Illusionist encases himself in cement in Times Square (+photos)

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK - US illusionist Criss Angel began a 24-hour stunt today that will end with him trying to escape from a small cement box strung up above New York's Times Square before it crashes to the ground.

About 100 fans gathered in the rain to watch the spectacle in a parking lot just off Times Square, the same spot where US magician David Blaine spent two days in November shackled to a gyroscope hoisted in the air before escaping.

Angel, 39, sat in a 1.2 meter square clear box slowly being encased in cement that was suspended 12 feet above the ground as he spoke to reporters and fans.

The box will be lifted to 40 feet (12 metre) later and Angel will try to escape tomorrow before the box is sent plunging to the ground.

"We're going to stay the whole 24 hours," said Jeremy McLay, a 20-year-old pharmacy worker who travelled three hours from Pennsylvania to watch the stunt. "It's awesome because it's never been done. We think he can do it."

Angel has been building a career as a magician since he was a teenager in New York but grabbed the spotlight in 2005 when US cable channel A&E began airing his show "Mindfreak."

The cement box stunt was to draw attention to the third season of the show, which starts on Tuesday and has included levitation, walking on water, and lying on a bed of nails while an SUV drives over him.

"I'm here to do what I have always wanted to do -- try to do the impossible," Angel told Reuters from the box. "Not as a trick, not as an illusion, but as a real life demonstration in the art of escape as Houdini did for his day."

"This is really a testament to how I live my life and how I live my career and how I really try to live each moment to the fullest, pushing my own boundaries," he said.

A camera inside the box showed Angel's every move on a big screen and will eventually broadcast his escape attempt.

"This guy, he means a lot to me, because he shows if he can believe it, anybody else can believe it," said Jose Mejia, a 19-year-old New York student. "It's about mind and believing in yourself, you can do anything."

- REUTERS

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