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Escape Artist Makes Quick Work of Racine Jail

Escape Velocity:
Trickster Makes Short Work of Racine Jail

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

Most husbands gave candy or sent flowers to their wives on Valentine’s Day. Todd Martin escaped from jail.

The 23-year-old Houdini-style escape artist from Sheboygan slipped out of two pairs of handcuffs, a belly chain, a canvas mailbag, three iron-bar jail doors and a locked wooden door Wednesday at the Racine City Jail.

Martin_Cuffed
Racine Police Chief Karl Hansen handcuffs Todd Martin at the Racine City Jail on Feb. 15, 1990. Racine Journal Times photo by Paul Roberts.

And it took only seven minutes.

After defeating the final lock at the jail Wednesday, Martin chatted with reporters and gave his wife, Amara, a Valentine’s kiss. Another day, another jailbreak.

Relatively long time

“That’s the longest I’ve ever been held,” said Martin, who has broken out of the pokey some dozen times before. “You sure can be proud of yourselves.”

The man who calls himself Anthony the Great wore a black stretch body suit and cape as he was led to his cell, trailed by dignitaries that included Mayor N. Owen Davies, Sheriff Robert Rohner and Alderwoman Dorothy Constantine.

Martin_TIedUp
Martin is tied inside a canvas mailbag at the Racine jail. Racine Journal Times photo by Paul Roberts.

Alderman Michael Vidian patted Martin down and checked his hair and mouth for tools. Police Chief Karl Hansen put two pairs of handcuffs on Martin, and shackled his forearm to a belly chain. He was then placed in a canvas mailbag and locked in the cell at exactly 2:18 p.m.

The gathered throng of local officials, reporters and photographers waited in the hall outside the jail as Martin plied his trade. All they could hear was the rattle of each lock as he made his way closer.

Then, at 2 25 p.m., he emerged.

“I’m glad we’re closing the jail on the first of April,” Hansen quipped. The jail will be gutted to make way for a new communications center and city prisoners will be transferred to the county jail.

Martin said the lock on the jail cell was the most difficult to open, because it had a weighted spring that held down the lock hook.

“It’s difficult to manipulate a lock like that,” he said.

Try it in a coffin

The escape was probably a yawner for Martin, who escaped from a locked coffin in 1988 after being tossed from an airplane 13,500 feet above Sandwich, Ill.

When he was 18, he was sealed in a hole-riddled coffin and pushed into the Sheboygan River while covered in 20 pounds of chains and 500 pounds of rock. He escaped in 50 seconds.

“I think I did a good job,” he said matter-of-factly. “Two hours would have been a good time.”

After the escape, Martin posed for pictures in the locked cell and recreated parts of the escape for a national television crew. When the last photo had been snapped, he called for the jailer.

“Now I need a key,” he said. ♦

EscapeVelocity
This article first appeared on Page 1 of the Racine Journal Times on February 15, 1990.

Postscript: Now age 51, Martin continues to perform under the name Anthony Martin (Anthony is his middle name). He is also a Christian evangelist. In 2013, he published a book, Escape or Die: An Escape Artist Unlocks the Secrets to Cheating Death.

– See the original Journal Times page from February 15, 1990