I was there. The night Joe Burrus died. Weird time.


Was the article accurate?

Yes, I'd say so. Halloween night. I wasn't there when they buried him but I was there before and after they decided to start digging him out. It was a weird scene. One friend, apparently one who helped him with his stunts, was saying "I told him! I told him it to do it differently!" and so on. I am not sure but from what I recall he thought the box should have gone in differently, as he didn't trust the plexiglass lid under so much weight.

They actually had a camera pointing down to the ground and into the pit as the dug so we could watch on a screen. After a while they got down near the plastic and turned it off — I think the realized he wasn't making any noises and the lid had sunk in a few feet.

I was standing near one young lady who apparently didn't really grasp the "This is not television" aspect of the whole event. Hey, she was young. Someone said something to her about hoping he was OK or along those lines and she said, rather loud, "Oh sure, like he's probably dead." Or something to that effect. I don't think it'd ever occured to her that yes, he really might be dead. At any rate, she got a few horrified looks from friends and family of "Amazing Joe".

The next day the police were advertising on the radio that if anyone wanted free psychiatric support from trauma suffered that it was available. It wasn't the first time I'd seen someone die but it was a pretty weird night.

I keep a few souveneirs — some plastic flies and spiders I got playing games for trinkets at Blackbeards that night.

Actually, I know exactly how that young lady feels. When I was about ten, I was playing ball with some friends at our local park when we spied an emergency vehicle tearing up a hill. The lack of a road on that hill didn't seem to phase the driver. We followed it to the reservoir, where there was a crowd and rumors of a drowning. Those rumors were substantiated when a pair of fully suited divers pulled the body of a teenage boy from the water, and the expressions on their faces didn't bode well for the victim. The way they struggled with the body suggested the kid was completely waterlogged and therefore very heavy.

As an aspiring young photographer who'd never gone anywhere without his camera, except of course for that fateful day, it seemed only natural that I should blurt out — unfortunately within earshot of everyone, including some who looked like friends and family — "Oh man, I wish I had my camera!"

I imagine the looks that girl got at the Burrus fiasco were much like the ones I got that day.


Buried Alive:
Orange County Register, Nov 2, 1990
  Self-proclaimed Houdini prepares elaborate funeral.