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escape artist

Kristen Johnson (escape artist)

Kristen Johnson (born in Glens Falls, NY) is an award-winning escape artist who works with her husband magician Kevin Ridgeway under the names Living Illusions, Ridgeway & Johnson and Breathless. As a successful performer in her own right she stands out in the male-dominated world of magic and she is one of a very small number of women to achieve prominence in the field of escapology.

The couple have a strong Christian faith and, under the Living Illusions name, have performed in connection with many faith based events and organizations, such as the Will Graham Celebration with evangelist Billy Graham's grandson in May 2008. As their act has become more successful they have 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.

Considered world class illusionists and escapologists, Ridgeway and Johnson have developed a show that captivates every audience they perform for. In addition to the only "Full View Water Torture Cell" they also include other escapes and stunts and the only illusion in the Western Hemisphere which involves Kristen passing through a 747 jet turbine 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 45 seconds underwater on one breath, however she has occasionally taken up to 3 minutes and 15 seconds to free herself. 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. 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.

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 female 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. March 17, 2008 Kristen performed her Full View Water Torture Cell during a Half Time Show for the New Orleans Hornets game. That evening, footage of her escape was shown on ESPN's Spotscenter. May 8, 2008 Kristen was featured on the hit television show, Mucizeler Gecesi, which shoots and airs in Istanbul, Turkey. There she performed her Full View Water Torture Cell for a live studio audience. Bill Taylor from The Toronto Star has written: "In the past six years, she's performed the escape almost 500 times and has her eyes on Houdini's record, which is believed to be around 1,000 times. She is billed as "The World's Premier Female Escape Artist".

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