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Observations placeholder

James Randi



Type of Spiritual Experience


James Randi was once an escapologist

A description of the experience

Question: How did it feel to break Houdini’s record for submersion in a coffin?

James Randi: Well, it wasn’t much of a feat really at the time, I must say, because I was much younger.  He was 52 at the age when he did that, and I was, I think 22.  So, I had the advantage, the physical advantage over old Harry.  And so I took a certain amount of credit for it, but I did break his record by a few minutes.  And I did it several times after that around the world and different countries and in different venues and increased my record to one hour and 44 minutes of being sealed up on a steel coffin under water.

What kind of mental and physical training do escape artists undergo?

James Randi: Well it’s a matter of using some common sense to start with.  You don’t want to use up a lot of oxygen.  I got a very good night’s sleep.  I did it on the “Today” Show on NBC with Dave Garroway, as a matter of fact.  He was the host at that time.  That was many, many moons ago.  And I rested up very thoroughly; I stayed at the Hotel Shelton where there was a swimming pool, in New York City.  I slept well, and I must say when I got into the coffin there, I was starting to think, well maybe I’ll make an hour or so.  I made an hour and 31 minutes in that particular episode.  But I just breathed in a very shallow manner.  I didn’t take big deep breaths to use a lot of oxygen, and I relaxed and I had good assurance.  I had headphones on so I as listening to what was happening outside.  They would consult with me every now and then.  I had a microphone on my chest.  And I just took it easy.  I kept my metabolism rate way down and at the end of an hour and 31 minutes though, I was really doing this kind of a thing and had to take every bit of oxygen I could possible manage, because you are rebreathing the air, you see.  You’re not using all of the oxygen on every breath, of course, but it was tough.  It was rather tough.  I subsequently learned that I could do it, as I said, for an hour and 44 minutes, the last time I did it.

The source of the experience

Magician other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps





Controlled breathing
Sensory deprivation