Kristen Johnson (escape artist)
|Born||Glens Falls, NY|
Kristen Johnson is an award-winning escape artist who works with her husband magician Kevin Ridgeway under the names Living Illusions, Ridgeway & Johnson and Breathless. She was the featured magician on the cover of the June 2009 issue of the magicians' magazine The Linking Ring.
Kristen was born in Glens Falls, NY and grew up in Carmel, Indiana. Her mother, Sunny Johnson, was also a performer, being best known as a clown although she also did magic. Sunny, who was featured on the front cover of the The Linking Ring magazine in March 2002, still lives in Carmel, where she owns a clowning supplies company. Kristen began learning magic when she was a teenager and used it to earn money to help pay her way through college.
Kristen and her husband Kevin Ridgeway are Christians and, under the name Living Illusions, built up a strong reputation as performers specialising in faith based events. These included the Will Graham Celebration with evangelist Billy Graham's grandson in May 2008. As their act has become more successful they expanded into doing larger venues, fairs and festivals with a show under the name of Ridgeway & Johnson geared specifically for that market. In 2007 they launched a full-length touring theater show under the name Breathless, which has played across the United States.
Kristen's signature escape is the Full View Water Torture Cell - in which she is chained up and locked inside a water filled tank from which she escapes in full view of the audience. The full view aspect differentiates it from Houdini's water torture cell escape, which required a curtain to be drawn to obscure him from the audience while he escaped. She performed the original version of the stunt as part of the Worldwide Escape Artist's Relay in 2005, which was an attempt to set a world record for the largest number of escapes performed in a day.
In addition to the water cell escape, the Ridgeway and Johnson show includes other large-scale stunts and illusions. A current highlight is an illusion in which Kristen passes through the turbine blades of a 747 jet engine.
On October 29, 2006 Kristen received one of the top honors in her field during the 4th Annual International Escape Convention where she was presented with The Masters Award by Thomas Blacke of Escape Masters magazine. She performed a new version of her Full view water cell, making her one of only two artists to have performed at the first four international escape artist conventions that had been held.
Kristen's Water cell stunt requires her to hold her breath while she picks a series of locks that fasten chains and secure the lid of the cell. She averages 2 minutes and 48 seconds underwater on one breath, however she has occasionally taken up to 3 minutes and 18 seconds to free herself. The longest time she has ever held her breath is 5 minutes and 2 seconds. She ends her shows with this escape and has performed it as often as 30 times in ten days. She offers a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove that she takes a second breath, uses an underwater breathing apparatus or a key once she has dropped below the water. As of June 25, 2013 Kristen has attempted the water torture cell 1057 times to date. Escapologist and convention organizer Mark Cannon has stated that this escape "is fast becoming one of the most talked-about stunts in the world of escapology". And Wayne N. Kawamoto from About: magic has written: "Her escape was the most dramatic and involving that I have ever witnessed. Johnson set a high bar for the other performers that will be difficult to match."
In the media
Kristen has been featured on The Travel Channel's Inside the Houdini Museum. This show documented Houdini and modern day escape artists. Kristen was the only woman selected for the show, in which she performed her Spike Escape and, together with her husband, a version of Origami. She has been mentioned on the front page of The L.A. Times in a story about the re-emergence of escape artists.
Kristen performed her Full View Water Torture Cell during a halftime show on March 17, 2008, for the New Orleans Hornets game. That evening, footage of her escape was shown on ESPN's Sportscenter. On May 8, 2008, Kristen was featured on the hit television show, Mucizeler Gecesi, which airs in Istanbul, Turkey. There she performed her Full View Water Torture Cell, her Rope Tie escape and her Diamond Plated Steel Box for a live studio audience.
She performed during the finale on the second episode of the Masters of Illusion television show broadcast on January 12, 2009, where she passed through the spinning blades of a jet turbine engine. Kristen performed again on the fourth episode of Masters of Illusion, January 26, 2009, where she closed the show with her water torture cell.
She attempted a performance of her Water Torture Cell escape during a halftime show of a basketball game featuring the Detroit Pistons versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 16, 2009. After removing her chains, she lost consciousness while attempting to open the top of the cell. She had to be quickly rescued by assistants. Johnson apparently had no emergency escape plan for this performance attempt. A week later she was back at it, doing her signature escape for 4,000 people at Ford Park Event Center in Beaumont, Texas. This was Kristen's 600th attempt.  She is billed as "The World's Premier Female Escape Artist".
- "Famous Carmel Illusionist Returns Home". Current Publishing LLC. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11.[dead link]
- "Kristen Johnson". Allaboutmagicians.com. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- "Cover page". The Linking Ring. The International Brotherhood of Magicians. 82 (3). March 1977.
- Fuller, Debbie (2006). "Living Illusion". Christian Hollywood. Archived from the original on 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Kristen Johnson's Full View WTC". Escape Artist Reference Library. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Worldwide Escape Artist Relay, October 29, 2005". Dr Wilson's Memory Elixir. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- For 2nd convention see "Cannon's Great Escapes". Retrieved 2007-03-10. For 4th convention see Sholley, Diana (27 Sep 2006). "Escape artist convention to mesmerize in Ontario". DailyBulletin.com. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- Kawamoto, Wayne. "Escape Artist Convention Unleashes in Ontario". About.com. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- Magician nearly drowns herself performing stunt from LiveLeak.com
- Taylor, Bill (2008-08-08). "Houdini torture revived right before your eyes". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- Ridgeway & Johnson
- Living Illusions
- Toronto Star article, Houdini torture revived right before your eyes
- Second Toronto Star article, Wondrous awe at the Ex
- Blogto.com article, Grand Illusion & Escape Artist Wows CNE Goers
- Casket Crash Video
- Magic Sanctum
- Escape Montage video
- Three-minute breath hold during Full View Water Torture Cell video
- Kristen's flickr picture site
- In Utah This Week article
- Top 10 Most Dangerous Magic Tricks