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Dean Gunnarson

Dean Gunnarson
File:International Award Winning Escape Artist Dean Gunnarson.jpg
Dean Gunnarson
Born Dean L. Gunnarson
(1964-01-27) January 27, 1964 (age 52)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Other names "The World's Greatest Escape Artist "
Occupation Magician, escapologist
Years active 1987 - present

Dean Gunnarson (born January 27, 1964) is an International award-winning Canadian escape artist also called an escapologist. He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.[1] He is noted for a series of large scale spectacular stunts done for television.[2] Gunnarson has appeared on television in over 165 countries around the world performing his daring escapes. He has taken his amazing escape shows into countries like India, Egypt, Iceland, Italy, France, Columbia, Venezuela, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and many more. Gunnarson has performed over 500 shows across China and his TV escapes have been seen by millions of people there. In 2012 the Chinese Government presented him with award of "The World's Top Escape Artist" after a successful escape on live TV. He has also performed across Canada and the US on TV, fairs, shopping malls, sporting events, and for many of the countries top corporations.

Gunnarson's most notable television appearances include the NBC TV specials The World's Most Dangerous Magic I & II, for which he escaped from a straitjacket while hanging upsidedown 726 feet above the ground from a trapeze suspended from the Hoover Dam. He has also appeared in the NBC TV special, Magic in The Magic Kingdom, filmed at Disneyland in 1988, and in The Spectacular World of Guinness Records, hosted by David Frost were set two world records for escaping.

He has successfully conquered many challenges and obstacles by taking his daring escapes to incredible limits. One of his most recent television specials, "World's Most Dangerous Magic II" on NBC, Gunnarson faced his greatest fear as he escaped suspended upside down over a swamp of 130 hungry alligators in the Florida everglades covered in chicken meat and blood.

Gunnarson narrowly escaped death in October 1983 during a stunt in which he was handcuffed and chained and nailed into a coffin which was then submerged in the Red River in Winnipeg. The stunt went wrong as the coffin was lowered into the water, leaving him unable to escape. He was eventually pulled from the river and freed by the support crew, at which point he was not breathing and had to be resuscitated by paramedics. The incident led Johnny Carson to refer to Gunnarson on The Tonight Show as "that crazy Canadian".[3]

Some of Dean's other television appearances include The Nashville Network's popular "Statler Brothers Show", the Disney Channel and Family Channel, where he is a favourite family entertainer. He also has appeared on many shows on Discovery Channel, TLC, Travel Channel and even on Food Network. One of Dean's personal career highlights was opening for Aerosmith at their CD Release Party of "Nine Lives" in New York City.

In February 2013 Ripley's Believe It or Not presented him with the Ripley's record "World's Most Daring Escape Artist" while in New York for the Anderson Cooper Live TV show with Anderson Cooper and co-host Stacey London. Gunnarson performed a difficult escape on the TV show. He has also been featured in many Ripley's books including a two-page colour spread in "Ripley's-The Remarable Revealed" pages 130–131, where he was buried alive in 2 1/2 tons of wet cement and escaped.

In 2012 Gunnarson won the Merlin Award for "World's Best Escape Artist". Presented in Shenzhen, China by The International Society of Magicians, the world's largest magic organization with over 37,000 members. Founded in 1968 it was the first time ever that they have given the award to an escape artist. Past winners are David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Penn & Teller, and Criss Angel.

Gunnarson was also the first recipient and only escape artist to ever win the "Houdini Award" presented on the Magic Stars television show in Tokyo, Japan. He became the youngest person and first Canadian to be awarded the U.C.T. "Humanitarian of the Year" for his devotion to raising money for various charities after being chosen out of 185,000 people nominated in North America.[4]

