buried alive escapes. For about 15 years this guy worked as an actual gravedigger,” Dalton said. “I told him, ‘You probably have a record as well. You’re the only one in your profession that’s buried a live person twice and now we’re attempting a third time here.’  He’s the guy who’s going to do it and he’s phenomenal. He can dig the hole and should something happen he can have me out pretty quickly. We definitely have a lot of safety things in place to make sure everything goes exactly as it has to happen.”

The last time Dalton successfully completed the buried alive escape, he said it took around 19 minutes to finish. For this attempt, he said he is thinking it should take around the same amount of time.

“The two times I’ve done it before, the one time it was a beautiful sunny day, so it was a lot of dirt on top, but the other time it rained all day and it was primarily mud. I can honestly say there are advantages both ways, but mud doesn’t taste as good,” Dalton said. “I’ll tell you, time flew by too. For me it didn’t seem that long, because I was busy the entire time.”

The goal behind this entire escape attempt? Dalton said it’s to do something fun that folks don’t really get to see in this day and age.

“Bottom line, magicians do what we do to make people smile and kind of create a sense of wonder that in this digital age we really don’t see anymore,” Dalton said. “I’ve always liked to think of magic as special effects like you’d see on TV, but of course done live. To me that’s what’s wonderful about magic. Even if you don’t speak English, you still can understand what’s going on. It’s a visual art.”

Showtimes Phil Dalton Theater of Illusion at the Branson Star Theater are at 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The Branson Star Theater is located at 3750 W. 76 Country Boulevard in Branson. 

For additional information search for the ‘Phil Dalton Theatre of Illusion’ page on Facebook or visit 

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