Major stunts

  • Buried Alive, where he dug himself out of a grave after being buried for two days with no food or water on Friday October 29, 2010 and escaped on October 31, 2010 to coincide with the Harry Houdini's date of death.
  • Cement Tomb Escape - Gunnarson was handcuffed and chained and buried alive under 2 1/2 tons of wet cement 31 October 2008.
  • Houdini's Milk Can Escape for the Search for Houdini television special on Halloween Night, 1987 - he was a last minute replacement for James "The Amazing" Randi, who was injured just before his scheduled live performance.
  • The Challenge at Hoover Dam straitjacket escape hanging by his toes from a trapezze 726 feet over Hoover dam on The World's Most Dangerous Magic - 30 August 1998
  • Gator Bait on The World's Most Dangerous Magic 2 - 2 May 1999 - escape from a straitjacket and chains while hung upside down by his toes from a trapeze above 130 hungry alligators at Gatorland in Florida.
  • Airplane Jump for the 500th episode of the Japanese television show Naruhudo! The World - Chained with handcuffs and locked in a straitjacket and thrown from an airplane 13,500 feet in the air Gunnarson had one minute of freefall in which to release himself and open his parachute.[5]
  • Tractor Pull - Chained between two 450 horsepower tractors and had to escape before Gunnarson was pulled to pieces (9 June 2007).[6]
  • Car Crusher Escape for the television show "The Spectacular World of Guinness Records", hosted by David Frost. He was handcuffed and chained into a 1970 Cadillac, with his neck chained to the steering wheel, his legs to the brake pedal, and his arms to the doors.
  • Beer Can Escape - handcuffed and chained inside a 200 liter can of beer and escaped. The famous Trailer Park Boys from their TV show dumped beer and ice over Gunnarson as he was shoved into the over flowing beer can. Gunnarson received International media coverage for his crazy escape.
  • Roller Coaster Escape chained to the tracks of a Bullet Coaster in China.
  • Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell
  • Shark Cage Escape
  • Packing Crate Escape
  • Car Wash Escape
  • Under Water Coffin Escape
  • Hanging Upside Down Burning Rope Escape



  • 2013 Ripley's Record New York,N.Y. - Ripley's Believe It Or Not - World's Most Daring Escape Artist
  • 2012 Merlin Award Shenzen, China - International Magicians Society - World's Best Escape Artist
  • 2004 Silver Cuffs Award Indianapolis,U.S.A. - Life Time Achievement Award for his many extreme and daring escapes over nearly three decades of performing
  • Guinness World Records Los Angeles, U.S.A. - Set two World records for escaping on the TV Show Spectacular World of Guinness Records
  • Humanitarian of the Year Chicago, U.S.A. - United Commercial Travelers presented the Award out of 185,000 Nominated in North America for Dean's devotion to help raise money for numerous charties
  • Houdini Award Tokyo, Japan - Magic Star TV Awards Show- Legendary movie actor Tony Curtis, who played Houdini in 1953 movie about Houdini, presented Houdini Award for " World's Greatest Escape Artist"

Further reading

"The Magic World of the Amazing Randi", by James Randi, published Adams Media Corporation (September 1989), ISBN 978-1-55850-982-5

"The Remarkable Revealed", by Ripley's, published Miles Kelly Publihing Ltd (2007), pages 130-131, ISBN 978-1-893951-22-8

"Conjuring", by James Randi, published St. Martin's Press (1992), pages 185-188, ISBN 0-312-08634-2

"Religion, Magic, And The Supernatural", by William V. Rauscher, published Mystic Light Press (2006), pages 720-721, OCLC 779849657

"Crazy Canadian Trivia 3", by Pat Hancock, Publisher: Scholastic Canada (June 1, 2008), pages 42–43, ISBN 0545999952 ISBN 978-0545999953

"Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition", by David Borgenicht & Joshua Piven, published Quirk Productions Inc. (September 1, 2005), pages 88–90,169, ISBN 9780811845380

"Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Expect...The Unexpected!", by Geoff Tibballs, Publisher: Ripley Publishing (August 1, 2006), page 72, ISBN 189395112X ISBN 978-1893951129

"Ripleys Believe It or Not!: Extremely Weird", by Ripley Entertainment, Publisher: Ripley Publishing/Ripley (April 2009), page 192, ISBN 1893951359 ISBN 978-1893951358

"Ripley's Believe It or Not! Special Edition 2009 Glow-In-The Dark Cover!", by Ripley Entertainment, Publisher: Miles Kelly Publishing (2009), page 74, ISBN 0545103207 ISBN 978-0545103206

"Ripley's Believe It or Not! Special Edition 2014", by Ripley Entertainment, Publisher: Ripley Publishing Ltd. (2013), page 32, ISBN 978-0-545-56647-6

"Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Dare To Look!", By Ripley Entertainment, Publisher: Ripley Publishing Ltd. (2013), page 167, ISBN 978-1-60991-077-8

External links